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So You Want to Be A Sellout

posted Aug 13, 2014, 7:55 PM by Christopher Ellison
I was driven to write this blog post yesterday when I was at dinner with my wife.  One Direction's... cover... of "One Way Or Another" came on the restaurant's speakers.  I'll be kind and leave out my first few thoughts, but once I'd purged myself of mental swearing, I started thinking about how much that particular song didn't need to be covered.  It's... let's be nice and call it "played out."  It's dead.  Let it lie.  And that got me thinking of some other songs that have been covered one or two or thirty-seven too many times.

This is the internet and I'm writing about music opinion, so let's get the pleasantries out of the way.  I have read and acknowledge the Terms of Service stating that:
  1. I am a talentless hack.
  2. Who wouldn't know good music if it bit him on the assface.
  3. I should just shut my dumb face.
  4. While I'm at it, I should violate myself in physically-implausible or impossible ways.
  5. Also, I am a member of various racial, ethnic, or sexual groups regularly horribly derided by adolescent males.
All right, does that cover everything?  Good.  On with the post.

Ground rules first:  I haven't codified these into laws or anything yet.  Give me time; I just started thinking about this yesterday.  For now, let's call it a set of heuristics.  If you cover these any of these songs, you too can be an official Artistically-Bankrupt Band.  And to be clear, I'm not talking about live shows or tribute albums here; I'm talking about bands grunting out covers as new singles.

In general, it doesn't help if you're covering music that you already covered.  That's just starting out in the red.  We don't need another thousand bubblegum-pop versions of 1980s bubblegum-pop songs.  If you can't put your own spin on it, it shouldn't make the album.  It also doesn't help if the song in question was soulless tripe in the first place, unless you're either so awesome you can fix it or self-aware enough to successfully mock or satirize it somehow.

Also, there is a whole list of songs that are just... they're done.  They're either iconic to a band that popularized them, have been covered by every single garage band ever, or just were no goddamn good to begin with.  You can probably think of a dozen or so off the top of your head; the first six (or seven, depending on how you count Queen's) that came to my mind are:
  • "Money" by The Beatles
  • "One Way Or Another" by Blondie
  • "Imagine" by John Lennon
  • "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears
  • "Brown-Eyed Girl" by Jackson Browne
  • "We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions" by Queen

When I brought this up to my wife, whose opinions on the matter are rather stronger than mine, she wanted me to add a few of hers.
  • Anything by Queen.
  • Anything that was a "piece of shit to begin with."
  • "Basically all of Motown."

I'll acknowledge that I probably wasn't going to be a One Direction fan regardless of whether or not I heard their holy-shit-they-let-that-air? cover of an already-terrible song.  After hearing it, though, I think they're making my case for me.

During dinner, my wife and I also talked about songs that shouldn't be included in movies any more.  There's certainly some overlap between those and songs that don't deserve any more covers.  I'll be writing that up in a later post.