Following on from Shit Trends in Music #1 some time ago, the inevitably and unimaginatively named Shit Trends in Music #2 is here to rage about the insidious and frankly disturbing proliferation of what I’ve come to call ‘Slowed Down Acoustic Covers of Otherwise Popular Songs Sung By Watrery-Eyed Indie Chicks’ (or SDACOOPSSBWEIC for a short and easy to remember acronym). Astute and dedicated Music Gob followers will have already noticed this image was posted a few weeks ago. Well consider that a teaser because here’s the disappointing full length feature.
So it seems that covering certain songs isn’t an ironic, funny or inappropriate gesture any more as long as it’s done with feeeeling. So whilst society shakes its collective head in deep disapproval of Take That covering Nirvana there are literally several whiny indie girls thinking they can cover songs they shouldn’t dare touch just because it’s slowed down and they’ve told the drummer to fuck off.
Exhibit A: That Cunting John Lewis Advert
The most recent incident of SDACOOPSSBWEIC (remember the acronym, there’s a test at the end of this) was shoved into the public’s weeping eye line when it was sandwiched between two parts of the X Factor a few weeks ago in the form of an advert. Without wanting to address the actual advert itself (a hideous, clichéd monstrosity full of false sentiment, see Charlie Brooker’s own opinion on the matter for further deconstruction) it is based around the softly sung cover of The Smith’s near flawless original ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’.
Hear that? That’s “heartfelt” apparently. Not a bastardisation of a modern classic. Not the slaughtering of a song that at one point or another meant the world to ten or twenty thousand teenagers. Not even an ironic jape at The Smiths expense. No, a seemily po-faced cover that’s got feeeling. And why? Because it’s slowed down and a middle class girl warbles her way through it like a sixth form performance (that’s Slow Moving Millie by the way). How very quaint. Let’s use it to sell crap. Zing!
Exhibit B: The Disco Classic
I had the misfortune to see this cover performed live for one reason or another. Kate Walsh herself is fine, but what in the name of gay disco does she think she’s doing? Her reasoning on stage when she introduced the song was that she used to listen to 80s mix tapes when young and liked the song. No-one of course suggested to her that covering it in the style of a tired kitten might ruin one of the only love songs ever written that truly doubles up as a genuine floor filler; a point completely missed by Walsh and her softly softly tribute.
Exhibit C: The Acoustic Cover of the Acoustic Song
The lucrative X Factor commercial break was once again utilised to promote this wet fish of a record. Birdy (not her real name, or possibly it is, who cares) is young, manufactured and sings. Or whatever. Look, I don’t know anything about her and I don’t want to. The fact is she (her management) took a fantastic Bon Iver tune that was written in the isolation of a Wisconsin winter in the wake of relationship breakdown, ozzing with emotion and angst, and tried to squeeze something more out of it, only to achieve the exact opposite. This empty gesture has about as much genuine emotion in it as Gordon Brown smile. Total fucking tosh.
Exhibit D: The Rock Classic
Now I am no fan of this tune, but it’s the principle at stake here, not my personal taste. You see, it was bad enough when Sheryl Crow covered Sweet Child o’ Mine but just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, along comes limp wristed Taken by Trees to make things worse. This twee nonsense is frankly inexcusable. Has she heard the original? Does she realise how famous it is? Why not just make John Lennon’s ‘Mother’ into a thrash metal song and do a dubstep remix of ‘This Woman’s Work’ whilst your at it you brat.
Another SDACOOPSSBWEIC crime against the broad Church of Rock is this boring tripe from the otherwise respected Cat Power:
I don’t care if your the genius lovechild of Beethoven and Madonna, there are some songs that you just don’t cover. The Rolling Stones’ most famous song is of them. At least if you’re going to do it, understand you’ll always come off worse. Nobody is going to say “Yeah, I love that song by the Stones but hold on, listen to this!”.
Believe it or not, I don’t subscribe to the idea that certain songs in music are sacred and shouldn’t be touched. At the end of the day, all music is fair game. Yet an important level of self-awareness needs to be maintained when approaching certain projects. Artists need to understand the rules before they break them. When Travis covered ‘…Baby On More Time’ it wasn’t particularly funny, but at least they got the joke. I don’t think Cat Power or any of the various sinners listed above think they’re doing anything other than creating meaningful and artistic tributes; but like a overly cuddled cat, they’re killing the damn thing with kindness. What’s worse is that whilst poor bastards like Matt Cardle can’t cover a Biffy Clyro song without a sea of criticism levelled at his hat wearing noggin, these indie chicks slip through the net of criticism as if their own cover versions are somehow more valid; as if slowing a song down, taking out a few instruments and having a quivering angelic voice makes the whole process suddenly acceptable. It doesn’t. So why there is a sudden musical trend for this type of thing is beyond me.
It’s time like this I feel nostalgic for Paul young’s cover ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.