Friday, 27 January 2012

My Reaction to Marcus Collins's cover of Seven Nation Army...and more

I was worried the arrangement of Marcus’s cover of Seven Nation Army would be as horrible as that of Another One Bites the Dust on the X Factor. I was worried doubly because I’m a White Stripes fan. But I’m not the sort of stuck up indie fan by any means so I tried to approach Marcus’s single with an open mind.

Here it is:

Phew! The cover is not horrible, I would almost say it’s quite good. Its vibe reminds me of Bobby Womack’s cover of California Dreaming a wee bit. I like that unlike Marcus’s version of AOBTD his cover of Seven Nation Army doesn’t ignore the bass hook. While I saw opinions that the hook got cheapened here and that the backing track sounds karaoke-like, at least it’s still there.

I never listened to any cover of SNA before. For some reason I viewed it as a record, not a coverable song. Well it’s obvious now it’s not only a genius record, it is a great song too, which can be interpreted in other ways. In hindsight you could say „duh!“ but I guess I generally don’t think about the many ways any given song I like could be played and sung differently...

I’m not against artists singing „covers“. Back in the day there was no such thing as singing a cover. Songwriters wrote songs, singers interpreted them. Many singers of the golden days of swing, jazz & blues sung the same songs. Even the early rock’n’rollers played the same songs. Part of this could be applied to the 50’s/60’s Motown as well (the era and style of music Marcus Collins loves). But then the 60’s happened and the rest is history. Back to the present and me...I quite like people reinterpreting other people’s songs. Jonsi’s beautiful cover of MGMT’s Time to Pretend springs to mind as a recent cover which could totally stand on its own. Soft Cell’s version of Tainted Love was so striking most people probably never even knew the song had a 20 year-old history before they released it and pretty much everyone who covered it after uses Soft Cell’s version as a template (Marylin Manson, The Pussycat Dolls...). Jamie Cullum’s version of Don’t Stop the Music is arguably better (and sexier) than Rihanna’s dancy original. I own about 10 different version of My Funny Valentine and Night and Day alone. My point is: I have nothing against covers and reinterpretations.

But none of the „modern“ artists listed above started their career with a cover. Not even Soft Cell. Tainted Love was their first and biggest hit but not their first single. (For the record Marc Almond has regreted not putting an original song on the b-side. Having Where Did Our Love Go there made great sense from the artistic point of view but not from the economical one.) And Marcus not only starts his career with a frickin cover even though he doesn’t have to since he didn’t win the X Factor. His cover is not even his own. His vocals and vocal choices are pretty much his own but the arrangement is 2 years old and you can easily find it on Youtube (see previous link).

I like Marcus. I might not be a fan of his musical style per se but I like him and I care about him and I fail to be cynical about him as the rest of the „music fans“ are. Also I don’t think he’s a naive idiot. He’s a nice guy but he’s not stupid. So I wonder...did he have any say in this decision? There are gonna be 2 more covers on the album but the rest should be his own it so weak he actually thinks having a controversial and possibly moderate hit with Seven Nation Army is his best shot? Or was this decision made for him?

This guy’s got potential. Handsome, sweet but sexy and an actual out gay English person with a thing for Motown. Could be something new, interesting and good, if handled well. But ever since they – lazily - started making him into a British Bruno Mars type, looks, and all, I knew there was cause for worry. Not only he has a great chance of disappearing without a trace (the way most talent competition alums sadly do), he will even disappear as a (double) cheap copy of someone else, and with a cover version single which many people will hate by default.

As Elton would sing: it’s sad, so sad. It’s a sad, sad situation and it’s getting more and more absurd.

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