I wanted to blog extensively last night above cover songs, but I was too tired.
Now I’m back.
While driving with the wife a couple of days ago, I stumbled upon Steve Poltz’s fantastic cover of TLC’s Waterfalls. A live version is here, but it’s much, much better as a studio track, which can be purchased on iTunes for 99 cents. Why does Poltz’s version work? Primarily because it’s so incredibly different—but without losing the spirit of the original. Poltz takes a hip-hop song and turns it wonderfully rockabilly. The best moment comes toward the end, when he actually does Left Eye’s rap in a crazy sort of unintentional ode to the late singer. I’m not doing this justice—trust me.
Anyhow, this got me thinking about covers. And how there’s no real middle ground. The great ones are great—Sarah McLachlan’s Blackbird, Pearl Jam doing Rockin’ in the Free World, Run DMC taking on Walk This Way (with Aerosmith’s help). But the bad ones, well, they’re absolutely dreadful. So here are my Top 5 worst covers of all time. I’d love to hear yours …
1. Lil Bow Wow, Basketball—I’m not saying Kurtis Blow is the greatest rapper of all time, but his original—corny as all hell—is also classic. Plus, it mentions Ralph Sampson. Which was nice for big Ralph.
2. Britney Spears, I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll—Uh, how does this even exist? Guys, here’s an idea. Let’s take a mosern classic, give it to Brit and let her do some magic!
3. Twisted Sister, Leader of the Pack—If you want the exact moment when a mediocre band jumped the musical shark, here it is. You can’t be cool and do this. Not in the mid-80s, not now.
4. Nina Simone, Rich Girl—There’s no video link for this—and thank goodness. Simone is a classic, but by the end of her career she was apparently a drugged-out shell of her former self. Why else would you cover a Hall & Oates song two years after its initial release. But, man, she could sing.
5. Rod Stewart, Downtown Train—To quote cracked.com: Did Rod Stewart just wake up one day in 1977 and decide to become a pathetic, grotesque parody of himself? Or did he ease into it over time, like a pair of his stretched-beyond-relief leather pants? “Lead singer of The Faces”-era Rod was known to drop some kick-ass covers. But then came the “shoulder pads and blow-dried ’80s”-era Rod and this nauseating version of Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train.”
** Special note: Just remembered that Mikey Bolton covered one of the great songs of all-time. It’s the video above, and it wins. In fact, my ears have melted into a skin-like goop on my laptop. Can’t type … melting … melting … meltttttttttttttttttttttttttttt