When you hear a popular song on the radio, it’s not too uncommon to discover it’s a cover. But when you could create personal music, why would you even bother? Why do bands perform cover songs?
There are many reasons why bands perform cover songs. Bands perform covers as a tribute to a particular artist or an attempt at a different style. Bands might also do it for a nod to friends or a strategy to boost popularity.
There are plenty of examples throughout music history that showcase both of these examples. There are many reasons or stories behind why musicians make covers. Considering that, let’s see why bands take a walk on the wild side and make these covers.
Bands Use the Popularity of Existing Music
The moment a song becomes a hit, it instantly becomes a target for other artists. They can capitalize on its fame in an attempt to get their own 15 seconds in the spotlight.
Many bands that do this know that the bigger the song they cover, the bigger the reaction. It can be risky for an artist to take. Bands risk alienating original fans with a bad cover. They can also turn off current fans by straying away from their original style.
There are instances when bands go for a blatant cash grab. Sometimes they can successfully put their name into the mainstream audience with this effort.
Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal (An Example of Good Covers)
For instance, look at the boost that American band Alien Ant Farm received in 2001 when covering Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson. The cover bought them mainstream attention for the very first time. This coming after their second album: “Anthology.”
Their pop-punk take and over-the-top video helped them top the charts worldwide, going platinum in numerous regions. This surge helped their forthcoming chart highly worldwide. This boost gave them a platform for superstardom.
Bands Do Covers To Test Out A New Style
Bands sometimes decide it’s time to freshen things up and try something a little different. It may mean the band runs the risk of alienating die-hard fans. Still, a fresh approach can work wonders for both the band and their overall standing within the music industry.
One of the best ways to test the reaction to this change is by performing a song cover in the style that you want to pursue. It will let them feel how everything works musically and whether it sits well with both critics and fans. Bands will realize whether trying the change works well and what they might need to succeed in that genre.
A Day To Remember – Since U Been Gone (An Example of Covers Working)
For some bands, this has worked wonders, and a great example of this is A Day To Remember’s cover of Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson in 2007. Known for a more aggressive sound before this cover, ADTR showed they could pull off clean vocals and pop melodies. The cover was a big hit with fans and critics alike.
It helped make them one of the biggest names on MySpace. It also increased album sales for the reissue of “For Those Who Have Heart.” This popularity marked them as a band ready to dominate the rock scene for the coming years.
Children of Bodom – Oops I Did it Again (An Example of Covers Not Working)
Success isn’t automatic. Norwegian metal gods, Children of Bodom, found out when they did a cover of Oops!… I Did It Again by Britney Spears.
Children of Bodom is not known for clean vocals or poppy melodies. This vocal issue was apparent as the uncomfortably nasally vocals and over-the-top symphonic sounds feel out of place. It became one of the most mocked metal covers in recent memory, forcing the band to stick with their heavier material in future albums.
Keeping that in mind, some bands keep tinkering when they look to cover a song, especially if paying tribute to fellow musicians or artists.
Cover Songs Can Give Tribute To Music Legends
All musicians are keen on explaining their influences and how it helps them express themselves as a performer. Some will say this in their playing style or in the music itself. Occasionally some bands will go further and perform one of their songs.
This situation can be tricky to pull off. The covering band will be extremely keen to emulate the same sounds and styles that their idol produced, no matter what the result may be. Usually, the extra focus and dedication to the cover will pay off.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower
The most remarkable example of this is the cover of All Along The Watchtower by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In 1970 the Jimi Hendrix Experience also covered Bob Dylan’s 1967 original due to Dylan’s influence throughout the US in the late 1960s. Hendrix’s version has gone on to become an all-time classic. It is frequently cited as his most outstanding work, one of the most excellent solos and songs of all time.
Bob Dylan has openly admitted that he performs Hendrix’s version over his own when he plays it live. This admission is surprising from one of music’s most remarkable songwriters in his own right.
Therefore, a tribute cover can form its own identity that stands the test of time. However, everything doesn’t have to be a serious endeavor.
Yes, You Can Play Cover Songs for Fun
While performing songs is the essence of being in the industry, bands will sometimes have some fun. Some like to lean on the lighter side of things to reward their fans’ support over the years.
Sometimes, musicians can show this by performing covers as a way of a band showing why they enjoy their music. These bands are living in the moment of being in a vibrant industry.
All bands will do this in a live show and throw in a cover during their set. This act lifts a room’s mood in an instant. However, some will go further and create entire albums dedicated to covers.
New Found Glory – From The Screen To Your Stereo
Perhaps the best instance of this is through pop-punk stalwarts New Found Glory. They carved a niche for themselves by creating a series of albums dedicated to covers of movie songs.
The “From The Screen To Your Stereo” series has spawned a direct following for NFG, having done three full albums over the last 20 years. The second and third editions have been successful for the pop-punk legends. They both charted the Billboard 200 and always have a place in their live setlist.
It isn’t hard to see why bands perform cover songs to give them multiple avenues to success. It provides them with exposure to a new audience or style and taps into the mainstream. It also doesn’t always have to be serious to become a best seller.
These covers give the artist a bit more room to show their creative sides and whether it is just by experimenting or emulating a classic by their idols. With so many different ways to be successful, it isn’t hard to see why bands perform cover versions.
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