“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” (Charles Caleb Colton)
Picture this, I’m 15 years old and it is Saturday night. It was the time before I was able to go to the pub, it was the time of the pop star! Blaring out of the TV was the expected prime time television; Strictly, Pop Idol, I’m a Celeb kind of programming. I’m tuned into X- Factor and it’s “rock” week! Excellent! So tottering on to the stage comes a blonde bombshell, dressed in black PVC trousers, back combed hair and offensively more outrageous eyeliner than ever before. Ready to belt out “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll”, she looks nervous, almost like she shouldn’t be doing this. But she manages to get through the song with the help of her upbeat and complicated choreography. The crowd go wild and are prepared for the next performance.
This time the audience gasp when they hear the title track, Bohemian Rhapsody! The only comfort to the uneasy crowd is the understanding that it is bound to be different, because he has an acoustic guitar with him on stage. How can someone be so brazen to do such a classic? We wait with bated breath. “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?…” But before the old timer can have his 15 minutes of fame, my dad comes storming into the living room, agitated, and squinting at the TV.
“Why are you watching this cover crap? Can’t people make decent music themselves these days?”
That was it, that was the moment. All it took in my impressionable mind was that one question. From that moment my music taste altered and transformed. I started to listen to ‘real’ music.
College came around and we all went to the local live music haunt, The Fat Surfer. It attracted the under 18 crowd, despite being a strictly 18+ venue. We all know that type of place. The sanctuary for the hard done by rockers. The emos. The goths. The grungers. Whatever category you fell into, you were welcomed, as long as you were happy to nod along to the deep tones of the bass guitars, rattle of the snare and occasional roar from the front man asserting his authority. Mosh pits, chains hanging off jeans and cheap cheap alcohol. At the time that was heaven, just a slightly sticky heaven with pungent toilets and underage drinking. The heavenly part came from the bands; bands which were not afraid to write their own lyrics and riffs. It might not have been auto tuned perfection but this was ‘real’ music.
Until my mid 20s I maintained this pretentiousness of only liking ‘proper’ bands. Grohl was my hero (and still is). But a change came over me. I realised I didn’t need to please anyone anymore. What do I care if I am judged on my musical taste? And so, I opened myself up to different genres and different talents. Yet still my dad’s words still rang through my head “Can’t people make decent music themselves?” This leads me on to my inability to appreciate cover songs. Is this music snobbery?
Indeed the outspoken Noel Gallagher and the like criticise multi- million selling artists such as Taylor Swift and Ellie Goulding for their positive outlook on life and production of bubblegum pop, but are these artists any less worthy of appreciation than those who hold their own instruments? As an adult, I have found my choice in radio station, YouTube channel and music downloads not something I am judged upon, so I now have the freedom to listen to whatever squeaky clean starlet I want.
With this in mind, my original fear of being condemned for listening to cover songs is now null and void. Instead I choose to celebrate the following artists for their incredible, original and dare a say it, better versions of songs they cover.
Boyce Avenue have a real passion for creating romantic, acoustic covers which I love to listen to in the bath and whilst relaxing. John Legend has a stunning voice but the 19million YouTube hits Boyce Avenue have had with their imitation of All Of Me suggests the brothers are doing something right!
Moving on to something a little more upbeat are Walk Off The Earth, known for the weird and wacky interpretations, this group always do something funny and interesting with their music videos. Check out my favourite catchy tune, Magic. Be prepared for some fantastic beat boxing and loop pedal action!
Lastly, the wonderful Louisa Wendorff who is taking the world by storm with her mashup of Swifty’s Blank Space and Style. It has been such a success that even Taylor Swift herself promoted it on her Twitter claiming that she is ‘obsessed’ with the mix. Perhaps a collaboration is in store? This 20 year old is bound to reach fame of fortune if she keeps producing such beautiful music.
Cover or no cover, my musical tastes have varied and I’ve let go of my music snobbery. Embracing cover songs into my repertoire has given me a different outlook on music. And for those of you still clutching to the notion of how no self-respecting artist would cover a song, just look at Johnny Cash with his epic and melancholy adaptation of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt. Real artists covering real artists, creating real good music!