It’s easy to have low expectations of acoustic covers of pop songs. It’s understandable that so many of them are as difficult to listen to as the originals; with the general simplicity of the originals, an artist might be quick to think they’ve nailed it. Oftentimes they’re right and they have nailed it – this, however, doesn’t mean that the cover is good. Corin Joel blows this generalization out of the water with his recent batch of covers: Britney Spears’ “Hold it Against Me,” Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R,” Sean Kingston and Justin Bieber’s “Eenie Meenie,” and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.”
It’s difficult to say which of the bunch is best, because, in a break from pop cover tradition, each one is unique. Joel brings a sorrow to the Bieber cover that makes you realize that it’s actually a pretty sad song under the gallons of syrup that are poured on it. “Hold it Against Me” is perhaps the most ambitious of the covers, adding a solid two minutes to the original along with a beautiful, slow arrangement that turns the song from a jumble of beats and clever wordplay into an actual love song. The catchiest and poppiest and debatably most interesting of the songs is “We R Who We R.” Joel blurs the lines between cover and remix, sampling the original into his cover of it.
The only throwaway of the bunch is “I Kissed a Girl.” While arranged as nicely as the others, Joel teeters on the edge of the aforementioned pop cover trap. It’s just him and his guitar, as is so often the case. It lacks the edginess that Perry brings to it, though, and doesn’t impart any of the sorrow or guilt that can be found in the lyrics. You can hear it in his voice, but it’s never delivered upon. Luckily for the listener, this is the exception to his covers and not the rule. See if you agree below.