Oh covers, what a blessing and curse you are onto the pop cultural landscape. We here at the Mixtape have this on-going love/hate relationship with you because a good to great cover can make you re-examine a song while a mediocre to awful cover can make you never want to hear a song again. Today, we're going to go through a few covers and their originals to see who worked it out best in our mix we're calling "I'll Cover You."
First up: Christina Aguilera's Not Myself Tonight
Christina Aguilera, more casually known by her Internet nickname "Floptina," put out "Not Myself Tonight" with a resounding thud. The video, well, we aren't going into all the various horrible things that the video manages to accomplish in a short period of time.
The recipe for the disaster of a flop that was Not Myself Tonight:
Take a teaspoon of Pussycat Dolls-esque production
Throw in a cup or two of Justin Timberlake circa FutureSex/LoveSounds
Add a pinch of classic Christina Aguilera melisma/caterwauling
A heaping tablespoon of tacit-at-best feminism by way of the school of Madonna
Beat these ingredients together to the point where they are combined but not crafted into anything spectacularly new. Then put on an album that has been in the making for four years. Feel free to display in a crap video that rips off Madonna, GaGa, Beyonce and even George Michaels.
The Cover as done by Kidz Bop
The first thing I say to this and all covers by way of Kidz Bop:
Kidz Bop are intrinsically awful. They are like the musical equivalent of an Uwe Boll film; they are so awful in so many intricate ways that occasionally they cross into that magical land of pure so-bad-it's-good territory that many people flirt with but never actually manage to do.
This Kidz Bop cover of Not Myself Tonight succeeds on a variety of levels:
1. The Valley Girl-esque speaking voice as soon as the song starts.
2. These are kids singing about losing their ever loving shit. Before 9 p.m., obviously.
3. The fact you just know some soccer mom has bought this album for an angsty pre-teen in a bid to seem both cool AND morally responsible
4. And because at parts of the song, the kids manage to handle the cacophonous tune better than Aguilera did which is just tragic.
The Original: B.o.B.'s Airplanes
There are just certain songs that when you hear their opening chords, you know that you're going to hate the tune in about two months because of their impending ubiquity. "Airplanes" is most definitely one of those tunes. A tune tailor-made for earnest commercials for ABC Family summer TV shows and Robert Pattinson-fronted films, B.o.B. and that boob-flashing lead singer of Paramore come together in "Airplanes" in surprising fine form to take over the summer airwaves in a tuneful audio assault of earnestness.
The singer Hailey Williams has an interesting voice, one that often gets lost in the shuffle of Paramore's angsty arrangements. "Airplanes" is able to show off her unique singing voice which is pretty much the star of the show. The rap verses by B.o.B., lovely as they are, are just padding to get to the chorus which is how these things usually go (gives the side-eye to "Empire State of Mind").
The song has all the trademarks of earworm greatness with a hook so big it could used to kill whales. Is it overplayed? Yes. And does it deserve all the mocking it gets? Most likely?
Is it still on a constant shuffle on my computer though? Most definitely. *hangs head in shame*
The Cover: Travis Garland
One of the great rules of the Internet is that a song is ever written, it will invariably be covered on YouTube. YouTube is the great wasteland of artsy black-and-white footage of people singing into their webcams with acoustic guitar in hand, shaky vibrato in throat and not one lick of good sense in their head.
Travis Garland stands apart a little bit because A) no acoustic guitar B) he has re-written portions of the tune to sound even more Hallmark Card-ish
Performed for some MySpace fan with a dead relative, Garland's heart I suppose in the right place but his vocals are not. His roots in a shitty boyband NLT with that wheelchair kid from Glee shows in spades and the photo that accompanies his YouTube video ---the hoodie of artistic merit, the baggy jeans of don't-give-a-fuck-what-the-haters-think, the grimace of grit and credibility --- adds to the unintentional comedy of the situation.