Nov 232018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

madonna music covers

The first Madonna song I remember hearing is “Music.” It topped the charts in September 2000, when I was 13: peak Top 40 radio age. I suppose I must have heard “Like a Prayer” or “Borderline” somewhere before – or her more recent hits “Ray of Light,” the Austin Powers 2 song “Beautiful Stranger,” and, inexplicably, an excruciating “American Pie” cover – but “Music” was the first I registered as a Madonna song.

It offered a lousy introduction to Madonna. From the cloying “Hey Mr. DJ” opening, I hated it. It presented a rhythmic jumble, an obnoxious hook, and lyrics that seemed dumb even to a 13-year old. An actual verse: “Don’t think of yesterday / And I don’t look at the clock / I like to boogie-woogie / Uh. Uh.” (Admittedly, the same complaints could all be made about her much-derided James Bond theme two years later, and I love that song). It took a year or two more before I saw the “Material Girl” music video on some VH1 Best of the 80s countdown and became a fan. Continue reading »

Nov 162018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

gettin jiggy wit it covers

Will Smith’s 1998 number-one hit “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” would have been perfect for our current era of YouTube covers.

First and foremost, the song was massive. It topped the charts for three weeks and won Smith his second-consecutive Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. But more specifically, the simple novelty number boasts an instantly-identifiable hook (“Na na na na na na na…”) that would remain recognizable transposed into any genre. Google searches of “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It metal” and “”Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It bluegrass” would likely turn up a dozen options apiece.

But “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” came out in 1997, eight years before YouTube’s founding. Though a massive, inescapable hit – if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t fit this feature – almost no one covered it. We’ll get to the few who did below, but what strikes me most is how this dearth of “Jiggy” covers opens an interesting window into how drastically YouTube has changed the cover-song landscape. Continue reading »

Oct 262018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

Ben

It says something about Michael Jackson, and I’m not sure what, that his first solo number-one record being a love song to a rat is one of the less strange things about him. Just fourteen years old, Michael was recording solo work at the behest of Motown Records, who wanted to have Jackson 5-related product to sell without necessarily having all five Jacksons. Meanwhile, a movie was coming out that featured young Lee Montgomery performing a sweet song, but the producers wanted a bigger name to rerecord the song for the movie’s theme, and Donny Osmond, the original choice, was on tour with his brothers. That’s how “Ben,” the title track to the sequel to Willard, found its way into Jackson’s hands and onto the airwaves in 1972.

Ben was the tale of an ailing young boy who befriended a rat colony that had been trained to kill in the previous film, led by the dashing young varmint Ben. The critics weren’t kind – Roger Ebert called it “a geek movie” back in the day when that couldn’t be anything but an insult – but the theme song, a gentle oasis amidst the horror that surrounded it, caught the public’s fancy, and they flocked to it like a rat to cheese. “Ben” wound up selling 1.7 million copies in the US alone.
Continue reading »

May 042018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

despacito covers

The idea behind this new series is that the random-number generator will pull up one random Billboard Hot 100 number-one from 1958 through 2018, the chart’s 60th birthday. For whatever reason, though, so far said generator is only delivering me either super old hits – my last was 1963’s regrettable “Hey Paula” – or very current – a late-period Britney Spears hit. And the trend continues today when we look at covers of one of the most recent hits out there, 2017’s #1 hit “Despacito.”

And not just one of the most recent hits, but one of the biggest. Ever. Last year, “Despacito” last year tied Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” for the most weeks atop the Hot 100 in history. This wasn’t just a number-one hit. This is objectively one of the biggest hits of all time.

So there must be a million covers, right? Not really. Despite being so massive, “Despacito” never caught that wave of semi-ironic indie rock covers that so many pop smashes do. Continue reading »

Apr 202018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

hey paula covers

“Hey Paula” is the sort of song that cries out for a good cover. It’s a tight, catchy slice of bubblegum pop, but one almost unlistenable today in its original 1963 recording by Paul & Paula (though it was clearly very listenable then – it wouldn’t be in this feature if it hadn’t topped the charts). More power to anyone nostalgic to the original release, but I have a hard time imagining this inspiring any new Paul & Paula fans today. I have a stronger tolerance for treacle than some, but this is well over my limit: Continue reading »

Mar 282018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

hold it against me covers

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. Continue reading »