Tuesday, April 19, 2011

30 Songs, 30 Days (2009 Edition), Day Seven: Moon River by Bell

It's exactly what you think it is--a cover of the old standard by a modern artist, in this case a group calling itself Bell.

It's...well, it's not very good. A Casio-like synth track, some unimaginative vocals and voila'...nothing much to go on. Now don't get me wrong--I like cover songs enough that more will prolly pop up before we reach the end of this journey. But this song represents the worst kind of cover, namely one that simply repeats the original without any sort of attempt at being original.

And this kind of cover is the standard...it's one of the reasons I truly feel that there should be certain songs that should be banned forever from the songbooks of aspiring and struggling artists ("You Really Got Me?" Get out of here! "The Boys Are Back In Town?" Well, get back outta town before I kick you out. Pretty much 80% of the Beatles back catalogue? Your services are no longer needed...). These days a lot of artists think a by-the-numbers cover is just the thing to either jumpstart a career or rejuvenate it (and I'm looking straight at you, No Doubt...your money or your life, indeed). One of the reasons I was so disatisfied with Everclear's last album, The Hollywood Years, was that it was nothing but a collection of covers of the usual suspects done with an astoundingly lack of imagination from an artist I had learned to expect better of.
My favorite covers are those that find a way to rejigger the song in such a way that you look at it in a different light. One of the reasons William Shatner's version of "Common People" works so well is that Shatner's talk-singing brings out the mercenary side of the POV character, while contrasting him with the extremely emotional Joe Jackson almost sets up an inner dialogue between the outer face of our hero and the loathing he's holding inside. Ben Folds' version of "Niggers Ain't Shit" emphasizes the ridiculousness of Snoop Dogg's original by resetting it in such a harmless way (that Folds' version, along with Nina Simon's version of "Straight Outta Compton," ushered in a whole slew of soft-alt renditions of hardcore rap covers that totally missed the point is besides the point...) Hell, the collaboration between Matthew Sweet and Suzanna Hoffs (which thankfully is about to see the release of the second volume) works because the duo makes the connection between 60's cheese and modern pop.

sorry...got out of hand....

So what I'm saying is...if you're going to start making a cover, be sure you have something to say beyond just 'I like this song.'

I don't think this is connected at all, but here's a guy named Bell singing 'Moon River'....

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