“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.
This fourth installment of “Covering the Hits” marks a first: the first time one of these was a hit during Cover Me’s lifetime. Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me” topped the charts in 2011, well within this blog’s ten-year history. In fact, we wrote a feature on the song when it first came out. This is hardly a cut we’re dusting off from the archives of music history.
“Hold It Against Me” is also the first song in this series to come along in the YouTube era. This may seem a minor fact, but in the world of cover songs it matters. YouTube musicians began covering any pop hit – really, any new single by a prominent pop singer (even if it ultimately flops) – hundreds if not thousands of times within weeks of its release. Many of the new covers we spotlighted in that 2011 feature were off the YouTube-performer variety. And even that seems quaint today; now, there will often be dozens of professional-looking covers within 24 hours of a pop song’s release.
Looking back seven years after our first feature, there are a few more “Hold It Against Me” covers to choose from. Though not as many as you’d think. Cover-wise, “Hold It Against Me” has not proven especially durable. Most covers came within a six-month window. Since then, cover-age has fallen off dramatically. Britney Spears songs get covered every day, but it’s usually earlier hits (even ones that didn’t go to number one, a list that surprisingly includes the ubiquitous “Stronger,” “Oops!… I Did It Again,” and “Toxic.”)
So where the previous three installments in this series took a longer historical overview, this song is too recent to have much history. So, in no particular order, here are some good covers of it that we didn’t discuss the first time around.
Miguel – Hold It Against Me
Most “Hold It Against Me” covers attempt a cross-genre twist: pop goes acoustic, metal, etc. Miguel is the rare talent who can keep the song roughly in its original genre while changing the tone entirely. He slows it down, changing the rhythm and adding some Michael Jackson-esq synth flourishes in this live session shortly before he became a superstar himself.
Little Eye – Hold It Against Me
There are many covers of this (or any pop song) in this general category: good-looking emo boys gone acoustic. All Time Low’s is the most popular for this song, but I prefer Scottish quartet Little Eye’s take. Maybe it’s the accent.
Carosel – Hold It Against Me
Parisian duo Carosel – singer Michelle Phelan and guitarist Pete McGrane – released a number of lovely, quiet covers in 2011. They seem to have disbanded not too long after, but they left behind a lot of music on Soundcloud. It’s not many groups who could find common ground between Britney Spears and Bon Iver.
Sunny Choi – Hold It Against Me
YouTuber Sunny Choi has hundreds of videos in this vein: classical piano covers of pop hits. She’s got the chops to back it up though, actually coming up with creative arrangments and playing the hell out of them. It’s a formula, but a better-executed one than most.
Molly Pope – Hold It Against Me
For years, cabaret singers-slash-comedians Bridget Everett, Neal Medlyn, and Kenny Mellman of Kiki and Herb fame held a monthly NYC show called “Our Hit Parade” (we used to write about it a bunch). They would recruit their friends to sing goofy, campy, ridiculous covers of the latest pop hits of the day. Molly Pop’s outfit alone makes this a classic. Her ridiculous old-timey dance moves help too.