Jul 132020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Madonna's "Ray of Light"

Madonna’s seventh album, Ray of Light, marked a turning point in her life and style of music. Ahead of writing this album, Madonna was preparing for her role in Evita, a film adaption of the musical about the life of first lady of Argentina, Eva Perón, and had her first child. She was learning about the Kabbalah school of thought and Hinduism as well as experimenting with different musical styles.

The Ray of Light album includes electronic and dance elements and shows off a wider vocal range (thanks in part to Madonna’s vocal training for Evita). Critics showed it love, calling it “adventurous,” “mature,” and crediting it with bringing electronica to the mainstream. The album cleaned up at the Grammy Awards winning Best Pop Album and Best Recording Package as a whole and Best Dance Recording and Best Short Form Music Video for the title track.

But let’s talk about that title track. It was the second single off of the album and brought Madonna her highest debuting single at that point in her career. But did you know it was a cover?

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Jun 302020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

John Bonham

If Led Zeppelin’s 1971 track “When the Levee Breaks” is widely considered an original, it’s because the sound that Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham make on that record bears very little relation to its source material: a jauntily played acoustic blues number from 1929. It emanates instead from deep in the heart of the mightiest of English rock bands. It is huge, rumbling, and apocalyptic. And it is totally at one with the song’s all-too-familiar theme of an individual at the mercy of forces way beyond his control.
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Jun 172020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Who Let The Dogs Out

Every once in a while, something happens in pop culture that seems to capture everybody’s attention. Whether it’s Harlem Shake videos, the ice bucket challenge, or Psy’s “Gangam Style,” these cultural phenomena are usually meteoric: they get popular quickly, show up everywhere, and, mercifully, burn out as quickly as they started. In early 2000, the ubiquitous bit of cultural ephemera clamoring for our attention was the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?” You remember it, right?

The song is catchy, bright, and driven by a simple repetitive hook—all the things that make for a hit, the kind that gets played over and over and over and… And that, of course, happened. That translated into worldwide success, with the song reaching the Top 10 in most of Europe. Interestingly, the song didn’t do that well in the US, charting no higher than #40 on the standard Billboard Chart. (It did hit #6 on the US Dance chart, though.)

Its real US success came a year of so later, when “Who Let the Dogs Out?” was picked up as the de facto anthem for sports teams of all types and at all levels, as well as appearing on the soundtrack of a couple of movies. Shortly thereafter, the market was saturated with Baha Men clothing, toys, and lots more. (To this day, you can still buy Who Let the Dogs Out merch on both the primary and secondary markets.)

You might think that this bit of lightning in a bottle was a Baha Men original, but its history actually goes back decades, includes a couple of lawsuits, and is nearly as colorful as the Baha Men’s stage outfits.
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May 192020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Salt N Pepa

Salt ‘n’ Pepa were change-makers from the beginning. Can you believe their very first track on their very first album was the immortal “Push It”? The group paved the way for female rappers, picking up the first Grammy for a female rap act in 1995 for the song “None of Your Business.” That award-winning song was part of a powerhouse record, Very Necessary, the group’s fourth album that included other gems such as “Shoop” and “Whatta Man.” The latter was a team effort between Salt ‘n’ Pepa and En Vogue, another up-and-coming female trio who had just come off of hit singles like “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” and “Free Your Mind.”

The music video for the song won the trifecta of MTV Video Music Awards in 1994: Best Dance Video, Best R&B Video, and Best Choreography in a Video (see why the video was such a hit below). However, you may not know that Salt ‘n’ Pepa reimagined this tune after it stirred up some drama for its original artist.

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Apr 152020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

David Gilmour

How does an obscure song from the mid-70s, “There’s No Way Out of Here,” receive several million hits on music streaming platforms? Like this: someone adds it to their Pink Floyd playlist or station. Which is entirely fair: the song nestles in quite comfortably between “Comfortably Numb” and “Money,” or any other Floyd standard you can name. Trademark David Gilmour vocal and guitar work? Check. Dire and heavy-handed lyrics? Yep, Roger that. Casual listeners naturally assume it’s a deep cut from The Wall, or Animals, or Wish You Were Here.

But of course it’s not Pink Floyd. Any die-hard Floyd fan will tell you the song is from David Gilmour’s overlooked self-titled solo debut from 1978. Some of those fans will further explain (whether or not you asked) that it’s about Gilmour’s feeling of entrapment with the machinery of major stardom. Or it’s Gilmour’s reflection on the fate of his friend Syd Barrett.

Wait, though: even the well-informed fans often overlook the basic facts: “There’s No Way Out of Here” is not a David Gilmour song either, and it’s not from ’78. The music and lyrics are by Ken Baker, whose band Unicorn recorded it in 1976 for their third album, Too Many Crooks.
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Apr 032020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Joan Jett

At the time of this writing, the world is dealing with COVID-19, a viral pandemic that has brought about sweeping changes to how we live, work, play, and even interact with each other. Contracting the virus can be fatal and, sadly, it has proven to be so for Alan Merrill, bassist and lead singer for London-based band The Arrows. Merrill (born Alan Sachs), the writer of the Arrows’ best-known, most successful song, “I Love Rock ‘n Roll,” passed away from the effects of COVID-19 on March 29, 2020. In his honor, Cover Me will look at this garage-rock classic elevated to anthem status by the legendary Joan Jett.
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