We all love a good cover song. You know, when your favorite band/artist plays a song originally by another one of your favorite bands/artists. It’s great. It gives us a unique chance to glimpse inside the mind of the person doing the covering; by seeing what they would change about an already famous song, we can see their creative process more clearly. It’s fun, especially when it’s done well. Examples of this might be Ryan Adams covering Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall,’ Gatsby’s American Dream covering Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’ or the more recent Lily Allen cover of The Clash’s ‘Straight to Hell.’ The movie industry has been marketing remake movies (which are covers in movie form) for years (go see the original ‘Ocean’s 11,’ please). Redoing stuff is great. Except when it’s not.
Just like any other genre, the covers genre is ripe with pathetic drivel from mismanaged and untalented bands that are just looking for a quick buck. The axiom has changed from ‘let the band cover a song by one of their idols’ to ‘make the band cover a popular song so they can get on radio without trying.’ The formulas are similar, but the latter is far more sinister. You all have undoubtedly noticed it. A few weeks ago I was driving up to Maine, and I heard Lil Wayne’s ‘Lollipop’ come on. Needless to say, I was pumped. Well, it wasn’t Lil Wayne’s ‘Lollipop,’ it was some crap band called Framing Hanley’s ‘Lollipop.’ They butchered it. A band that I had never heard of (and later found out to be talentless) was posing as the rapper and turning an incredible, forward-thinking hip-hop beat into crotch-rock. I wanted to vomit.
After some searching, I came upon a decidedly more disturbing reality: slated for release this year is the second installment of ‘Punk Goes Pop,’ which features awful bands (Attack Attack!, The Cab and Silverstein among them) covering the likes of Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. It’s terrible! Moreover, this is the second installment. People actually liked the first one! It’s not enough that the songs they are covering are pretty damn bad (‘I Kissed A Girl’ is just further evidence that we really don’t care about what we are listening to on the radio), the really horrifying part is that bands are getting popular because of this. A Static Lullaby (or, as I call them, ‘fail’) are getting significant video play on rock video TV shows (you know, the two of them) for their cover of Britney’s ‘Toxic,’ when a few years ago they were label-less. They were label-less because they were a five-piece band with two singers (one of whom only screams). The only change now is that they’re not playing their songs, and people like them more. God only knows how we stop this trend, if it’s stoppable at all. But it has to stop at some point. It has to. We can’t have all the top 40 songs on top 40 radio be the same song . . . can we? Oh God, I scare myself sometimes.