On the Vinyl Cafe this morning, Stuart McLean threw on one great Crowded House song—“Something So Strong”, which was and remains tres magnifique—and then followed it with a lame, lame cover of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by someone named Sarah Blasko.
Look, covering songs are great and all that. Often, the cover artist bring out something fresh, something the writer never intended, to great effect. The textbook example is Jimi Hendrix’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” (Apparently, upon hearing Hendrix’s cover for the first time, Dylan commented, “Oh. That’s how it’s supposed to go.” I paraphrase.)
But Blasko never did anything remotely close to this with Crowded House’s beautiful anthem. Her version is boring, unoriginal and completely diminishes the hopeful tone—in a time of uncertainty and threatened freedoms—and makes the song almost cynical, like the protagonist is telling his companion not to believe his words. The whole point of the song is hope. Why hide that?
When you cover a song, try to make it better, make it interesting, or make it classic. But don’t make it suck.
In other words, respect it.
Incidentally, this is how to cover “Don’t Dream It’s Over”:
With that, here is my ever-growing list of songs that should never be covered because they had been made perfect by the accompanying artist:
- “Georgia on my Mind” by Ray Charles
- “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley (although I’ll cut k.d. lang some slack here)
- “My Way” by Frank Sinatra
- “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton (thank you very much, Whitney Houston)
- “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
- “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley
- “Crying” by Roy Orbison
- “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot
- “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” by Elton John and George Michael
- Anything by Annie Lennox
Don’t fuck with these.
Do you have any others?