Samples and Covers / by E

       After hearing how Willie Nelson completely butchered "The Scientist" (but maybe that's just because I truly abhor Nelson's voice and Coldplay will always be better than him), I began thinking about all of the truly great songs that have been created, then ruined by awful covers. That's a little depressing though, so why not focus on the positive and talk about the best covers of some great songs? Sampling is just as important once you begin discussing covers, because they run along that same sort of line; both are taking something from a former song or artist and using it to create something that is even better. Who has not heard a song and thought, "Gosh, I wish I had written that"? Doing a cover or taking a sample of a song just shows that the covering artist respected the song or the original artist's composition; it's kind of a great compliment.
       One of the best examples of the thin line between sampling, covering, and supposed stealing, is "Bitter Sweet Symphony". It's an amazing song by a great band (The Verve) and, though they have received no royalties from the song's success, they still continued to perform the song and it became the song which the band is most recognized for. They are said to have sampled 'too much' from "The Last Time" by The Rolling Stones and had to give credit for their song to Jagger and Richards. Ashcroft (The Verve) later did a live performance where he stripped the orchestral sound and stated that, even without those sampled bars, the song is still great; and it is, the lyrics and melody are fantastic.
       I love Jason Derulo. Really, I love any artist I have ever had to write a paper on because, the more you know, the more you like them (usually). He's a great song writer and just a nice guy and, even though "Whatcha Say" does not have the best meaning (he's basically telling a girl that she should forgive him for cheating because, one day, he'll be rich and famous and it will be worth having stayed with him...), but the lyrics are put together greatly and he did manage to bring a song ("Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap) that had become nearly dormant, after its early success in 2005, back to the spotlight. The fact that he took a song that is so very far removed from his pop genre and mixed it perfectly with these lyrics is amazing and something which he should be praised for; you have to know, and like, the song to get to the part of the lyrics which Derulo samples.
       "Addicted to Love" was a great hit by Robert Palmer, but Florence + the Machine did a great job with the song and kept it pretty close to its original composition, changing it only slightly from its rock sound to keep with the alternative sound the band has become known for.
       Ellie Goulding did an amazing job with Elton John's "Your Song" and I actually prefer her version over Elton John's, though that sounds slightly blasphemous, so we can call it a tie between Goulding's cover and John's original. The fact remains, no matter how great her cover is, Elton John is still the one who wrote and composed this perfectly beautiful song; he gets all the credit for whatever amazing music is created from, or with, this song.
       "Suspended In Gaffa" by Kate Bush has truly amazing lyrics and, it may just be because I am a Ra Ra Riot fan, but if anyone could take a song that amazing and make it better, it would be them, and I much prefer their cover version (which does stick close to that original composition) over Bush's original.
       "Sing For The Moment" by Eminem is the only song that could successfully sample such an iconic Aerosmith song and do it ("Dream On") justice.
       "I Cry" is great and Flo Rida has not been given as much credit for this song as he should; the song does a great job of sampling "Cry (Just a Little)" by Bingo Players' (a song which sampled "Piano in the Dark" by Brenda Russel). Also, lay off Flo Rida; "Cry (Just a Little)" was more than pointless before he turned it into something great.
       Sons of Admirals did a really great cover (back when they were still together; oh, finicky bands...) of "Here Comes My Baby," incorporating the composition from Cat Steven's original version with the upbeat vocals in The Tremeloes cover version. It's a perfect mixture of the two versions, with just enough of the band's unique sound mixed in (the band was cool, because the members have all done work on their own and came together to create more exposure for the member's work). If you like Sons of Admirals, check out Alex Day (his music is really great and I only found him, and every subsequent band in this paragraph, because Kristina Horner [ALL CAPS] did a song about him), Tom Milsom, Charlie McDonnell, Ed Blann, Chameleon Circuit, or Chartjackers (though this was a project that featured no composition nor lyrical work by Day or McDonnell, it's just a cute fun song for a good cause).
       Ratham Stone's cover of "Everybody Talks" is actually more fun to listen to sometimes because it does feature a female vocal and, if the Neon Trees were missing anything in their original composition, it was that female component that works so perfectly into a song like this. Neon Trees are awesome though, and the original still beats the cover, but Ratham Stone does do one of the best live covers of "Pumped Up Kicks" that I have heard (and that's a lot (almost too much), because every 'undiscovered band' seemed to latch onto that song this past summer). Ratham Stone (and Neon Trees) is just fun to see live though; if they get famous it will be, in part, due to the energy which they exude on stage.
       No band can perform a live cover of a classic by The Cranberries like Passion Pit in a hazy club though. Despite my new(ish) feelings on the band, the first time I saw "Dreams" performed live, it was great; the band did an amazing job with the cover and may be the only current band who could do so, so flawlessly.
       Travie McCoy's "We'll Be Alright" samples Supergrass's "Alright" and it's great. It was later covered by Bruno Mars, though Bruno Mars helped to write the song, so I'm not sure how much this would be considered a cover and how much is just Mar's rights to record himself singing along to the song (which is basically all the cover is anyways. And I do really like Bruno Mars, as you can tell from this, I just like Travie McCoy so much more). Also, Mars version was not, and could never, be better than Travie McCoy's because he will never be that cool; Travie McCoy is kind of awesome.
       "Cheers (Drink to That)" by Rihanna used a sample from "I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne, though the backing vocals were sung by L.P. so, basically, Rihanna sampled a song that was then covered during the song. Besides the fact that the song simultaneously includes a sample and a cover, it also has one of the best covers by a band: Walk off the Earth. If you're looking for musical ability versus a catchy drinking/party song, go for Walk off the Earth. This band is the king of covers (though they have fantastic original songs), simply because the vocal and instrumental abilities of their members are so amazing; calling their version the best cover may not be fair as they are so great and I'm kind of biased (Walk off the Earth is better than Rihanna, in my opinion), but it is a really great cover.
- E
Posted in