How do you feel about covers? No not the kind on your bed. Weirdos. Musical covers.
I mean this is really a multi-part question. I also suspect there will be a lot of answers akin to “Depends on the song.” I’m looking for an overall viewpoint on covers though.
I support the concept of covering someone else’s song. I do feel like if you’re planning to release a cover for commercial gain, and not just because “you love that song so much” That you should get permission from that artist, unless it’s considered no longer copy-written for some reason.
A great example of a well done cover, that doesn’t just use someone else’s song as their own work would be Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt”. “Hurt” is a song about a personal and dark subject for writer/front man Trent Reznor, that Cash took and made his own in style and meaning. Cash had some well-publicized substance abuse problems and the lyrics from “hurt” meant something similar, but still profoundly different coming from him. The whole song took on a different tone when performed by Cash in a stripped-down acoustic number, in his classic deep, raspy, voice. Reznor even admitted in an interview that it was more Cash’s song now than his own.
It’s times like that that really illustrate to me what is possible with a correctly done cover version of a song. Some covers use different instruments or a different arrangement to create almost a completely separate song. When it becomes a song separate from the original, and they can actually be enjoyed as unrelated musical performances instead of different versions, I think it allows for more musical expression for everyone.
I’m not completely against faithful cover versions, but I think it tends to leave listeners in a place where they have to decide which version is objectively “better” and that’s not a good thing. On the other hand, some covers with very different arrangements really take a song in a different direction that could ruin a favorite song for someone. Of course it could be argued that that arrangement just doesn’t appeal to those people so there’s no harm done.
So, your turn. Am I crazy? Are cover songs the bane of great musicians everywhere? Stifling creativity and ruining great music? I’m just not sure what’s more correct here.