First, we'll start with a classic. Michael Jackson's "Beat It". Here's the original.
This song was a pop icon on a million levels. It's without a doubt a classic. Classics spur imitation, and this song has been covered a million ways to Sunday.
Some of those covers were intentionally bad, in an entertaining way.
Some of them are critically acclaimed.
Some were done by celebrities.
…..and some of them…. Well, they leave me wondering what they were thinking, but I know that musical taste is all subjective, so I won't point the finger at anyone. Just search YouTube, you'll find them.
Some songs are so well done that it's hard to find another way to do them. Ask any die hard Queen fan (like this blog's own Autism Mom), and you'll get the opinion that no one could do it better than Freddie Mercury. But that's beside the point. If you're going to cover a song, you have a choice to make. You can either find your own way to do it, like the Michael Jackson covers above, or you can pay homage to the original version. There is a plethora of covers of Bohemian Rhapsody on Youtube, and we'll examine what the differences are.
First, here's the original version, the classic video from Queen:
Some of the covers I've seen try to put the artists individualistic spin on the classic, and that's a wise move in my opinion, but it's also risky territory. You could risk pissing off the hardcore Queen fans. Case in point, here's William Shatner's version.
In an even bolder move, here's a self professed "redneck" version.
In a more interesting crossover version, The Muppet's put out their own version of this classic. It went almost instantly viral on youtube.
The majority of covers I see for this song are taking the more traditional approach, opting instead to try to re-create the classic without modifying it. Here are 2 examples I've found.
Now I've focused this blog on two classic songs that were covered, but I'd like to make a point. That point is that you're not the only one who has covered that song, no matter what it is, and if you want it to stand out, you'd better make it stand out. You've got a lot of competition in the YouTube covers market, as there are a lot of people trying to get the public to listen to their covers of the song you thought you were being so original by covering. So you've got options. Play it safe and replicate the original, or you can make the song truly your own.
I feel that the Muppet's did an interesting variation of both tactics. They did the song as though they were Queen, but they did the lyrical content in their own way. Regarding the Michael Jackson cover, I feel that the most creative path was taken by Pomplamoose, who took the song in an entirely new direction.
So if you're going to do covers, figure out how you're going to make your version of that song stand out.