Living in the Past: Cover Songs

Over the weekend I was listening to the radio and I heard the DJ talking a little about the next song that they were going to play.  He mentioned how it was a cover of a Taylor Swift song; so I’m thinking, “Oh a hard rock cover of a mainstream pop song, this should be interesting.”  The fact that they covered Taylor Swift isn’t what puzzled me though, it’s the fact that after the song was over the DJ came back on air and said that was just one group that was going to be releasing a new album containing mostly covers of other songs.

I’ve always thought of the music industry as a place where all of these artists could express their creativity by writing their own, original songs.  Afterwards it got me to thinking about a post Frantic made earlier on here (go give it a read) and he brought up the excellent point that last year wasn’t all that original in terms of movie and game releases.  Granted not every artist does cover songs often, if at all; but it still doesn’t seem all that creative to me.  I’ve always thought when a cover song is made, that it can fit into one of two categories (for lack of a better term) with the first one being…

…As an homage to the original.

I understand that the reason a lot of cover songs are made is because the artist doing the cover was inspired by the original in the first place.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with this; if you’re a musician and want to cover Metallica because their music inspired you to do what you love, then go for it.  Just keep in mind that if you are going to do a cover song, you have to do the original justice.  No taking the instrumental work and mixing them with your own spin on the lyrics.

Making Money off Nostalgia

This is the second “category” that I believe some cover songs can fit into.  It may be a harsh point of view towards covers and the artist that does them, but what’s the point of releasing an entire EP dedicated to nothing but covers?  Back in 2011 Halestorm released a six track EP that contained covers of a few older songs; which I’m sure there was reasoning behind doing so, but two years later they release another six track EP that contained more covers.  I’m not saying Halestorm did it for the sole purpose of making money, but it does disappoint me a little that they decided to release two EP’s containing covers instead of an original album.

I understand that cover EP’s are an excellent way for groups and artists to stay busy while they are working on a new album or if they’re not touring.  However, it feels to me that when a group or artist decides to focus on doing a lot of covers that they are not really trying to promote the creative space that I feel the music industry is.  Stone Sour just released a cover EP not long ago and they have plans to release two more; while I give them credit for saying it’s just to pass the time until they release a new album, I still can’t shake the disappointment of there being more cover songs out there instead of the original creations that I feel the music industry should be about.

In the end, I know not all musicians are focused on creating cover songs or EP’s just as a quick way to earn money.  At the same time though, I can’t help but wonder why some groups release numerous EP’s containing only cover songs.  I feel that if this trend continues though, it won’t be long before we see the music industry listed in a post about why this year wasn’t original.

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