I was in the mall the other day and I saw an add for a new album by a well-known jazz artist. The only songs from the new album which were being advertised on a large cardboard cut-out were two covers of “Hotel California” and “Desperado.” I’m sure the marketing geniuses who came up with that idea were shooting for song-name recognition as a way to get people interested in the album. I, for one, was immediately turned off, thinking, “Why would I want to hear another rendition of ‘Hotel California’?” Actually, I don’t even want to hear the original version anymore. For me, it has been overplayed and over-karaoke-ized to death that it elicits little joy within me when I hear it. Why would I want to hear another version?
Perhaps this cover is amazing (I haven’t bothered to look it up), but for me it goes back to the idea of creativity and originality. I crave both of those, and I have a hard time understanding why so many artists end up doing songs by other artists, and bragging about it to such a degree that seems to undermine the rest of the album.
I get it. Covers have always been a thing in music, but it’s a rare cover that I personally like better than the original. If I was a musician, if my cover of a song didn’t bring it to new heights, and didn’t in its own right become a respected and sought after version then why do it in the first place.
When do I not mine song covers? Christmas. Pretty much all Christmas songs are covers, and that’s fine. Tribute albums is another acceptable way to do it because it’s a way of honoring the creativity and impact of the original band or artist. But using old songs as a ploy to get listeners or as a way to fill up an album doesn’t impress me.
Dig deep. Get creative. Be original. And if you need a song writer or lyricist to help you out, then let’s talk.