Covers can be a great opportunity for musicians to reconstruct and reinvent their favourite songs, but if the song choice, arrangement or key is wrong, it can completely destroy a classic.
The Spotify Sessions have stepped into the shoes of the Radio 1 live lounge, inviting artists to perform one of their own tracks, alongside a cover. Everyone from Paul McCartney to The Japanese House have taken part, and it’s become almost a rite of passage for modern musicians. However, not everyone does it well. Here is a round-up of the covers you should be turning up, and those you should be turning off.
Dermot Kennedy – Heartless
Kanye West’s ‘Heartless’ uses synthesised vocals and a dynamic drum loop to mask the depression of the lyrics – it is a heartbreak song that sounds stubbornly anti-heartbreak. However Kennedy’s cover cages the track between the bars of the stereotypical breakup ballad, with dramatic piano and subdued vocals, hindering the original’s innovation. The raps are an awkward imbalance of spoken and sung, lacking rhythm and elasticity, which results in a rather bland listening experience. It starts to gain momentum on the bridge but overall his version lacks the passion and rebellion of the original.
His attempt to sing a Khalid song could easily be mistaken for a drunk dad doing karaoke at Cosy Joes
Elton John – Young Dumb & Broke
I liked to think, when it came to music, that Elton John had the biblical quality of turning water into wine, improving songs with his input, but unfortunately this cover proves otherwise. If anything, he demonstrates his ability to turn merlot into sparkling water. His attempt to sing a Khalid song could easily be mistaken for a drunk dad doing karaoke at Cosy Joes, and is made into more of a parody by the recorder that pipes up during the choruses. Even the few notes by Khalid himself in the final 30 seconds can’t save it from the skip button.
Paloma Faith – God is a Woman
This is the perfect example of a good singer choosing the wrong song. Ariana Grande’s vocal differs hugely from Paloma Faith’s but, rather than reinventing the melody to suit her own voice, she attempts to replicate Grande. But this means her tone swamps the delicate lyrics and she rushes through the lines. Her spoken singing of the pre-choruses is especially jarring, and overall this just leaves you craving the original.
Charlotte Lawrence, Nina Nesbitt & Sasha Sloan – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
Lawrence, Nesbitt and Sloan form a supergroup for their Spotify session, producing a cover that sounds like the shadowy sister of the Cyndi Lauper classic. By slowing the tempo of the original track they subvert the bubblegum melody, contradicting the ‘fun’ of the lyrics, replacing it with a melancholic evocation. This is paired with the haunting harmonies of the choruses to reconfigure Lauper’s image of female empowerment as not necessarily an upbeat party but simply women coming together and, in this case, performing together.
The drums and horns generate a feel-good atmosphere that is sure to put a smile on your face
Vance Joy – You Can Call Me Al
Vance Joy’s rendition of Paul Simon doesn’t deviate too far from the original, they have similar inoffensive vocals and arrangements, but this cover somehow radiates even more joy. The drums and horns generate a feel-good atmosphere that is sure to put a smile on your face, and the element of live performance makes it seem like a festival sing-along. Perhaps not the most experimental cover, but definitely the most entertaining.
Yoke Lore – Truly Madly Deeply
Savage Garden’s international hit has admittedly not aged well. The artificial-sounding instruments and sickly lyrics are overtly remnant of the 90s, however, in his cover, Yoke Lore restyles ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ into a modern love song. The gentle guitar adds a folk element that increases the track’s naivety, while the notes of romantic piano in the chorus reaffirm the beauty in the song’s message. Yoke Lore succeeds at turning a song that could be forgotten about into one you want to play to your loved ones.
Last modified: 4th April 2020