Is There a Wrong Way to Cover a Song?

30 day blog challenge - Day 2

People are always telling me how I should and shouldn't be covering songs. "Well, in the original, the chords are actually different than the ones you're playing." "Actually, he never sang that line that way in the original." "Oh, well the vocal phrasing should be different there." Etc. etc. (Oh, and don't get me started on the brilliant criticism from the skilled virtuosos that are YouTube commenters.) 

I know some people want to basically hear "Freebird" exactly the way Lynyrd Skynyrd plays it when that cover band starts up at the bar. I, however, do not. If I did, I could just stay home and turn the record on. Because no one is going to do Skynyrd the way that Skynyrd does Skynyrd. So why would you try to do a cover exactly the same as an original? You are probably not Bob Dylan or Tom Petty or Kurt Cobain. (If you are, please tell me how you came across my blog!) So why not make it your own? 

I think the great thing about cover songs is that you can take a song you love and re-interpret it or re-discover it in a way that only YOU can. Turn it into a different experience for the listener. All of my favorite covers do this. Tori Amos took "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and COMPLETELY reinterpreted it. Jonny Cash gave "Hurt" a completely new meaning. Laura Jansen made me like a Kings of Leon song. Oh, and the Jimmy Fallon doing Neil Young covering Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" with Bruce Springsteen not only cracks me up but is actually (in my opinion) an amazing cover.

So next time you leave a comment on someone's YouTube covers, just tell them the truth, which is really only one of two things. "I like this interpretation" or "I don't like this interpretation." Not "you're doing the song wrong." Because, really, there is no wrong way to cover a song.

I will leave you with my oh-so-controversial cover of Florence and the Machine's "Shake it Out" which inspired such YouTube comments as "You have a lovely voice, though not for Florence and the Machine. I'd suggest Norah Jones," "you have a very pretty voice :) I would have liked it to be a little quicker. it seemed really slow, and boring almost. you're voice sounds like it'd work well with country songs. just a suggestion(:," and of course, the brilliant advice, "you have a nice voice but its like your off toon or something with a little practice or something i think it would be better."


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