Thursday, August 7, 2008

Cover Songs and Remakes: Some good, some not so good...

As a vocalist on a praise team for the past 10 years, I've sung a few different versions of old hymns and contemporary Christian songs. Some would argue that the old hymns should not be changed -- that they lose something when we try to make them more contemporary. For the most part, I would disagree with that statement. If done well, updates to old hymns can be enjoyed by those who have loved them for years and, at the same time, expose a whole new audience to the great messages in these old classics. With a few exceptions, it really boils down to personal preference in musical styles. I know I've been guilty of song snobbery in the past because of my personal preference and how "we've always done it in the past". If I'm being honest, I would have to admit that I have been downright insulted at times when a new worship leader has come in and completely changed the arrangement of a song that I held as sacred. But really, that's just being silly. I can only be insulted if I choose to be. And as many of you already know, I'm not easily insulted.

Secular music is awash in remakes. "Listen to your heart" was recently remade. I thought the song was awful the first time around. To hear it again on Top 40 radio is just painful. You really should let some sleeping dogs lie. Both times around, the song is truly craptastic.

And speaking of cover songs that should NEVER EVER be done, check out this little snippet. I would not be so bold as to assume the final destination of Kurt Cobain, grungy lead singer for Nirvana, but I imagine being forced to watch this performance over and over might be some form of cruel and unusual punishment...I know it was for me. (Although, I must admit -- it's got a good beat and you can dance to it!)

By the way: I have changed my comments section to allow anonymous comments, so you don't have to sign up for anything to comment. I only say this because I'm very curious whose reading my silly ramblings! If you're a regular reader but have never commented, it would be great if you just said "Hi" and from what part of the world you're reading from. No pressure...just curious!


katdish said...

And another thing...

Can anyone shed some light on what these lyrics mean?:

here we are now
entertain us
a mulatto
an albino
a mosquito
my libido

I could never understand what Cobain was wonder. You really never should mix your medications.

Kris said...

i have never heard that song before, to my knowledge...


Anonymous said...

That pic you have up there is from Nirvana's MTV Unplugged show, vastly considered the best one of the series (in my humble opinion, Eric Clapton's was better)

Anyways, one of the songs in Nirvana's set was a cover of the Vaselines' take on an old Christian hymn. Their version is cynically titled "Jesus Don't Want Me for a Sunbeam".

As for the lyrics to "Smells Like Teen Spirit", it's not so much the content as the lack thereof that defines the downward spiral (there's your NIN reference) our society has been on, especially when a song like that became the anthem of my generation.

As far as angst-ridden bands are concerned, I much preferred Pearl Jam over Nirvana.

katdish said...


Dude, you are a cornicopia of useful information! And yeah, I love me some Pearl Jam, too. As a matter of fact, it took me hearing several of Jeremy's sermons before I could turn off the soundtrack in my head of "Jeremy spoke in class today". Did I mention that I'm easily distracted?

JML said...

At one point in time, I aspired to be a lounge singer. I really thought that I would be good at it. old ladies have always loved me, so why not?

I'd agree with this. I love hearing old hymns modernized, but some shouldn't be, it robs them of that quality, where you really do just get excited for God, or something like's difficult to describe I guess. I think that a lot of it deals with who's doing the remaking. Some people should remain background singers the rest of their lives..........

Christine said...

ROFL@the video!
I felt like I was on a cruise a gold sequin dress...drinking sparkling cranberry juice.

Honestly, I don't get the "mosquito" in the lyrics. I don't find them in the slightest bit entertaining.

In general, I like remakes. Why on earth should we idolize a song. The song isn't sacred, the worship is. Also, it isn't as if a remake deletes the old favorite's just paying homage and, as you noted, including another audience.

I can most definitely relate to the feeling of being gypped, though. When our worship leaders change and the songs change with them, sometimes the catastrophic event occurs that I hit the wrong note. I'm used to hitting a high sharp note, but instead it goes to a b flat. The song begins and I proudly think, "oh, I've got this one in the bag. I don't even have to look at the screen for the words...and then...BAM...b flat. Every one gives me the eye and a little chuckle." Yes, those are great times...and another reason that I don't sing on stage.