Music is a unique form of art, in the realm of tribute and homage. To my mind, there aren’t any remakes of books, sculptures, or paintings (I’m sure that there are a few, but nothing notable? Correct me if I’m wrong). TV and movies — especially lately — count a number of remakes in their fields, but they aren’t necessarily reinterpretations, but rather thinly-veiled cash grabs.
Music, though — there are countless cover songs. Some good, some bad. There are note for note covers that are almost indistiguishable from the originals, and there are some that are only connected thematically. I would even argue that some covers far surpass the originals (though I’ve been given grief by some – notably, songwriting musicians – for suggesting such).
There are some songs that are fun to play, for musicians like me. There are some songs that are so inspiring and moving that we musicians want to pay tribute to the song by recording it ourselves. And some songs are so wonderful at their base, but lacking somehow in the recording or preformance, that a musician will make an attempt at bringing their own (better?) vision of the song to life.
If you’ve never given cover versions a chance, I recommend hitting YouTube or last.fm and checking out some of the many versions that exist. Start with the following (and make sure to listen to the original, for comparison’s sake):
- Butch Walker – Since You’ve Been Gone (originally by Kelly Clarkson)
- Marvelous Three – Reelin’ In The Years (originally by Steely Dan)
- Aimee Mann – Nobody Does It Better (originally by Carly Simon)
- Metallica – Am I Evil? (originally by Diamond Head)
- Between the Buried and Me – Bicycle Race (originally by Queen)
- Frost* – Here is the News (originally by ELO)
- Deftones – Drive (originally by The Cars)
- Reel Big Fish – Take On Me (originally by A-Ha)
Perhaps you see it as blasphemy, or maybe it’s selective (i.e., as long as it’s not your favorite band that is being butchered). Some bands have made a career out of out nothing but performing other people’s material, and some people refuse to ever touch someone else’s song. I think the latter — at least, the attitude that underlies that school of thinking — prevents you from enjoying a wealth of great music, though.