In Defense takes a second look at a much-maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

News flash: Dexys Midnight Runners are more than just “Come On Eileen.” However, Kevin Rowland’s adenoidal voice and over-the-top emotion are not for everyone. Not only that, Rowland’s behavior and strange decisions definitely hindered the band’s popularity. With that in mind, we embark on a defense of the band that released some great music during their brief (if recently revived) career. If you are a Dexys skeptic, or are unaware of their output beyond “Eileen” – and let’s face it, that’s most of the world – maybe this selection of their covers will convince you to dig a little deeper into their catalogue.
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Jun 072012

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

The tribute band. That staple of wedding receptions and all major birthday celebrations for those over 40. It’s hard to shake those memories of inebriated uncles dancing with drunken abandon to Guns N’ Roses songs being sung by an overweight, middle-aged, behandkerchiefed man who has yet to give up on his dreams of rock stardom. Or perhaps your mom is inspired to show everyone that she’s “still got it” by getting low to the Would-Bee Gees. Or maybe aged Auntie Brenda is making use of that new hip replacement by shaking it to “Twist and Shout.” The list of humiliations goes on. In fact, it sometimes seems that the psychological trauma inflicted on us at such events is so great that you could never embrace watching a tribute band as an enjoyable experience. You could never call it “fun.”

Well, that word never is exactly where you are wrong. Continue reading »

May 082012

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

It is in no way difficult to see why you might find bluegrass covers of non-bluegrass songs completely musically offensive. Let’s put it out there: it’s no secret that if you sit there and knock out a pop classic on a banjo and fiddle, you are not asking to be taken seriously. For the most part, bluegrass covers exist simply for their novelty value. Continue reading »

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “was it really as bad as all that?”


When the Watchmen movie came out in March 2009, my primary job consisted of owning and operating a comic book store. Because that film is based on one of the most acclaimed graphic novels of all time, the few weeks that followed its release saw me inundated with complaints about its content. The number one gripe: an overabundance of Dr. Manhattan’s junk. Number two: “Why did they play that corny ‘Hallelujah’ cover during the sex scene?”

As anyone familiar with that scene can attest, of course, Watchmen — in keeping with its mostly retro soundtrack — employed the original Leonard Cohen track from 1984’s Various Positions. In fact, that instance marks one of the only major uses of the original recording in a mass-media production. Thanks to Shrek, The O.C., X Factor and a host of others, though, the song’s become inescapable via its many covers. Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang and more have all had their say on this one. In a 2009 interview with Jian Ghomeshi of The Guardian, Cohen revealed that he’d felt sympathy for a review of Watchmen which asked for a moratorium of “Hallelujah” in popular culture. Quoth Cohen: “I think it’s a good song, but I think too many people sing it.” Continue reading »

Mar 092011

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist, album, or trend and asks, “Is it really as bad as all that?”

Disclaimer: This won’t be a strong defense of any particular American Idol artist. Let’s face it, the show has produced some music that’s utterly indefensible. You won’t catch me rocking out to Clay Aiken in the car anytime soon, mostly because “Invisible” is the creepiest song ever written. But a lot of music fans are quick to dismiss Idol as the lower common denominator of pop culture (an award properly given to the truly meritless Bridalplasty), when the series possesses several redeeming qualities. Chief among them: the ability to surprise audiences with the appearance of a knockout cover bobbing in a sea of dreary copycat performances. Continue reading »

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “was it really as bad as all that?”

In the world of rock & roll, few two-word phrases signal a stagnant career quite like “Christmas album.” Everyone from Twisted Sister to Bob Dylan has claimed a piece of the holiday record pie (check out our massive list of this year’s releases), much to the chagrin of music lovers everywhere. Critics almost universally loathe these seasonal releases; Jim DeRogatis decried Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart as “holiday torture,” while allmusic.com’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine harshly dubbed Sting’s recent festive effort If On a Winter’s Night… “a holiday album for people who have never wanted to hear a holiday album, let alone own one.” But have these musicians really sinned so badly? Continue reading »

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?” Check out past installments here.

William Shatner’s take on the classic Elton John/Bernie Taupin tune “Rocket Man” has an awesome power—people know it without ever having heard it. It seems to exist in our culture purely as a punchline, a go-to gag to illustrate the depth to which Shatner’s career had fallen post-Star Trek. And this is a joke everybody’s in on—sources as diverse as Beck (in his video for “Where It’s At“), Freakazoid, and Family Guy have all taken a few shots at Shatner for this one. But is it really so awful?

At the very least, there’s no denying that Shatner’s “Rocket Man” is very, very weird. The man who was Captain Kirk performed this song as a tribute to Bernie Taupin at the 1978 Saturn Awards ceremony, and audiences have wondered why ever since. Before we get too far into discussing this strange cover, let’s take a look at the video. Continue reading »

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “was it really as bad as all that?”

Scarlett Johansson cannot sing.  Let’s just get that out of the way up front. You know it, I know it, and I suspect Scarlett knows it. After desecrating George Gershwin’s “Summertime” on a 2006 charity compilation, she learned her lesson about trying to be Ella Fitzgerald (her Jesus and Mary Chain performance a year later is disqualified on the basis of being inaudible).

Critics panned Anywhere I Lay My Head, her album of Tom Waits covers, for largely this reason. Entertainment Weekly called it the worst album of 2008. But here’s the thing: she doesn’t really try to sing. Her sultry monotone wraps the songs in a dreamy haze, aiming for mood over melody. Johansson takes you out to dreamland just as your mother did when she sang you to sleep (and you didn’t criticize her pitch, did you?).
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