ALL TALK is back! Bigger and better than ever and more chock-full of reckless and controversial opinionating than anywhere else on the internet!
This time around our team of brilliant, fearless writers choose their worst covers ever recorded. Tell us yours by visiting our Facebook page, tweeting us @Gigslutz_ or leaving them in the comments below!
Mariah Carey – ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’
As the festive season is nigh, there would be no better moment to broach my horror at the newest version of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’. Mariah Carey has ditched the ski suit featured in the first video in favour of a skimpy Santa outfit as she dances seductively, pouts and occasionally pushes her boobs together (festive). Now, I’m not saying that an older woman isn’t allowed to show some skin nor am I suggesting that at 44, Mariah Carey does not look good, however I will say that she should not doing this with a boy young enough to be her son as the object of her affection.
As for the song itself, the newer version of the Christmas classic is neither heartwarming nor seasonal. The original images of twinkling Christmas trees and snow covered gardens have been replaced by an over-commercialised department store; the little tinkling bells that create that Christmassy feel in the beginning of the first version have also been abandoned. Carey’s impressive high notes that we strive every year to replicate are now nowhere to be heard, buried somewhat underneath annoying back-up singers. Overall, the song ruins the Christmas spirit for me with its overtly sexual video, and basically the involvement of the twat that is Justin Bieber (*awaits an abundance of death threats from twelve year old girls*) So whilst Christmas may be a time of love, acceptance and all that, this song will provoke little more than a “bah humbug” from me.
Mark Ronson – ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’
A good cover version can be like looking at a beautiful work of art in a different light. A bad cover version can be like throwing white paint against Guernica by Picasso: a senseless act of violence against a thing of beauty. Such is the case with ‘Stop Me’, Mark Ronson’s questionable reworking of ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’. The original is on Strangeways, Here We Come, The Smiths’ swansong. It’s not the best Smiths song; it’s not even the best Smiths album. It’s superficially about a night out, out of control, but with loneliness and sexual frustration bubbling under the surface. The cover version is re-named ‘Stop Me’. Ronson adds strings and an orchestra, which is generally a by-word for cultural bankruptcy. Instead of Moz’s high baritone, we have Antipodean no-mark Daniel Merriweather. Happily never heard of before or since, he mumbles the words with the toneless bleat of a constipated sheep. Out of sheer boredom, or complete stupidity, it then goes into ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ by The Supremes. Allegedly approved by both Morrissey and Marr, it’s evidence of the dwindling quality control of both. It’s truculent, devious and unreliable.
Fidlar – ‘Common People’
If you’re looking for a lesson in how to ruin one of everyone’s favourite songs in less than 3 minutes, look no further than Fidlar’s cover of ‘Common People’. With their preppy, garage rock sound and Jarvis Cocker’s original, distinctive and oh, so loved vocals being replaced with quite possibly the most annoying accent ever, Fidlar absolutely butcher a song, which should have never, ever been tampered with. It’s a blessing, of sorts, that with the amount of effect put on this track in a shambolic attempt to make it sound “raw”, it’s warped so far from the original that it’s almost unrecognizable. Sadly, that doesn’t make it any easier on the ears. While I can’t believe Jarv even allowed this to happen, Fidlar no doubt deserve some praise; it must take a significant effort to produce a cover so tuneless and, in fact, offensive. Congrats, guys. In spite of the cover already being 2 minutes and 44 seconds too long, we can only be thankful that Fidlar didn’t manage to get through the whole 4 minutes of the song – perhaps they realised half way through how awful it was, and this atrocity was, in actuality, never meant to be released to the public? We can hope, at least.
Ian Brown – ‘Billie Jean’
I once went to an Ian Brown gig where the King Monkey came out mumbling along to ‘Billie Jean’. Giving his best interpretation of the moonwalk, he shuffled around the stage in an anorak looking like a pensioner searching for loose change. In terms of embarrassing, cringe-inducing impressions it was up there with Richard Madeley dressing up as Ali G. Oh, how we laughed. Good ol’ Browny, spoofing Jacko and proving that he has got a sense of humour after all. We weren’t laughing a few weeks later when his tuneless, slack-jawed version of ‘Thriller’ surfaced and it became apparent that his homage to the King of Pop was meant to be taken in all seriousness. Like a particularly bad karaoke night at the pub in Shameless, it sounded like the track had been notched up on a dusty Casio keyboard and sung by a drooling wino with piss stains on his jeans. Aziz Ibrahim’s funky guitar licks were a slight saving grace, but it was a spirit crushing moment of personal clarity as Brown ceased being cool to me and just started appearing to be bit of a bell end.
No Doubt – ‘It’s My Life’
While digging through my recollections of particularly heinous covers foisted on the unsuspecting public, like recreating a bloody crime scene at some diabolical karaoke night, I started thinking why anyone would do a cover and came up with three reasons. Firstly and most obviously, to make a quick buck capitalising on your audience’s existing affection for a song by making a few superficial changes to camouflage the lack of any individuality or talent a.k.a. The Simon Cowell Method™. On the other side of that coin, there’s the less cynical but seldom successful attempt to put your own artistic stamp on an existing piece of music cf. Michael Bublé’s career, or finally and least conceited of all, to just have fun playing a song you love. Every cover fits into one of these categories, some into two, but a threefer? That’s rare.
Needlessly tacked onto their 2003 greatest hits, No Doubt’s version of Talk Talk’s ‘It’s My Life’ fits that bill. A truly deplorable effort to cash in, played side-by-side with the original there isn’t a gnat’s crotchet of difference begging the question why No Doubt’s version exists at all, surely the cardinal sin of any cover. What makes it even worse is the song’s entertaining video, directed by Dave LaChapelle and casting Gwen Stefani as a vampish Depression-era murderess, makes a more compelling argument for a change of lyrical emphasis from Mark Hollis’ somewhat petulant cry to one of spousal empowerment. A waste in every conceivable meaning of the word.
Alexandra Burke – ‘Hallelujah’
Imagine taking a Leonard Cohen classic and making it your own. Carefully crafting a delicate acoustic ballad filled with pain, soul and emotion so beautiful that in many instances it surpassed the great man’s original. Now imagine an X Factor contestant taking that version and pouring bland all over it. That’s exactly what Alexandra Burke did to Jeff Buckley’s rendition of Cohen’s classic ‘Hallelujah’. An act so disheartening it almost ruined Christmas forever. I suppose I can’t really be too angry at Alexandra, she had literally no input into what she was doing under the guidance of the chuckling puppeteer Simon Cowell, who shamelessly chucked an extra key change and gospel choir into the song, because why the fuck not, right?!? Regardless of whether she had any choice at all, the fact remains this cover version happened. And it should never have happened. Burke should have stood up, looked the production staff square in the eyes and yell “Not that song, Cowell! You leave it be!”
Tom Jones ft. Art of Noise – ‘Kiss’
‘Kiss’ by Prince and The Revolution released in 1986 is the epitome of someone at the top of their game, vibrant, sexy and funky, this cat’s got it. Appropriating parts of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up’ and the guitar strum from James Brown’s ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ it still astounds to this day. Simple, Spartan and seductive. In 1988 Tom Jones (like most of his contemporaries) was a fogey, a relic, past-it, irrelevant, the stars of yesteryear yet to be re-accepted back by the cognoscenti and recused from the wilderness.
Post-modern avant-garde-collagists The Art of Noise had already venerated Duane Eddy with a revamped ‘Peter Gunn’ and Pet Shop Boys had released the superlative ‘What Have I Done to Deserve This’ with Dusty Springfield, the ‘60s were back again. The Noise once had arch-critic Paul Morley and Buggles man Trevor Horn in their ranks, but for this one-off abomination it was mainly Anne Dudley. The result seems like a critical assessment of pop’s state: devoid, depopped and defunked: a deesgrace that outsold the original. Never underestimate the stupidity of… Coming across like a malfunctioning borg from Westworld, Tom’s swaying and swooning is reminiscent of Prince Charles being forced to attend a Supertramp show with Lady Dead; “One is not arsed, baby machine.” When Tom croaks “think we’d better dance now” this is the sound of a corpse shitting its last, proving that this white man can’t funk. Prince was heard to mutter “Tom, you is sure one unsexy mutha-fucker” thus inspiring his 1992 hit, ‘Quit it, Jonesy’.
All Saints – Under the Bridge’
If the ‘90s was the decade of the boy/girl band, it was also the era of the (bad) cover version. With that in mind, perhaps it makes perfect sense that All Saints’ 1997 version of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Under The Bridge’ turned out the way it did. Let’s try to be fair to begin with and just talk about the sound itself: it’s flat. Not entirely, of course – that is John Frusciante’s distinctive guitar (sampled) at the beginning, but cut down to a more manageable size – I mean you don’t want to bore people with the whole track, do you? Then the drums come in and the singing starts and everything goes rapidly downhill. It’s not necessary to describe anything else in too much detail. You take a song about the horrors of heroin addiction and the life-affirming spirit of connecting with one’s environment, cut a few of the more graphic lyrics out, change the sex of the city from female to male (women can’t love other women – it’s impossible), and all of a sudden you have one real steaming pile of gold, snapped from the hands of minors who all aspire to wiggle around condemned buildings in the same way that the pretty ladies on telly do. A get rich quick scheme if ever I saw one.
Susan Boyle – ‘Wish You Were Here’
If you don’t like it, just ignore it. It’s not always as simple as that as I found out while attempting to hide from the celebrity onslaught which is the fundraiser for Children In Need. Something caught my attention on Twitter however which was that Susan Boyle had apparently covered Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’. Yup! They don’t even belong in the same sentence, but yet some TV executive somewhere out there decided to hand over a butcher’s knife to Boyle in order for her to slash apart something so sacred to Floyd fans. I could write an essay on how many levels this infuriated me (I did, it’s on my Facebook status in case you’re interested) but it has to be the bigger picture of the craftsmanship of Pink Floyd being reduced to a show tune so a bunch of self-congratulating TV presenters can wipe away fake tears. It’s going to take me a lot of time and recovery to “unhear” the abomination.
George Michael – ‘True Faith’
I thought George Michael was better than this. It’s awful, awful, awful listening. It’s a depressing drone on what was a brilliant piece of pop by New Order at their best. I think maybe there should be an overall rule: “Do not cover New Order”. You stand virtually no chance of making it sound better. But if you are going to give it a go swerve the George Michael method completely. The method being: slow the track down to half the speed, add some shocking auto-tuned vocals over the top (Does Georgie Boy actually need auto-tune anyway?) and attempt to drive your listeners to suicide watch. It’s a complete shambles. And to add to the bizarreness, it was even released as a single for Comic Relief in 2011. Maybe it was some kind of joke? If it was, it certainly wasn’t funny.