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Posted on March 6th, 2010 at 6:11 pm by silvercc and

This week’s readings dealt with a common theme of cover songs. The Michael Coyle article focused on the art of covering songs in comparison to “hijacking hits,” which he claims exploited racial inequality. The difference, for him, is when an artist remakes a song that is already popular, in order to make a quick profit. He says that cover songs “tended to cover older material and pay it homage as part of a tradition.” (pg. 147) He also brought up issues of authenticity, bringing up the fact that “it was producers who determined the vehicles for singers.” (pg. 141)

 The Millard chapters focus on the introduction of Rock & Roll and its impact in musical history, and the importance of the record, itself. Millard talks about how independent record companies were the first to capitalize on the rock & roll genre because the larger companies weren’t aware of the desire for this new sound from the younger generation. The larger companies later got involved by covering the new popular songs. Millard notes, “the covers often removed or changed” lyrics of the original song in order to appeal to a mainstream audience. He also mentions the crafting of performers in order to fit a certain image.

 Both readings refer to Elvis and The Beatles as popular examples of rock and roll artists who covered songs (rather than hijacking hits) and were incredibly successful in crossing over to a not-so-common genre of music (given their race) in that time. Rock and roll surfaced from the combination of different styles and genres and through its recordings, was able to disseminate cultures, blurring the lines of race.

Although when originally introduced, covering may have had a negative connotation because of authenticity and its relation to hijacked hits, today, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it’s interesting to see an artist put their own spin, edge, personality, creativity, etc. to a song that was already deemed a hit. Also, this recycling of hits adds to the original artist’s royalties, so it’s not like they’re losing anything. R & B and hip-hop artists (among other genres) are constantly covering, sampling, and re-making old time classics into modern day popular music. Although it lacks originality, it may make up for it in creativity.

There are probably countless examples of modern artists covering past hits, but the most recent example that came to my mind was from the 2010 Grammy Awards. Beyonce performed her song, “If I Were a Boy” and diverted into Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know” which was a popular hit back in 1995. Beyonce didn’t change any lyrics, or take anything away from the song (at least to me.) I, personally, loved the song back then and I enjoyed watching Beyonce perform the song, because of the intensity of her performances. I’ve included a link to the Youtube video. Enjoy!

Beyonce at 2010 Grammys

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Comments so far:

Link Here | March 8, 2010,

Great post, I absolutely agree with you in referring to how covering was primarily introduced as a negative approach throughout the past and now it is seen as having a certain unique value inwhich the artists are able to spread their creativity. I also think that your example of Beyonce was very well put and I do happen to like both of those songs.


Link Here | March 8, 2010,

It is definitely true that many artists today sample and cover music by artists from the past. In some cases its great and in others, not so much. Taking a beat, melody or rhythm and adding your own lyrics or amping the beat seems fine because at least there is a new spin on something old. Other times artists covering music such as Beyonce doing a cover of Alanis Morristette’s “You oughtta know” may be an example of failure to some and success to others. In my personal opinion Beyone shouldn’t have touched “You oughta know” she may be a great performer but the heart and soul of the song will come through as truth only when the songs reason for being is understood, not only when a show needs to be put on and an artist would like to dabble in other genres to see if she can pull it off. Since the present has no real modicum for good music, the masses will take what they can get from whomever the media will throw at them; thankfully though, people are beginning to demand a higher quality of music and hopefully that demand will be catered to. You made some really great points that got me thinking!

  nina |

Link Here | March 10, 2010,

Hi Silver. I agree that with cover songs it allows other artists to add their own creativity. Ive never been to fond of this idea, i would just rather like to see the originial version of a song. I do have to admit though that some artists can make a real success out of their own renditions. For example, as the article also points out, “killing me softly” by the Fugees. This is probably always going to be one of my favorite songs. Lauren Hill’s voice is always something worth hearing.

  jbarreto |

Link Here | March 15, 2010,

I think artists must be aware that covering a song is very risky regardless on how much money you can profit from it. Critics will either love it or hate it and so will fans of the original song. I remember when Jessica Simpson covered Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” and I was outraged on how she could have damaged such a great song. But then there is Mya, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliot who covered Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade” in 2001. I enjoyed the different flare they added to such a great song. I agree with Silver that covering songs gives artists an opportunity to extend their creativity process but Nina’s point was head on with “the heart and soul of the song will come through as truth only when the songs reason for being is understood” and this does not translate when a particular song is covered.

  Stephanie |

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