Quantcast
 Lucy

The 10 Best Coldplay Covers?!

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Willie Nelson

By Lucy Cage

So I came across this post from the notoriously indiscriminate Stereogum the other day: The 10 Best Coldplay Covers.

Ah, yes.

Obviously – obviously – the very concept of ‘The 10 Best Coldplay Covers’ might cause some among you to spew yer beans and of course the link attracted a rash of predictable sneers on Facebook (“Who in their right mind would cover Coldplay?” (nine “likes”); “Best and Coldplay is a misnomer for me”; “Hey! This just in, Coldplay sucks! So sick of hearing about them”) and a fistful of plain and simple “Ugh”s on the site itself. However, in the spirit of adventure, and given that at least one of the recordings Stereogum picked had already rung my bell last year, I decided to listen to all of the buggers. So you didn’t have to. I hope you’re grateful, you bastards (and, to be fair to Stereogum, they did – thank the merciful Lord of All Things Sentimental – omit the offerings of Avril Lavigne, Mike Posner, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, U2, Natasha Bedingfield,  the Kooks and Pixie Lott. For not being good enough. Ha!).

Anyway, if you dismiss the whole thing wholesale you’ll be chucking out the Pet Shop Boys with the bathwater, which would be ridiculous: they have history with this kind of thing (de-Bono-ing ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’). Their ‘Viva La Vida’/’Domino Dancing’ shakes up Coldplay’s pomp extravanganza  with their own song to make a perfect PSB cocktail of glossy melancholia, a  mélange of brittle, percussive spikes and cherry-coloured disco. If you revile it unheard cos it was (partially) written by Chris Volvo Martin, you’re not only a closed-eared craven idiot but are missing out on a shiny pop moment. Really, just open your minds and dance, ya snobby fucks.

Chris Martin’s songs suffer as much from being spawned by a beaming, macrobiotic, perma-stoodent twonk as they do from the sentimental nonsense they articulate so cackhandedly: as mewling naked baby songs – at least the early ones that are mostly represented here – they might, when nurtured by different hands, thrive and grow into something other than Coldplay’s cheap sub-U2 thrills. Remove the twonk and his band from the equation and who knows where they’d go? The prospect of a Noah & The Whale/Coldplay combo struck ice into my heart but because I’d already met the glittered-up incarnation of ‘Viva La Vida’ I had high(ish) hopes for the pop princesses on the list; I took a deep breath and pressed play.

So.

(continues overleaf)

Pages: 1 2

20 Responses to The 10 Best Coldplay Covers?!

  1. Joseph Kyle October 28, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    lift it up somewhere else by throwing a massed, multi-harmonising, fuck-off girls’ choir at it, which is something that I’d recommend for pretty much anything.

    Except for “Lithium.”

  2. Joseph Kyle October 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    As for Pet Shop Boys taking current hits and covering them excellently, let’s not forget about their taking Blur’s “Girls and Boys” and making it sound like Blur were covering them instead!

  3. Princess Stomper October 28, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Luckily the only Coldplay song I’d recognise is The Scientist because I’ve managed to studiously avoid them all these years. Two or three bars of Chris Martin’s simpering whine and my ears go into automatic shutdown mode.

    I’m not much of a fan of any of the linked tunes here (because they are all just sub-X-Factor bollocks), though I do totally get what you mean. I had the same reaction to Gwen Stefani’s ‘Early Winter’, which was written by Tim Rice-Oxley from Keane. Take the fey frump away and suddenly you have something worth hearing. But then again, ‘Early Winter’ is a pretty good song.

  4. Lucy Cage October 28, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    “I’m not much of a fan of any of the linked tunes here (because they are all just sub-X-Factor bollocks)”

    Even Willie Nelson? I mean, if any cover escapes the X Factor curse, surely his would?

    To me, what is usually – but not always – the problem with the way X Factor treats songs is that it glosses them up, blands them down and smooths out the creases in a way that makes an interesting/good song a lesser thing than its original. Occasionally they do the opposite and at other times a really really good singer will makes a mediocre song extraordinary, but usually it’s about rendering fine songs toothless and bloated.

    I don’t actually think that that is the case with these covers, especially the two I’ve picked out as good.

  5. Lucy Cage October 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    @Joseph: “Except for “Lithium.” Ha! Touché!

  6. Lucy Cage October 28, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    “but usually it’s about rendering fine songs toothless and bloated.”
    I’m prepared to be challenged on this, by the way.

  7. Princess Stomper October 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Yeah, even the Willie Nelson one felt cold and bland to me, like there was an emptiness at the core of the song (which there is).

    I’ll agree with you on the X-Factor – Leona Lewis’s Could It Be Magic took a song I previously disliked and made me enjoy the experience.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfPQLB29SAc

    The main thing I’ve learnt this morning is that The Pet Shop Boys should cover ALL of Blur’s repertoire. I want to hear their version of The Universal!

  8. Lucy Cage October 28, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    “Yeah, even the Willie Nelson one felt cold and bland to me, like there was an emptiness at the core of the song (which there is).”

    I think my entire article was disagreeing with this point of view!

    I’d very much question the concept both of “emptiness” and of a song’s “core”: what does this core consist of? How can it be empty? Empty of what?

  9. Princess Stomper October 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Soul.

  10. Everett True October 28, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I agree with Lucy here. A song can be good, a song can be bad … depending on the opinion of the person hearing or playing or whatevering the song. It’s the interpretation, the performance that sets a piece of music apart. (That, and the sound, and the song itself, and also several other billion factors.) I too think it’s possible for me to hear incredible cover versions of songs I previously hated. Does that make the song suddenly ‘good’? Usually, what I dislike about a piece of music is the performance and the sound: the order of a certain sequence of notes barely comes into it.

    I’ll give you two f’rinstances. U2 and NiN – two bands I consider beyond the pale, two bands I would never dream of writing a song that I can relate to on any level.

    U2

    Nine Inch Nails

    It’s not the song. It’s the performance. I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to the covers of Coldplay that Lucy has picked out, aside from the Willie Nelson one (which I found disappointing) but I cannot deny that one day – perhaps via this very blog entry – I might well hear a Coldplay cover I like. Or indeed, absolutely love (as is the cases with the two covers I’ve linked to above). If you’e a fan of Nine Inch Nails or U2 – or indeed Coldplay – you could argue that it’s the song itself is good and I just missed it, not being a fan of those bands. That would be missing the point. All songs are good, depending on who’s hearing them. All of them.

    They’re just waiting for the right performance (from my perspective as a listener).

    There are tons of songs I play from popular song books on the piano, where I can’t abide the recorded performance. Absolutely fucking soulless. Lyrics trite? Doesn’t matter. What matters is how you interpret them.

    And, of course, it can work the other way.

    Case in point.

  11. Everett True October 28, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    P.S. I haven’t got it in my heart to listen to Scala & Kolacny Brothers’ rendition of ‘Yellow’ (a song which I interviewed Coldplay for the front of Melody Maker: not one of my prouder moments … although, give Chris Martin his due, he did turn round to me at the end of the interview and say, “You don’t really like our band, do you Everett?”). I am, however, holding out fair hopes for it.

    I wasn’t familiar with this choir before, but an hour or two spent on YouTube earlier today set that to right. They’re very hit and miss (what’s with the fondness for fucking UB40?), but this cover blew me away.

  12. Princess Stomper October 28, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    I think the answer lies somewhere between the two (though I tend to think that the song is more important than the singer). Yes, it’s possible to “murder” a great song, and yes it’s possible for a great singer to elevate a mediocre song.

    Unfortunately your choice of NIN/Johnny Cash to illustrate this fails because that was a great singer covering a great song. (I even have to concede that Where The Streets Have No Name is also a great song, because slappable as Bono is, he did write some worthwhile music occasionally.)

    All songs are not good. That’s a ridiculous thing to say!

    Taking the Leona Lewis example I gave above, she’s like a meta-diva. Give her a great song to sing – like the old classic Summertime – and she’s transcendent, but like all the other pop divas she’s just given material that makes you want to gnaw your own ears off rather than suffer another four bars of it. Ditto Whitney, Christina, Mariah, etc. etc. They’re people who got famous for singing a great song and then squandered their incredible gifts on shite elevator muzak, and it’s not because they suddenly lost the soul, passion and precision that made them popular. It’s because the songs they are given to sing are absolutely bloody awful.

    And don’t give me that “it’s just a matter of opinion” bollocks. If you didn’t (not so) secretly believe that you were right and everyone else was wrong, you would not be able to do what you do every day.

  13. Joseph Kyle October 29, 2011 at 12:16 am

    You know what I think it is? It’s the whole issue of songwriting credits. An artist has a blockbuster debut album or single. There’s not much credibility until they have the hit. Then, when they do have the hits, they ask for a percentage of songwriting credits. So the A-list songwriters agree, because they know it will be extremely good for business. This trend continues over an album or two. Popularity increases, but so do the artist/management request for a bigger piece of the pie. But why should a respected songwriter give up a larger percentage of their take? So unless they have a friendship with said artist, they’re going to balk at it. When the career starts to plateau is often when they ask for more than their fair share.

    However, the B and C-list songwriters are just looking for their break. So they’ll hand over material that they’ll gladly give up a large percentage of. That’s when you start to see the mediocrity set in.

    Case in point: Elvis Presley’s breakthrough comeback, “Suspicious Minds.” Almost didn’t happen because they wanted a big percentage of the songwriting pie. The owner of the song–Chips Moman, who was producing the record, nearly told them to take a hike, and threatened to not even allow them to release it. All parties knew they had just recorded a hit single. So he didn’t get a chunk of songwriting credit.

  14. Daniel October 29, 2011 at 1:16 am

    @ Everett & Princess: Is a song improved in the hands of a more capable performer because music is a performance art form, or is it because some performers frame cover songs in the context of their own work? Love or hate NIN (I can do both) there is significant shift in how one hears Cash delivering the lines of “Hurt”(which I think is good in its own right). I don’t chalk that to authenticity so much as authority.

    Most pop music trades in sentimentally retarded broad appeal. Lots of singers can use their performance and idiosyncracies to convert the broad strokes to more affecting specifics.

  15. Princess Stomper October 29, 2011 at 1:50 am

    Case in point: Elvis Presley’s breakthrough comeback, “Suspicious Minds.” Almost didn’t happen because they wanted a big percentage of the songwriting pie. The owner of the song–Chips Moman, who was producing the record, nearly told them to take a hike, and threatened to not even allow them to release it. All parties knew they had just recorded a hit single. So he didn’t get a chunk of songwriting credit.

    Interesting trivia – I did not know that! Suspicious Minds is by far my favourite Elvis song.

    Again, though, it proves the point about songwriting trumping performance when changing the songwriter is the difference between a great album and a lousy one, even though the other elements of the band are still intact.

    Is a song improved in the hands of a more capable performer because music is a performance art form, or is it because some performers frame cover songs in the context of their own work?

    I think the latter. Both versions of Hurt are so powerful because each performer makes the song intensely personal. You really believe that both Reznor and Cash feel every line in the song, to the extent where it’s almost painful to listen to. The result is different in each case, but eye-wateringly moving. When cover versions fail is when the artist just sings the song without personalising it and giving it their own context.

  16. Princess Stomper October 29, 2011 at 1:54 am

    BTW – to play devil’s advocate against my own argument here, I was just researching a post for my own blog and checked out all the covers on Youtube of the songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas. If you ever want to see people absolutely slaughter a fine song, look them up. The only one that remotely works is Korn’s version of Kidnap The Sandy Claws – which is all the odder because it’s the film’s weakest song.

  17. Lucy Cage October 29, 2011 at 3:33 am

    @Princess re soul: there is no soul at the core of a song. Songs don’t have souls (any more than people do). And yes, I agree with ET that any song, however crude, CAN be good; a really good singer/musician can make something extraordinary out of the most basic ditty; a really good writer will make you hear wonders.

    “And don’t give me that “it’s just a matter of opinion” bollocks. If you didn’t (not so) secretly believe that you were right and everyone else was wrong, you would not be able to do what you do every day.”

    Ha ha! I like the attitude but I do think you’re wrong. There’s an ocean of difference between on the one hand taking up a stance and defending it with all the bloody-minded arrogance of a pitbull and, on the other, really, truly believing that your interpretation of a situation (or text or song) is the only true creed. Because you’d have to be really, really, Pitchfork-stupid to think that you held the key to what is and isn’t “good” in music. There is no more “good” and “bad” music than there is soul or authenticity in music. There’s the singer and there’s the song. Nothing more. Everything else is all in your head.

  18. Lucy Cage October 29, 2011 at 3:34 am

    PS: The choral ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is fantastic.

  19. Princess Stomper October 29, 2011 at 5:29 am

    This (unattributed) quote is equally applicable to music:

    “The worst part about politics is that you’re always right and no one ever knows it.”

  20. Everett True October 29, 2011 at 6:50 am

    Unfortunately your choice of NIN/Johnny Cash to illustrate this fails because that was a great singer covering a great song.

    No. It wasn’t a great song. Not until Johnny Cash showed how it could be interpreted. “Great” exists in my head, in your head. It’s patently absurd for me to argue that something’s great when I don’t believe it is. Or maybe it was ‘great’ all along, but masked by mediocre performance … damn, this is confusing.

    And yes, the choral ‘Teen Spirit’ is fantastic. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I listened to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *