Lately I’ve been experiencing Deja vu every time I flick the dial to commercial radio – and not because the “No Repeat Work Day” means you will only hear a song once between the hours of 9 and 5 and seven times throughout the rest of the day. No, I’ve noticed a lot of songs lately are “sampling” former hits or are, in fact, poorly done covers.
Take Robin Schulz’s Sugar for example. Yes, the verses are different, but the chorus is from Baby Bash’s 2003 hit Suga Suga with a slightly altered tempo. What bothers me is not so much that this song is an inferior version of its predecessor, but the way no credit is given to the artists who wrote the song. A radio host will introduce it as “Robin Schulz’s new hit”, with no mention that it is (pretty much) a cover.
What is a truly awful audio concoction is Nelly and Jeremih’s The Fix – a cover-ish of Marvin Gaye’s classic Sexual Healing, which samples the title lyrics, but flips the concept around to suggest the singer can give his girl “that fix, that medicine” and heal her with his dick (ew!). The video clip takes it further with girl’s entering The Fixer’s office for “therapy”. Late great soul singer Marvin Gaye would have already been rolling in his grave when Charli Puth and Meghan Trainor released “Marvin Gaye” – possibly the unsexiest song about sex ever – now he’s been degraded with this disgusting mess of a song.
Whitney Houston’s family would also know that no one’s memory is safe. Early this year Natalie La Rose and (repeat offender) Jeremih produced Somebody – a song “inspired by” the pop idol’s dancefloor favourite I Wanna Dance with Somebody. In it Jeremih professes he wants to “take shots with somebody” to a vaguely familiar tune while La Rose sings about “being in the club like woah” with none of the fun of Whitney’s heartfelt classic. They score points for the dancers’ tragically 80s and hair styles and outfits in the film clip, but the song itself still feels like more of an insult to Whitney than a way of honouring her.
Another recent example of an unnecessary cover is Grace’s You Don’t Own Me (Lesley Gore, 1963) which would have actually been alright without G-Eazy’s jarring rapping. Felix Jaehn’s (2015) remix of Jasmine Thompson’s (2013) cover of Rufus and Chaka Khan’s (1983) hit Ain’t Nobody is not a bad song. However, while Thompson let YouTube viewers know her version was a cover, that fact was neglected when Jaehn put an up-tempo beat behind it in April. There are plenty of listeners too young to have heard the original of so many of these covers. Not giving credit where it is due, despite the royalties paid, is (not legally, but basically) plagerism.
I’m not saying covers are anything new or even a bad type of music – Triple J’s Like a Version is a great example of how talented artists can produce something truly orginal from someone else’s creation. However, covering an artist’s song is one thing and pooling the wool over young listeners ears in another.
So my plea to singers out there looking to make a quick buck on the back of a superior artist’s talent is… just don’t. And if you do want to pay homage to a song star you admire, remember to treat the song with respect and try to produce something unique.