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OPINION: Cover songs: Tricks or treats?


Singer and actress Rihanna is pictured in 2017. Tribune News Service

Cover songs. The artistic reinterpretation of another’s words, the attempt to paste together a snapshot of someone else’s soul. Some cover songs are treated with care, elevating the original, creating a new, fresh piece of music using an older blueprint. Some cover songs suck so badly that they make you wish the original was never written and beg for a new bubonic plague. 

Basically, some are tricks, and some are treats. 

Cover songs are just an artist’s way of playing dress-up, right? They get to try on new faces and personas. They get to reinterpret riffs, adding new things to the mix. They get to tarnish once-great achievements, spitting in the dead faces of those who came before them. 

But, honestly, there are a lot more great covers than there are blasphemous ones. So we’ll be focusing on treats. 

“In Between Days” by Tigers Ja

The Scranton, Pennsylvania pop-punk band covered the Cure’s 1985 hit for Kevin Devine’s “Devinyl Splits” series. 

The cover doesn’t pepper in any drastic changes. There’s still chugging acoustic guitar and jovial synth work. It’s a faithful adaptation with a little slicker production. 

The vocal harmonies between singers Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins are the shiniest new spots on a fun, smooth update of an ‘80s classic. 

“Chocolate” by Knuckle Puc

Sometimes “Punk Goes Pop” covers hit different. Normally, they’re garbage and strong arguments against pop-punk, but sometimes they really do hit. 

Knuckle Puck’s cover of the 1975’s pop rock smash “Chocolate” really hits. 

The drums pound a little louder, the guitars go a bit harder and lead singer Joe Taylor is a lot easier to understand. There’s just something funny about a 1975 song being sung by anyone other than Matt Healy. 

It’s the chaotic evil, pop-punk version of some classic Britpop goodness. 

“No One’s Gonna Love You” by CeeLo Gree

This one seems like it wouldn’t work at all, but strangely enough, it does. 

CeeLo Green takes Band of Horses’ southern rock ballad and turns it into a synthed-out R&B soulfest. 

Green really lets the vocals fly. He’s absolutely getting after it. It shouldn’t work, but an extreme departure from the source material makes this cover a definitive treat. 

“A Thousand Miles” by Cere

The Melbourne band covered Vanessa Carlton’s classic song for Triple J’s “Like a Version” radio show. 

The cover is beautiful. 

Ceres’ version is full of wild choices. The piano is traded out for a fleet of violins. The song opens softly, with a wall of guitars humming softly. All the instruments drop out before the final chorus as a wave of feedback hits the listener’s ears. 

The cover is a complete reworking of a classic that manages to do it justice while being entirely its own magnificent piece of music. 

“Same Ol’ Mistakes” by Rihann

Despite the slight difference in names, this is a cover of Tame Impala’s 2015 song “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” 

There’s not a lot of drastic differences, but it’s just cool that Rihanna covered Tame Impala. That’s sick. 

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