what NOT to COVER

March 11, 2008

i found one interesting article that quite suits the theme of this new blog. it's written by Alison Bonaguro and i totally agree with her about choosing the right song for your voice or for the genre where you belong. let's read her entry about what pop stars should not cover:


A few weeks ago, in an odd deviation from my regular gig as a country journalist, I reviewed a Barry Manilow concert. Pop has never been my thing, but he puts on quite a show. It was virtually impossible not to sing along with all his catchy hooks. About halfway through the show, he announced he was going to cover some of his favorite songs. I prayed like I have never prayed before that he wouldn’t sing a country song. “Please, God, if you can hear me over the screams of these middle-aged women, do not let Barry Manilow sing ‘She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.’” There’s a time and a place for covering songs outside your genre, but there’s never one for a non-country star to sing a country tune.

While I think it’s perfectly acceptable when Sugarland does Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable,” it would not be OK for, say, Fall Out Boy to do Brooks & Dunn’s “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.” When Tim McGraw does the Steve Miller Band hit “The Joker,” he claims it as his own, but if Avril Lavigne were to cover a 70’s song, like Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” it wouldn’t work. Why? Why is it OK for country artists to get their rock/pop/rap on, but it doesn’t work both ways? My thoroughly biased theory is that adding a country vibe to any song just sounds good. Banjo solo in a Fergie song? Hell yes. Twangy vocals on a Sean Kingston song? Why not? Steel guitar backing a Matchbox Twenty song? Totally.

There are plenty of good examples already out there: Kenny Chesney doing John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good,” Johnny Cash doing Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” Carrie Underwood doing Guns ‘N Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and now Keith Urban doing Steve Forbert’s “Romeo’s Tune.” Each artist reworked the song and one-upped it, at least to my ears. I can go from hating to loving a song in about 30 seconds if you add a fiddle or threw a cowboy hat on the front man.

As for Manilow, he never did do a country song that night. Eight years ago, he did a show in Nashville and had artists like JoDee Messina and Trisha Yearwood join him on his own hits. He didn’t do theirs. So he must’ve known then what I know now: country can cover pop, but it just doesn’t work the other way around.


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