Playlist #6: Pop Covers

Marc Hall takes a look at the growing instances of the indie kid breathing new life into the pop classic, and vice-versa(?)…

I heard recently that local X Factor favourite Marcus Collins was releasing a cover of The White Stripes Seven Nation Army as his debut single. My reaction at the time was one of abject horror, disbelief and confusion as to why Jack White would allow one of his seminal songs to be covered in such a way. I’d already pre-judged this cover, not based on the opinion I gained from my limited sightings of last year’s X Factor, but from the social media following he garnered whilst the shows aired.

Being a local boy, it was inevitable that some Facebook ‘friends’ may have a loose acquaintance with him. All of a sudden it seemed the whole of Facebook knew him well. He was their cousin, he cut their hair, he saved their cat from a tree. Of course this meant that he was the best X Factor act of the year, if not of all time. If a judge delivered a negative comment they were a disgrace, and when he was eliminated it must have been a fix. How could it not be?

Rant aside, I thought I best give a listen to his cover before I base an article on it, and you know what…it’s not the train wreck I envisaged. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to download it and put it on repeat on my iPod, but it could have been so much worse. Maybe I’ve been conditioned to accepting a different version of Seven Nation Army thanks to another superb cover by Nostalgia 77.

Whilst it now seems to be accepted that X Factor acts can play around with any song they desire on their weekly karaoke contest, surely some songs should be untouchable. Biffy Clyro and Damien Rice allowed their songs to be covered, but I’m sure both acts understood the financial benefits associated with the cover versions. The same argument doesn’t hold up when Courtney Love offered a Nirvana song for use on the weekly shows. Maybe a spike in sales for the original would come in handy, but really, offering a Nirvana song to such a commercialised process seemed an ugly offer to make.

Let us not forget the legend of Kurt Cobain and his struggle with the commercialism of his work when alive. It’s been widely claimed that this played a part in his downfall. If the X Factor Nirvana cover had gone ahead, I could see the zombified corpse of Kurt Cobain coming back, only to go straight to the nearest gun shop and kill himself again.

Nevertheless, a good song is a good song. A simple hook that can be transferred across different genres, as Seven Nation Army undoubtedly has. It’s not all about the pop world trying to get a rub of cool, it works the other way too. This week we’ve provided a playlist of ten pop songs that have been taken in, chewed up and spat out by some more alternative artists.

Some are done in an ironic way…I hope. I can see no other reason why Motorhead would cover Rebecca Black’s Friday. I really don’t know if it was done as a joke or as attention seeking, but it’s certainly one of the strangest cover’s I’ve ever encountered. We also hear Richard Cheese, who has no doubt used Michael Jackson’s Beat It to comedic effect.

You will also find some of these covers seem to be derived from a genuine love of an original version; Camera Obscura’s Super Trooper, and Viking Moses raw but passionate cover of I Will Always Love You. Others seem to show the strengths of a simple pop song when taken in a different context. The Clem Snide version of Beautiful and Ray Lamontagne’s cover of Crazy both exemplifying this.

So, if Simon Cowell influenced-acts continue to produce unexpected cover versions, lets hope that we also see the opposite and finally get that Slipknot version of the latest One Direction song.

Marc Hall

Main Image: Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine

Posted on 27/02/2012 by thedoublenegative