Until relatively recently, so-called ‘cover songs’ were a staple of every artist’s repertoire. Whether it was classical artists playing compositions of folks like Bach or Mozart or singers doing the ‘great American songbook’, historically artists have established themselves by working through the existing tradition. Not any longer – now the great songs of the past are merely another source of familiarity to be bought and sampled to give your new song a familiar tune to differentiate it from the other similar sounding club dreck.
This came up as we were watching ‘Don’t forget the lyrics’ and the song Savin’ All My Love For You came on, and it started a discussion about cover songs as we noted that Whitney Houston wasn’t the original artist, and then the subject changed to the generic club partial-cover of a Bryan Adams song that had been on the radio recently, which then led naturally to the Black Eyed Peas ‘The Time’. The consensus was that The Time was easily the best song on the record … and even then only because of the chorus lifted from elsewhere.
Here is the Black Eyed Peas ‘The Time’:
Which is, of course, a shameless rip-off of the infinitely superior original featured at the finale of the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’:
Again, there is no shame in cover songs, nor any shame in the more modern trend of sampling from classics. But most samples simply add color to an established song. In this case, we have the song made famous by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, re-jiggered to lay on top of the generic club beat that fuels pretty much every song on the Black Eyed Peas new record.
Since we are looking at cover songs, how about a great one and an awful one?!?
For my ‘great’ choice, here is Whitney Houston taking a hit by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. and turning it into a classic forever identified with her:
Well … while we’re on that song, here is my favorite version (even better than the Rolling Stones, in my opinion), by Devo: