Can you name what is perhaps the most interesting cover of a 1980's song currently in rotation at local radio stations?
I'll give you a hint. You would never associate the person who originally sang the song with the genre of the band that did the cover version.
Give up yet?
The song in question is rock band Seether's cover of "Careless Whisper," a song originally made popular by - wait for it - George Michael. Yes, I am talking about the same George Michael who once asked people to wake him before they "Go-Go."
One of the most memorable parts of that original version was a wailing saxophone solo that went "Wha-nana-na-nanana, Wha-nana-na-nanana, Wha-nana-na-na ..."
Now the marriage of George Michael and rock music is not something I would have said "Oh yeah, that's bound to happen some day." Indeed, the reaction you probably have when you hear Seether's remake is something along the lines of "Eeeew NO!"
I say give it a second listen, though, because after that initial response, you may actually find this is a really good cover of the song. The wailing saxophone has been replaced by a wailing electric guitar, and Seether lead singer, Shaun Morgan, actually adds some angst to his vocals, which gives the lyrics much of the emotion sorely missing from George Michael's version.
Now this got me thinking of some of the great cover songs out there. In some cases, the cover artist, or artists, remade the song into a hit by staying true to the source material, as was the case when Pink, Lil' Kim, Maya and Christina Aguilera did their cover of LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade."
In other cases, the cover artist put his or her own stamp on the song, like when Ike and Tina Turner did their rousing rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary."
Of course, there have been some eye-raising, really bad cover songs. One that comes to mind is Britney Spears' cover of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative." That one was - WHEW! - I don't even know how to begin describing it. It was just a mess.
There is one song that does comes to mind, though, as a standout cover, and that is Pearl Jam's rendition of Wayne Cochran's "Last Kiss." Now, Pearl Jam was not the first band to cover this song. J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers had a lot of success with their cover of "Last Kiss" in 1964. Pearl Jam did their remake 10 years ago.
Now, in this case, Pearl Jam's cover is interesting because that song was so old by the time they remade it, and it just came out of nowhere. I mean, shoot, it had been something like 35 years since J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers released their version.
But Pearl Jam's stripped-down version far outshines the more uptempo versions done by Cochran and J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers - in my opinion, at least.
So, in parting, while we may shy away when a band does a cover song, we shouldn't be so harsh on these songs (except in the Spears case, because she earned it). While we may initially go into shock over the cover, we need to understand this is sometimes in response to the fact that the cover is not expected.
I mean, imagine you're initial reaction if Elvis Presley came back from the dead to do a cover of "Mo Money, Mo Problems." And when I say imagine your reaction, I mean besides the fact that Elvis is back from the dead.
We don't expect strange bedfellows cover songs, but I think we should give them a chance.
Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.