When James Blake suddenly appears in the spotlight with his twitching gloominess and starts to groove, when Scooter becomes campfire-worthy, when Hildegard Knef raps, when an unloved voice is replaced by a beloved one (and vice versa), when a guitar is used instead of a piano, then… we are in the surprising and colorful world of cover versions.
I remember a moderator of my esteemed radio station fm4 who aptly said: “U Me Heart by P.R. Kantate is proof of how to turn shit (in this case Modern Talking) into gold.”
This alchemy works in both directions, of course. I could certainly list enough covers that I really dislike. But for now, here are the ones I like or at least find somehow extraordinary, and there are quite a few. Every cover is always an experiment, a concrete answer to a hypothetical question. The following playlist with over 100 cover versions provides possible answers to questions that one could ask:
▻ What does an Abba song sound like when it creeps over a xylophone?
▻ What does Ólafur Arnalds do when he meets Destiny’s Child?
▻ Would Nina Simone feel better with My Brightest Diamond or Avicii?
▻ How can the patina of Toploader’s “Dancing in the Moonlight” be melancholically plucked away?
▻ And how do Parcels manage to give Whitney Houston more nonchalance?
By the way: “I will always love you” is not by Whitney Houston, but by Dolly Parton in the original. And already we are approaching all the fuzziness and depths of this subject: What is an original, what is a copy?
And finally, something for the next pub quiz: the most covered song in the world is… “Yesterday” by the Beatles, with over 1600 different recordings. There is also this very fitting anecdote from the Guinness Book:
The song reportedly came to McCartney in a dream. He woke up, went to the piano, turned on the tape recorder, and played the song. He then spent the next few weeks trying to figure out whether he’d heard the song before or just made it up in his sleep!