When bands, especially rock bands, cover songs, it usually cheapens the original song. Bands should respect the song's creator and resist the urge to interpret the song or modify the song. Bands need to learn that to be progressive in the music industry, new bands must create from scratch.
Here’s a thought. Is it reasonable to assume that if a replica of Michelangelo’s David was conjured and displayed downtown at the Museum of Fine Arts, it might be worth glancing at? Perhaps; especially to one who might appreciate ancient art forms. However, what if one were to learn that the original has been presented in a room adjacent to the imposter? All at once the copy becomes almost pointless and will probably be ignored. However, the true problem arises out of the mental inception that there now exists two of the same. This hypothetical phenomenon is not without its true-life applications.
The world of music has endured cover songs for ages. In the past decade, the mainstream rock scene in particular has suffered the remanufacturing of these creations in an over abundance. An original tune strung together only eight or nine years ago has no business being reconditioned in a “better” form by a contemporary artist deemed worthy by radio and Top 40 popularity standards. Not only is the charlatan song usually an insult to the genuine twin, it’s just plain annoying to think that a respected band or performer may have been either too lazy to write innovative material or was not very talented in the first place. This desperate action of regurgitation seems to be the popular copout of our day; can’t think of novel material, steal someone else’s and mask it with a fashionable style. When a reproduction exists in the same intersection of time and space, the original loses a certain significance of uniqueness.
Case in point, the band Shinedown, also known as the talented musicians responsible for the tune “45”; a popular original song pleasingly reminiscent of an old school Guns and Roses quality. Even though their attitude and style of music is honest and fairly refreshing, they screwed up when they covered the memorable Lynard Skynard anthem “Simple Man”. Though a decent attempt at the rendition of a classic, Shinedown frontman Brent Smith isn’t the late Ronnie Van Zant, thereby could not communicate the passion or timelessness of the original.
What’s worse than a mainstream band attempting to mimic the real thing? a mainstream band attempting to improve on the real thing. Alien Ant Farm poked a once respected Michael Jackson hit, Fred Durst desecrates The Who, and fairly recently AFI has joined in on the copy-cat debacle. A formerly well liked band in the broad spectrum of popular rock, AFI has taken advantage of their ample nationwide radio play time to remake a twelve year old Nine Inch Nails recording of “Head Like A Hole”; a song still fresh in the minds of a relevant 20-something generation of alternative-rock fans. Without Trent Reznor’s dark lyrical presence, fundamental to the song’s success and devoid of the industrial-metal sound NIN expertly synthesized at its birth, AFI doesn’t even graze the bulls-eye.
The bottom line is that cover songs are anti-progressive in that they distract new talent from developing their own innovative material. Instead of feeding a revolution of fresh concepts and new direction, modern bands seem to be dwelling in the past too often. It’s alright to be inspired but there is a limit in what should be taken with you to the studio.