Published on July 26th, 2010 | by Lisa McInerney15
Under The Covers
Like all drunken Irish balladeers, myself and my friends love a good yowling session of a Saturday night. At our most recent Singstar marathon, my cousin and I got up to sing Erasure’s A Little Respect, and were surprised (really, because we’re terrific singers) to get relatively low scores, until it occurred to us that we’d instead been belting our way through the version by American ridicu-rockers Wheatus. We’d been emphasising the wrong words, rushing through the wrong lines, because we were rocking out to synthpop. Funny thing how a good cover version can nibble its way through your beloved original.
It’s not the custom for a cover version to outshine the original (fear not, Erasure fans! I’m not strictly referring to the Wheatus usurpers!), so when you do come across a particularly wonderful cover, it’s a real treat. There are those, like Wheatus’ version of A Little Respect, that are brilliant because it’s so obvious that the band adore the original and are having the time of their lives singing it. And then there’s the cover which takes the original as a lyrical or musical jumping-off point, and takes it in a completely new direction. The best, most recent case in point is Marina And The Diamonds’ stunning version of 3OH!3’s Starstrukk. The original is an tuneless mess with an ugly sentiment behind it. Marina takes this, slows the tempo, lashes on the melancholy, and creates a mournful spine-tingler that seems to document the dead-eyed isolation of modern romance. Woah. Unintentionally Deep.
And here’s the original, for horrifying comparison.
I can think of a couple more that do this (though none with such a nasty base camp): Tori Amos’ cover of 10cc’s I’m Not In Love. Scissor Sisters death-threat-inducing disco cover of Pink Floyd’s po-faced Comfortably Numb. Catherine A.D’s gorgeously unsettling version of Hurts’ Better Than Love. Alabama 3’s magnificent role reversal for country chintz Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness. Glen Hansard and Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s take on Britney Spears’ Everytime (although they do seem to snigger towards the end).
The straight-up homage songs that come to mind include (as well as Wheatus’ rocking out to Erasure) Florence and Kid Harpoon’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m Going Down, Amy Winehouse’s lovely cover of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Placebo’s gorgeous tribute to Kate Bush in Running Up That Hill, and Queens Of The Stone Age’s surprisingly subtle take on Elliott Smith’s Christian Brothers.
I do adore a good cover version, so I would love – LOVE – to hear your suggestions for a few more meaty tributes, as well as your complaints about covers-gone-wrong. For me it has to be Girls Aloud preening through The Pretenders’ I’ll Stand By You – stomach-churning rubbish. And does anyone else remember Atomic Kitten’s bawling through The Bangles’ Eternal Flame? It’s the single reason I went on that cat-drowning spree.