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Extraordinary Renditions
July 21, 2008 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Jay-Z wanted the guitar to look like a big, goofy prop (in Gallagher's formulation, after all, guitars aren't instruments so much as membership cards); he wanted to mistreat the melody, not coddle it; and he couldn't be bothered to remember lyrics that, when you think about it, sound sort of flubbed to begin with. By butchering the cover, Jay-Z weaponized it.
posted by geoff. (125 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Surely had he have wanted the guitar to look like a big goofy prop, he would have used an inflatable guitar - rather than a real one.

Also, it did sorta come across as though Jay Z didnt know the lyrics to Wonderwall, rather than intentional fluffing.

And that his singing voice is awful.

(rather like mine.)
posted by 13twelve at 8:10 AM on July 21, 2008


On the off chance this FPP doesn't get deleted, let me say that Richard Cheese's cover of "Ice Ice Baby" is a great song. It argues that hip-hop wasn't the next rock, but was in fact the next lounge.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:12 AM on July 21, 2008


It was deliberately shit, rather than just shit? I didn't pick up on that when watching it at all.
posted by jack_mo at 8:15 AM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Richard Cheese rocks.... His rendition of "down with the sickness" in Dawn of the Dead is fantastic.
posted by HuronBob at 8:16 AM on July 21, 2008


By reading only your quote and not the article, I thought you were talking about Jay-Z going up against Gallagher, and that would be a whole different kind of battle. Please, when you quote something, can you please put it in quotes please?
posted by ardgedee at 8:19 AM on July 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


ardegee is right; "big goofy prop" definitely means another Gallagher.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:21 AM on July 21, 2008


before this is deleted, someone please tell me what the hell "weaponized it" means.
posted by HuronBob at 8:22 AM on July 21, 2008


before this is deleted,

What's the problem? Is it a double post? Where's the first one?
posted by geoff. at 8:23 AM on July 21, 2008


And that his singing voice is awful.

He's being true to the original.
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on July 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


please tell me what the hell "weaponized it" means.

"Turned into a weapon"
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on July 21, 2008 [5 favorites]


I can't believe they neglected the Ben Folds cover of Bitches Ain't Shit.
posted by rusty at 8:27 AM on July 21, 2008 [6 favorites]


(indie boys covering teen starlets, lounge lizards covering metalheads, bookish singer-songwriters covering R&B Casanovas, etc.)

I'm amused by any article that mentions both Richard Cheese and Jonathan Coulton obliquely.

(I also like articles that give me the chance to use the word "obliquely.")
posted by Caduceus at 8:28 AM on July 21, 2008


Ahem. I forgot the link.
posted by rusty at 8:29 AM on July 21, 2008


I didn't get a chance to say it in the Zack Snyder thread so since HuronBob mentioned it:

The opening of Dawn of the Dead—set to Johnny Cash's "When the Man Comes Around"—is one of the best title sequences ever made. It's the music that makes it, but whoever picked that song deserves a bonus.
posted by sixswitch at 8:31 AM on July 21, 2008


It's hard to pick an especially awful sentence, but here's my favorite:

"Unlike polyglot MP3 blogs, mash-ups, and the iPod's shuffle function—all of which enable exhilarating collisions and unlikely harmonies between different sounds, reflecting a digital-era erosion of musical boundaries—cross-genre covers don't necessarily reflect anything so utopian."

Oh my.
posted by Outlawyr at 8:31 AM on July 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Though, now that I've finished the article, I've gotta say that all his whining about snobbery makes the author sound like a condescending douche.
posted by Caduceus at 8:35 AM on July 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Uninteresting as most of this was, I had never seen Alanis' version of My Humps before... and that sooo made up for the crappy article.
posted by TrinaSelwyn at 8:39 AM on July 21, 2008


Likewise, Plain White T's, Mandy Moore, and My Chemical Romance joined the parade of non-R&B artists who realized that Rihanna's "Umbrella" was the best single of 2007 ...

Missed one, Salon. The Manics did it, too. Quite well, I'd say.

And it is odd that the article fails to mention that Jay-Z's "weaponized" cover has led fans back to the original with wallet in hand.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:39 AM on July 21, 2008


In the Slate article, I read that "there are virtually no examples of rappers covering rappers," but I find this somewhat suspicious.
--links to youTube
I came up with Snoop's Lodi Dodi as an example (orig. Slick Rick, though here on youTube with some awkward fellas trying out for LipSync).

Any others?
posted by quanta and qualia at 8:42 AM on July 21, 2008


OH NO MUSICIANS CAN MAKE FUN OF MUSICIANS THEY DON'T LIKE THERE IS A PROBLEM.

Telling they didn't look to include any, disparaging or not, examples of shitty over commercialized artists that we are bad, racist, or sexist for not taking seriously (e.g. from the article, the "victims" Oasis, Black Eyed Peas, Avril Lavigne, and Britney Spears) covering "authentic" rock songs.

Also, the best cross-genre cover is Kansas performing Eleanor Rigby. (Poor quality version or go hit up your illegal sources.)
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:48 AM on July 21, 2008


There is too much to argue with about that article; instead I will take the high road by posting this video of Anthrax and Public Enemy doing "Bring the Noise".
posted by not_on_display at 8:48 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


P.S. What genre is the original Eleanor Rigby anyway? The Beatles were generally rock, but two string quartets and some vocalists is not rock.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:49 AM on July 21, 2008


Later today I'm going to make a sandwich at home just like they make it at my local deli. Hopefully that 'weaponizes' the sandwich enough that I can use it to hack my way out of my corporate cubicle and get free. If it doesn't, I'll just have to 'weaponize' something else.

My shoes? A friend's iPod? Some sticky-notes? I'll 'weaponize' anything.
posted by Pecinpah at 8:50 AM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


HuronBob : someone please tell me what the hell "weaponized it" means.

See, when I'm holding this stick, it's just a stick, but when I sharpen the end and use it to push the launch button of a inter-continental-ballistic-missile then I've weaponized it.
posted by quin at 8:50 AM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


Read the article, watched the entire cover and 99 Problems performance on YouTube.

Thoughts:
-It was supposed to be sloppy. He was making fun of Noel, though at the same time paying trubute to him... Everyone in the audience knew the lyrics to Wonderwall and carried the song when Jay-Z dropped out. Jay-Z is a rapper. He doesn't play guitar. He doesn't sing like a Gallagher (for better or worse).

-The first time Jay-Z drops out during 99 Problems and the audience carries the song, the elbow to Noel is firmly planted... "They know my lyrics too." 99 Problems also ended with the audience carrying the lyrics.

-Guitar throughout, though not played by Jay-Z. You also see the impact of the mashup scene here -- Back in Black with 99 Problems is either from one of the full-album mashups with The Black Album or from a single mashup released shortly after the album. It may have been obvious, but it wasn't until a fan put them together that it was first heard.
posted by VulcanMike at 8:53 AM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


In the Slate article, I read that "there are virtually no examples of rappers covering rappers," but I find this somewhat suspicious... Any others?

Tricky did a cover version of Public Enemy's Black Steel and two different versions of Slick Rick's Children's Story, if they count
posted by dng at 8:54 AM on July 21, 2008


Can we get a Jay-Z vs Carrot Top vs Pauly Shore vs Vanilla Ice mashup, please?
posted by zippy at 8:56 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


The article is only so-so (also, I remember a CD from the 90s that was all rappers covering old school hip hop tracks) but that's a pretty nice collection of YouTube videos.

...now if only I wasn't at work.
posted by Kattullus at 8:57 AM on July 21, 2008


someone please tell me what the hell "weaponized it" means.

It means "designed to beat one over the head with the kind of blunt, obvious satire that Oasis deserves".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:59 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


so...he could, like, kill me with that song?

And, the Johnny Cash idea for Dawn came from Zack and Wes...
posted by HuronBob at 9:01 AM on July 21, 2008


Blazecock Pileon: the kind of blunt, obvious satire that Oasis deserves

Wait?! So you're saying Oasis aren't a blunt, obvious satire?

I always thought they were Britain's answer to "Weird Al" Yankovic.
posted by Kattullus at 9:03 AM on July 21, 2008


If memory serves, that CD from the '90s is In tha Beginning, There Was Rap. There was an AskMe question about this a while ago, too, I think.
posted by box at 9:03 AM on July 21, 2008


Aw yeah aw yeah: Why aren't there any Rap covers by Rap artists?
posted by box at 9:06 AM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


video of Anthrax and Public Enemy doing "Bring the Noise"

And how can we forget Run D.M.C. and Aerosmith doing "Walk This Way"; some people say it helped make Aerosmith popular with a younger audience and ressurected their career(s).
posted by mrbill at 9:07 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is the best version of Wonderwall.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:07 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I really like the Mike Flowers Pop lounge version of "Wonderwall."
posted by Pronoiac at 9:07 AM on July 21, 2008


Since the East Coast / West Coast feud has developed into something internagtional, what do we call it now?
posted by jsavimbi at 9:09 AM on July 21, 2008


Jinx!
posted by Pronoiac at 9:10 AM on July 21, 2008


This "cover" was also right after a video montage showing all the people saying Jay-Z shouldn't be there.
posted by smackfu at 9:14 AM on July 21, 2008


he wanted to mistreat the melody, not coddle it; and he couldn't be bothered to remember lyrics that, when you think about it, sound sort of flubbed to begin with. By butchering the cover, Jay-Z weaponized it.

Heh. I suspexct that's all largely bollocks, he just wasn't very good at it. It still worked though, which is what counts.
posted by Artw at 9:16 AM on July 21, 2008


Did we see Paul Anka doing Nirvana yet? (spoiler: sucks)
posted by Meatbomb at 9:16 AM on July 21, 2008


...someone please tell me what the hell "weaponized it" means.

The author thinks it means deconstructing the guitar's conventional mellisonant paradigm and using it as a postdialectic ironic device, but in the old days we did this.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:18 AM on July 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Shirt article, great performance. I know how it sounds, but YouTube doesn't do it justice.

Not that I was ther (I merely saw it on TV) but the context is important: the article does hint at the faux controversy over Jay-Z's headliner appearance - I mean come on, where was Noel when, say, Dizzee Rascal started touring UK festivals - but the tenuous spin it lends to the affair is just dismal.

Yes, Jay-Z's "Wonderwall" was a statement - but reading into it some "This Machine Kills Fascists" symbolism is just journalistic onanism. It wasn't a big "fuck you" to anyone, it was a big "oh come on" to Gallagher and the silly-seasoning British press.

Of course he slaughtered it: it was the big-crowd festival headliner equivalent of lovingly teasing your friend by drunkenly butchering his favourite song because oh, he wuvs it soo much. That's not weaponizing, that's ribbing.

Moreover, the confused cacophony soon ended and launched into an explosive, razor-sharp rendition of "99 Problems", followed by a slightly sappy but sincere - I think - monologue about Bush and Obama, so the "Wonderwall" shtick proved a useful prelude to the set.

You know, I love "Wonderwall". In fact, I wuv it vewwy much. And guess what? I think Jay-Z does too.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:20 AM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


So the conclusion that we can come to is...Rockists are dicks?
posted by Weebot at 9:22 AM on July 21, 2008


I have translated this into a NYTimes trend piece:

Women choose to stay at home, raise children and misunderstand rap.
posted by srboisvert at 9:25 AM on July 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


No really, it was a shirt article.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:26 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read that "there are virtually no examples of rappers covering rappers," but I find this somewhat suspicious.

It is very rare. I think that the best explanation that I can come up with (and which surely doesn't stand up to any sort of rigor) is that hip hop, particularly hip hop lyrics, are just about as personal as it gets in music. They are not just nominally written in the first person.

You don't "sip the Dom P/Watching Ghandi 'till you're charged/Writing in your book of rhymes/All the words past the margins." Really, there's only one person who does that.
posted by kosem at 9:26 AM on July 21, 2008


She wanted to mistreat the melody, not coddle it; and she couldn't be bothered to remember lyrics that, when you think about it, sound sort of flubbed to begin with.
posted by Knappster at 9:29 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


so...he could, like, kill me with that song?

Softly.
posted by inigo2 at 9:31 AM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


I thought the original Wonderwall by Oasis was already a parody? No? Stupid gits.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:37 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mocking Oasis by ironically playing Wonderwall is an old tradition. Jay-Z is just the newest, and one of the best, to have a go at it.

And, yes. It very much was a fuck you, and it was aimed at all the people in the little video intro, and most especially it was aimed at Gallagher.
posted by sparkletone at 9:42 AM on July 21, 2008


No really, it was a shirt article.

Yeah, but it was a Cafe Press shirt, not something you'd ever actually want to wear (assuming it survived even a single wash).
posted by sparkletone at 9:44 AM on July 21, 2008


It is very rare. I think that the best explanation that I can come up with (and which surely doesn't stand up to any sort of rigor) is that hip hop, particularly hip hop lyrics, are just about as personal as it gets in music. They are not just nominally written in the first person.

This question is actually pretty well-covered in the AskMe thread. googly's answer is marked as a great answer for good reason.
posted by sparkletone at 9:48 AM on July 21, 2008


It wasn't a big "fuck you" to anyone, it was a big "oh come on" to Gallagher and the silly-seasoning British press.

Agreed; I didn't really see malice in that performance, though I won't be surprised if Oasis does. It was pretty funny, anyway.

Also, I happen to like the idea of cross-genre covers, but irrespective of that I think the author of that article needs to chill out a bit.
posted by danb at 9:48 AM on July 21, 2008


It is very rare.

For those who don't like it, eat a dick...

Slick Rick vs Snoop
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:49 AM on July 21, 2008


That writing was so bad, it brought back nostalgic memories of reading the NME at school in the late 70s. Thanks!
posted by w0mbat at 9:51 AM on July 21, 2008


Mocking Oasis by ironically playing Wonderwall is an old tradition. Jay-Z is just the newest, and one of the best, to have a go at it.

Exactly. Wonderwall, besides being one of the great pop songs of the 90s, has been played to death by every band for something like 15 years. In fact, the song got so tired that Oasis themselves stopped playing it around the year 2000. Noel has said that hearing Ryan Adams' wonderwall cover some years later made him decide to start playing the song again. So, I sort of think Jay-Z missed the boat by a good decade on this one.
posted by boubelium at 9:56 AM on July 21, 2008


"Your favourite Cover Version Sucks."

Really?

Slate can try and disguise a "The music you like is shit" article as much as they want, but I aint falling for it. They can get as Post Modern and Meta as they like, but this is still lazy journalism.
posted by seanyboy at 10:01 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Radiohead also "weaponized" Oasis' Wonderwall, sneeringly impersonating Gallagher's accent and forgetting most of the words. "There are many ways that I would like to sing to you, but I don't know how." ("It's always good to make fun of Oasis, isn't it?")
posted by onlyconnect at 10:02 AM on July 21, 2008


Telling they didn't look to include any, disparaging or not, examples of shitty over commercialized artists that we are bad, racist, or sexist for not taking seriously (e.g. from the article, the "victims" Oasis, Black Eyed Peas, Avril Lavigne, and Britney Spears) covering "authentic" rock songs.

The only time I've actually been legitimately offended by a cover, as in hearing it and knowing it was recorded on a major label CD for posterity made me realize the world was a slightly worse place than I imagined beforehand, was the Ataris cover of "The Boys of Summer"
posted by The Gooch at 10:05 AM on July 21, 2008


These are interesting ideas. Some covers do certainly make me uncomfortable in the dissonance between apparent tribute and apparent mockery. I think that that discomfort and/or that dissonance can be the point of covers. None of this is necessarily a bad thing, but it's worth thinking about.

One point that I'm surprised no one's mentioned: the idea of the "cover" is pretty new in pop music. "Peggy Sue" was recorded by hundreds of different musicians. I don't think that those recordings had the cultural baggage that comes with covers today.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:09 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


> The only time I've actually been legitimately offended by a cover, as in hearing it and knowing it was recorded on a major label CD for posterity made me realize the world was a slightly worse place than I imagined beforehand, was...

Natalie Cole's rendering of "Unforgettable", which gives 'incestuous necrophilia' a new meaning without losing any of that phrase's repulsiveness. Whitney Houston's transformation of Dolly Parton's 'I Will Always Love You' into a masturbatory ode to herself also counts as a horror.
posted by ardgedee at 10:14 AM on July 21, 2008


Agreed, The Gooch. It was a horrible moment when I first heard that. Ugh. And they changed "Deadhead" to "Black Flag." Ugggghhhhhhhh.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:17 AM on July 21, 2008


The article is not good -- it's a weak thesis for that many words. But the Klaxons cover of "No Diggity" linked to in it is actually not bad.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:23 AM on July 21, 2008


One point that I'm surprised no one's mentioned: the idea of the "cover" is pretty new in pop music. "Peggy Sue" was recorded by hundreds of different musicians. I don't think that those recordings had the cultural baggage that comes with covers today.

The earliest "cover-as-statement" I can remember is Bowie's cover of the Stones' Let's Spend the Night Together which he made gender ambigious (or at least talked a good game about making it gender ambigious). Later the Sex Pistols made it an important part of their act (covering, for instance, The Who's Substitute). I'm actually surprised that I can't think of something earlier than that. Surely some ironic hippie covered Green Beret or Okie from Muskogee or something else like that.
posted by Kattullus at 10:26 AM on July 21, 2008


And they changed "Deadhead" to "Black Flag." Ugggghhhhhhhh.

Yeah, that was the kicker for me too. It was as if by doing that they thought they were taking this classic song and improving it by making it more relevant.
posted by The Gooch at 10:26 AM on July 21, 2008


Phish covered a bunch of hip hop, including Sabotage, Gettin' Jiggy With It, and 99 Problems -- with Jay-Z.
posted by muckster at 10:30 AM on July 21, 2008


Hip hop also has the uncomfortable tension with its origins in rapping over extended but generally otherwise unaltered breaks. Sugarhill Gang would be wicked dull if they were just chanting "Good Times" over Chic.

But I will say that the "ironic" cover of a rap tune is the fastest way to get me to never listen to your mix cd again, especially if it's some female singer-songwriter doing "Gin and Juice."
posted by klangklangston at 10:35 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


And they changed "Deadhead" to "Black Flag." Ugggghhhhhhhh.

I actually liked that version. But yeah, changing a lyric to try to seem cool, and then still thinking Black Flag is a cool band to mention... not so much.

I remember the 90s when the "ironic cover version" thing started to get big. So fucking dumb, because why would any serious, non-comedy musician cover a song he didn't like or think was good. He wouldn't. Real musicians like music and they play music they like.

Two things were going on;
1) a lot of people in the 90s weren't real musicians.
2) they could wink at the audience (of course Nirvana would never REALLY like Kiss song *nudge nudge*) and act like it was all a joke or some kind of juvenile "statement." But at the same time they got to play a song far beyond their songwriting abilities, without having to admit that mainstream bands blew them away in terms of songwriting. And their audience got to listen to music with actual melody, without having to lose cred by admitting they actually liked it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:40 AM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


In this case it just sounds like Jay-Z gave a really shitty performance at some thrown-together awards show or whatever and some jerk wrote 7000 words of tortured justification for it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:41 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


oh wait I read the article it's about Glastonbury.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:43 AM on July 21, 2008


But yeah, changing a lyric to try to seem cool, and then still thinking Black Flag is a cool band to mention... not so much.

What's wrong with Black Flag as the band to mention here? They're not supposed to be cool in the lyric, not anymore.
posted by smackfu at 10:47 AM on July 21, 2008


I think I've heard a lot of punk covers.

klang: You're not dissing Rasputina, are you? Check out their cover for Wish You Were Here.
posted by Pronoiac at 10:50 AM on July 21, 2008


P.S. What genre is the original Eleanor Rigby anyway?

Chamber pop?

The Beatles were generally rock, but two string quartets and some vocalists is not rock.

And the fact that they could get away with stuff like that is further proof of the Beatles' awesomeness.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:52 AM on July 21, 2008


Oasis' new album art is the product of the 'most expensive' graphic designer in London?
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on July 21, 2008


I think I've heard a lot of punk covers.

A lot of punk bands do love their covers.

The best, although not generally quite a "cover," are punk versions of old folk songs. This works and not as a novelty sense, but as some good punk.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:03 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you waded through to the end, there's a dis of cross-genre rap covers as novelty only. Nina Gordon's cover of Straight Outta Compton is a rap cover I listen to for more than novelty value. I think it works because the music and lyrics feel plausible together, in a parallel universe sort of way. Although I'm not as into the Ben Folds cover of Bitches Ain't Shit, that one maybe also works because it brings out an emotion that's hidden in the original. The Nelly v. Lynyrd Skynyrd Sweet Home Country Grammar remix is similar -- if music had evolved a little differently, maybe either artist could have made it on their own?

(And, tangentially related, how about the nifty José González / Common & Erykah Badu remix by Dert?).
posted by jhc at 11:07 AM on July 21, 2008


Tricky did a cover version of Public Enemy's Black Steel and two different versions of Slick Rick's Children's Story, if they count

Previous FPP on Black Steel By, um, me.
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on July 21, 2008


Actually, to expound on what Googly and some others said in that previous thread, I'd argue that rappers cover more than other genres, via signifying. It's not whole songs, as has been stated, but the "internal dialogue" as was said in the previous thread involves thousands and thousands of covers of phrases, accents and references that constitute covering.

It's just that it's invisible to you if you don't know what you're listening to. When 2pac is like "I came to bring the pain, hardcore to the brain - 'let's go inside like astro plane'", on the refrain to No More Pain, it's a shoutout to Method Man's lyrics (even though he got the my astral plane part wrong) from Bring The Pain.

When 50 cent raps "" from beginning to the end, losers lose, winners win, it's a cover of sorts of UTFO from Roxanne Roxanne. He did another one like that with a cover of some Milk Dee lyrics that kind of surprised me, then he (50) ended up sampling him on a song later on.

R.A. the Rugged Man raps in his song Super: "I like to drink, Milk, it helps me grow and think like a champ - suckers I vamp - I I don't care!", he's covering Audio Two (one of the worst awesomely bad rap groups ever to walk the face of the earth, only that way because of the Lyte association).

But with a ton of these songs, if you listen to them as an uninformed consumer, you are completely without the layers of meaning that exist in the song.

It's lyrics, it's shouts, it's even other words - completely different lyrics, just said in a style similar to a lyric by another artist. Maybe language hat knows how to really dig into the linguistics of that and extract what is going on there.

But it's an amazing and fantastic art. See previously, maybe during the 80's and 90's, you could wrap your head around rap. You could know pretty much all the artists and know all the references or at least the vast majority of them.

But it's not like that any more - even for those of us who are major hip hop heads, true catalogers of the experience, the references and covers are just too vast for one person to be able to know or remember. It's weird on one level, because something you always had a personal connection with that was like seeing websites while other people could only see html codes, has grown beyond you.

On the other hand, now even the most knowledgeable of us can learn something completely new, systematically. And by that I mean you're not just learning a new phrase or a new song, you learn a whole new system of phrases and songs and ideas that you didn't know about.

So I think hip hop actually does more covers than other genres. It's just that most people are completely clueless as to how vast and deep the references are in Hip Hop.

FRESH for 2008. You SUCKAS!
posted by cashman at 11:23 AM on July 21, 2008 [17 favorites]


The earliest "cover-as-statement" I can remember is Bowie's cover of the Stones' Let's Spend the Night Together which he made gender ambigious.

The Deviants cover of the Rivingtons 'Poppa Ooh Mow Mow' might be an earlier example, being a wonderfully early diss of rockist tendencies circa 1970 or so.

Alternatively, it might have just been incompetent shite?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:25 AM on July 21, 2008


But yeah, changing a lyric to try to seem cool, and then still thinking Black Flag is a cool band to mention... not so much.

What's wrong with Black Flag as the band to mention here? They're not supposed to be cool in the lyric, not anymore.


I kinda interpreted the lyric differently--in the Henley song, at least, isn't there a subtext about, y'know, getting rich and getting a big car and betraying all those hippie/Deadhead/'60s ideals (like the stereotypical boomer, or for that matter Henley himself)?

'Black Flag' is a terrible choice because, well, it's not like those guys had much of an ideology, at least compared to Fugazi or Crass or somebody. So, with two words, the cover-song guys make it clear, just in case there was any doubt, that they don't know jack about punk.
posted by box at 11:25 AM on July 21, 2008


I don't understand what's wrong with the Ataris changing "Deadhead" to "Black Flag". Seems pretty appropriate to me--like the hippies before them, the punks have now sold out and bought Cadillacs. (Not that the Ataris' version is any good, I suppose, but I didn't mind that particular change...)
posted by equalpants at 11:26 AM on July 21, 2008


I mean come on, where was Noel when, say, Dizzee Rascal started touring UK festivals

The problem with framing it this way is that you assume Noel thought long and hard about this and carefully prepared a list of grievances to air in the UK media. Not, like every other Noel-inspired controversy of the last 15 years, just because an NME reporter happened to be sitting next to Noel at the pub and heard an off-the-cuff remark that he made after a few too many.

As well, like every other controversy, people generally ignore the fact that Noel is one of the funniest rock stars of our generation and half the stuff that comes out of his mouth is designed to be taken with an extremely large grain of salt.
posted by Adam_S at 11:30 AM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Adam_S: As well, like every other controversy, people generally ignore the fact that Noel is one of the funniest rock stars of our generation and half the stuff that comes out of his mouth is designed to be taken with an extremely large grain of salt.

Okay, as much fun as it is to bash Oasis* that's right. Noel is a very entertaining talker, especially when he lets his guard down and checks his ego at the door. Apparently he and Alex James of Blur get together and shoot the shit like nobody's business these days. I imagine those are some pretty entertaining conversations.


*Full disclosure: I really like Definitely Maybe, but their career has been something like an example in an economics textbook on the law of diminishing returns. Definitely Maybe: Great - Morning Glory: Pretty damn good - Be Here Now: Stunningly mediocre - That Album After Be Here Now: Awful - etc.
posted by Kattullus at 11:47 AM on July 21, 2008


Noel is one of the funniest rock stars of our generation...

This threw me off pretty badly, then I realized it was his brother, Liam, who thought Spinal Tap was serious.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2008


Pavement recorded a similarly abusive version—full of forgotten words, dropped notes, and disdainful chuckles—during a late-'90s BBC appearance.

To be fair, they do that to their own songs too.
posted by painquale at 12:10 PM on July 21, 2008 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I don't get what's so wrong about changing deadhead to Black Flag. Both have a logo you can recognize without the band name, both toured incessantly, both were 20 years past their prime when each version of the song came out, both bands are iconic while hardly being the best band of their time. Henley wasn't trying to say that a deadhead sticker on a cadillac in 1985 was cool, he was trying to say it was sad, just like a black flag sticker on a cadillac in 2005 is sad. I mean, I would have said "Misfits sticker", but gah, try saying that 3 times fast.

Misfitsstickermisfitsstickermisfitssticker

Also, what I really wanted was for Jay-Z to start rapping over Wonderwall.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:13 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, hang on, is Jay Zs version of 99 Problems not actually considered a cover of the Ice T track?
posted by Artw at 12:13 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy - California Über Alles is quite possibly the best rap cover ever.

>-Guitar throughout, though not played by Jay-Z. You also see the impact of the mashup scene here -- Back in Black with 99 Problems is either from one of the full-album mashups with The Black Album or from a single mashup released shortly after the album. It may have been obvious, but it wasn't until a fan put them together that it was first heard.

Malcolm Young doesn't allow his riffs to be sampled. He has turned down several requests from groups like the Beastie Boys and others stating "Your so fucking talented write your own riff."
posted by Sailormom at 12:14 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, are all punk covers of pop songs ironic? What are "serious" covers of songs that were originally meant to be goofy?
posted by maxwelton at 12:23 PM on July 21, 2008


Personally, I feel Jay-Z's returns have been diminishing from Reasonable Doubt on, but anyone who shits on Oasis gets a thumbs up from me, even now, years past the point of their relevance. As an American fan of British music in general and the music of Manchester in particular, I still feel the sting of Oasis. After nearly two decades of producing fucking amazing, incredible music that (with the exception of late-period New Order) never caught on here and was mostly confined to the indie record store ghetto, Manchester gives us Oasis, a terrible thinly-disguised-Beatles-cover band fronted by the most arrogant, unlikable cunts on the face of the Earth, and THEY'RE the fucking band that catches on big and that I have to hear constantly for years? I will never stop hating Oasis. I hope I live to piss on the graves of the Gallagher brothers.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:30 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


What are "serious" covers of songs that were originally meant to be goofy?

Emm Gryner's sexy soulful cover of Pour A Little Sugar On Me for starters...
posted by pokeydonut at 12:40 PM on July 21, 2008


Nina Gordon's cover of Straight Outta Compton is a rap cover I listen to for more than novelty value

I can;t speak for lack of novelty value, but that used to sit next to Nouvelle Vagues verion of Love Will Tear Us Apart in the random-stuff-downloaded-at-work folder on an MP3 player that I lost on the bus. I'll have to dowbnload teh both oof them again, as they worked really well together.

I think those were both MeFi finds.
posted by Artw at 12:46 PM on July 21, 2008


Er, make that Pour Some Sugar On Me....They changed the title after their ill-received fourth album, Phagomania.

On preview: I should probably mention that during the people-walking-in-and-sitting-down portion of our wedding, we played predominantly covers of hip hop songs by female singer/songwriters (sorry klangklangston) and it seemed to go over pretty well.
posted by pokeydonut at 12:51 PM on July 21, 2008


Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy - California Über Alles is quite possibly the best rap cover ever.

It helps that the original was so good... (linked to youtube clip with bad artwork because it's the only copy of the studio recording I could find)
posted by davejay at 12:53 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


By posting such a pretentious article, Slate weaponized it.
posted by blucevalo at 12:54 PM on July 21, 2008


I'm going to expand further on cashman's point and I thank him for introducing me to the term signifying.

I've always viewed rap from a poetic/literary perspective, and thus consider it to be rife with allusion. This element, coupled with the personal complexity of many rap songs, may explain why covers are harder to come by... there are many recordings of "Strange Fruit" because it conveys a sentiment that is shared and not so specific to be mated with its original performer.

When A Tribe Called quest raps about getting Barney for his little brother and "tricking on her like Kinte'" in 8 Million Stories, it's hardly something that can be picked up and reproduced with authenticity -- in the same way that the Ben Folds cover of Bitches Ain't Shit does nothing but poke fun at the original. Why tell their very specific story when you can tell your own? You wouldn't release The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. under your own name and call it a homage and people wouldn't come see you do a reading from it unless you were a very specific person. (By no means comparing one work to the other here).
posted by VulcanMike at 12:56 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


It helps that the original was so good...

Yeah, but the main reason Hiphoprisy's version was so good was that they updated the lyrics from the original's lighthearted jab at Jerry Brown to a scathing indictment of then-current CA Governor Pete Wilson, which Dead Kennedys themselves had done before with "We've Got A Bigger Problem Now", changing the target from Brown to Ronald Reagan. Hiphoprisy took the song and made it their own, which should be the aim of any good cover version. It was the only even passable track on Alternative Tentacles' 100th release celebration compilation of DK covers, the next best was Mojo Nixon's good-enough-for-government-work take on "Winnebago Warrior".
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:04 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lounge-y version of 'Let's Lynch the Landlord,' I believe by Faith No More or Mr. Bungle or some other Mike Patton group.
posted by box at 1:06 PM on July 21, 2008


Malcolm Young doesn't allow his riffs to be sampled.

Sampling the "Back In Black" riff predates the requirement for clearance. BDP sampled it on their first album, and there's probably earlier examples I can't think of right now.

And really, get over yourself, Malcolm Young. You're so fucking talented, learn more than two chords after 30 years.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:10 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


This one shocked me when I first heard it (as I was used to generic Classic-Rockified Doors at the time: Jose Feliciano, Light My Fire
posted by sandking at 1:31 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


It was the only even passable track on Alternative Tentacles' 100th release celebration compilation of DK covers, the next best was Mojo Nixon's good-enough-for-government-work take on "Winnebago Warrior".

Not true. Les Thugs sorta shoegazing Moon Over Marin is great, the only track off that CD I still listen to.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:54 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wasn't the first big rap-pop hit a cover of a rock song? (Run DMC doing Aerosmith's "Walk This Way.")

The ironic cover probably started in the mid-60s. The Byrds' "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" has a bunch of country covers, some delivered with love but some with total disdain -- Gram Parsons and Roger McGuinn sneering through some pious crap like "The Christian Life," for example.
posted by kenlayne at 2:20 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just adding my love for Richard Cheese and the whole re-do of Dawn. When those credits rolled with Cash, I sat up, hit pause, and leapt off the sofa to go get snacks, turn off lights, etc, because I knew I was in for something special. That doesn't happen often.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:42 PM on July 21, 2008


Satire is so played out. And easy. I would've much rather seen Jay-Z come out and, rather than sloppily mauling the song, done a straight version that surpassed the original, whether rapped or sung. What better way to put Noel in his place? But I suppose that would've required work, and real artistry. Jay-Z might've been able to do it if he'd tried, though.
posted by decoherence at 3:02 PM on July 21, 2008


It kind of surprises me that otherwise intelligent people like Oasis. Come on, even their first album was dreck. Give me supersonic, give me gin and tonic? I loved most of the Creation catalog and shoegazing/led zepplin mashups that came out of it, but let's just admit that Oasis were heels.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:34 PM on July 21, 2008


And really, get over yourself, Malcolm Young. You're so fucking talented, learn more than two chords after 30 years.

Why should he bother?

Seems like those two chords have served Malcolm just fine.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:57 PM on July 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


The only time I've actually been legitimately offended by a cover, as in hearing it and knowing it was recorded on a major label CD for posterity made me realize the world was a slightly worse place than I imagined beforehand, was the Ataris cover of "The Boys of Summer"
The Ataris' version is unalloyed genius compared to the DJ Sammy version that infested the NZ charts about the same time. His version of Heaven is even worse, but that song has always been terrible so I didn't mind so much.
posted by AndrewStephens at 4:44 PM on July 21, 2008


I think there are a lot more rap covers than the article suggests, but perhaps not in the traditional sense. For example, Missy Elliot teamed up with Method Man to do another version of his song "Bring the Pain" - its not quite a cover, but it has the same hook and it samples the original beat. To me, it's just as much a cover as the Sex Pistol's radical cover of "I did it my way" is...

Then there's songs like "Hate it Or Love It", which appeared in one form on the Game's album, and a different version on 50 Cent's album. Same beat, both songs feature both rappers, but both do different verses. Is that a cover, or a remix? And if someone remixes someone elses track, how does that figure in? What if the remix appears on a different album from the original?

Another gray area: rappers sometimes sample other rapper's lines like they might sample a beat. Public Enemy's "Welcome to The Terrordome" starts with Chuck D rapping "I got so much trouble on my mind" - and Common started his song "Book of Life" with the same lyric. Jay Z sampled Nas for Dead Presidents and sampled Snoop for D'evils, both from reasonable doubt. If a rapper's artistry is defined as his lyrics, and someone samples a section of their lyrics - how do we look at that?

I'm not saying those are cover songs... but I'm saying that this article's case that rappers don't "cover" other rappers is very uninsightful because it is using the word "cover" in the sense that rock uses it, when for the last thirty years rap has been blurring a lot of the boundaries of what authenticity, originality and authorship are, and I don't think you can legitimately apply the same terms to both cultures without first addressing the different ways that those cultures look at those concepts.
posted by Kiablokirk at 4:48 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Adam_S, I concede the point and agree wholeheartedly.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:48 PM on July 21, 2008


Yeah, but the main reason Hiphoprisy's version was so good was that they updated the lyrics from the original's lighthearted jab at Jerry Brown to a scathing indictment of then-current CA Governor Pete Wilson, which Dead Kennedys themselves had done before...

Obviously we used to do college radio together. Or we should have. No argument from me.
posted by davejay at 5:51 PM on July 21, 2008


I think what's most important to note here (in all this discussion of what makes a good cover and all that) is that the act of taking someone else's work and changing/expanding/personalizing it is a Good Thing™ that we should appreciate as an important part of our culture, and work harder at changing copyright laws to encourage it.
posted by davejay at 5:53 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Surely some ironic hippie covered Green Beret or Okie from Muskogee or something else like that.

Hank Williams III together with the Melvins do a pretty faithful version of OfM.

Sometimes it's not until someone covers an artist that I will appreciate the original. It wasn't until I heard the Deftones do "The Chauffer" and Eve's Plum do "Save A Prayer" that I gave two shits about Duran Duran, for instance. Sometimes a complete reinterpretation of someone's song can be awesome also, e.g. Arto Lindsay's "Erotic City." But even a semi-faithful version can be lots of fun especially if you're Fishbone.

I like covers a lot.
posted by waraw at 6:02 PM on July 21, 2008


I was unlucky enough to watch Jay-Z at Glastonbury, and amusingly enough, the biggest crowd reaction for his set was his "cover" of Wonderwall. Basically the whole crowd sung along. They new the words and really liked it! This high point wasn't reached again for the rest of his set.

I have to say though that article was terrible, poorly researched crap. With a bonus helping of ill informed music journalist nonsense.

But on the plus side it's nice that it provoked a bit of fun cover version discussion on here.
For what it's worth, it's made me want to go and listen to the K. Foundation / KLF's vesrion of K Sera Sera (War Is Over If You Want It)...
posted by debord at 6:39 PM on July 21, 2008


Madonna. American Pie. The day the music died.
I mean, if you ever want an example of how a good song can be weaponized (as in turned into something that could kill someone by making them want to go out and kill themself ...)
posted by Megami at 7:09 PM on July 21, 2008


If Jay-Z ever decides to release an aerosolized version of Wonderwall on the subway, we'll have no choice but to give in to his demands.

Another Hip-Hop cover


Sir Mixalot- Posse On Broadway

coveredby E-40 as Big Ballin With my homies (warning: typical hip hop video complete with gratuitous booty shaking and guys throwing money around)
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:22 PM on July 21, 2008




Yeah, I think it was in the early/mid 60's that the "cover tune" came into being as a cultural (and legal) commodity.

It's interesting that the public belief in the sanctity of an artist's relationship to his/her own songs increased so dramatically during an era in which:

- recordings finally eclipsed live performance as the means by which most people heard music,

- the ability to read music became increasingly rare among recording artists, and...

- most popular music became (how do I put this...?) a lot easier to play than, say, your typical Thelonius Monk composition.
posted by ducky l'orange at 11:13 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interesting? Expected. When there isn't the physical element of seeing an artist perform their own material in person, that connection to who created something is lost. The recorded medium becomes rife for one performer to cover another's work, and gain more fame and/or money from it than the writer. You can't impersonate another artist in a live performance and fool anyone (well, unless you're Gallagher's brother).

Not to mention, the simplification of rock/pop/punk music also leads to this: someone like Monk has a relationship with their own songs because they are the one playing it, and have a distinctive style in their playing that is technically difficult to reproduce, and next to impossible to truly imitate. But playing the same 3-5 chords? Eh, the truth is for a lot of modern performers the real work is done by the faceless, far less well known BFA or Masters' holding producer who put all the arrangement and detail in that takes a pop song from "Boring guitar strumming in a bedroom" to "Multi-platinum hit". Thus, laying a fierce claim to one's music becomes more important, because it's an easier thing to mimic.
posted by hincandenza at 2:37 AM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


For an early (1965) example of a band getting it exactly wrong, check out the Beach Boys' cover of Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing" on BEACH BOYS PARTY! Their silly goof on it (it's as if they're saying "can you believe anyone could take these lyrics seriously?!)" shows how extraordinarily out of touch they were.
posted by the bricabrac man at 2:56 AM on July 22, 2008


I think there are a lot more rap covers than the article suggests, but perhaps not in the traditional sense.

e.g. How many songs use the Dolla Dolla Bill, Y'all hook from Wu Tang Klan's C.R.E.A.M.?

Ice Cube - Hundred Dolla Bill, Y'all
Coolio - Money
Wycliffe Jean - Sweetest Girl

And there must be more.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:12 AM on July 22, 2008


And here is Noel's reply.

Wow, just wow. His main complaint seems to be Jay-Z's age, yet Noel is 2 years older. He seems a very confused man to me.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 4:13 AM on July 22, 2008


Errr, scratch that. I think it's some fanmade joke that I didn't get because I hate Oasis enough to believe it.
posted by mad bomber what bombs at midnight at 4:17 AM on July 22, 2008


PMD: And the Wu-Tang line is itself a reference to Jimmy Spicer's 'Money' (Coolio's version is a cover).
posted by box at 6:37 AM on July 22, 2008


Surely some ironic hippie covered Green Beret or Okie from Muskogee or something else like that.

That'd be the Grateful Dead, in 1971 -- together with the Beach Boys. Other Merle Haggard tunes found their way into their general rotation.
posted by muckster at 7:43 AM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Since we're talking covers as statements, remember the Legion of Rock Stars? (previously, 1 & 2)
posted by Pronoiac at 11:01 AM on July 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


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