There we were, minding our own business, when it was brought to our attention that Justin Bieber had freestyled over Biggie Smalls' seminal Who Shot Ya on a radio show. Naturally, we were horrified, as you will be when you hear it below. If you've recovered, go and have a butchers at five other hideous covers...
Rock isn't all about releasing dazzling albums of pristine brilliance just like the Rolling Stones did – it's also about whelping out lazy, ill-thought out, clunking records, just like the Rolling Stones did. Crafting a heinous cover version requires as delicate a touch as when writing a great song. Just as conscious thought was conspicuous by its absence when Keef created the Stones' greatest moment - he dreamt the riff to Jumping Jack Flash - so clear and intelligent thought was taking a cigarette break when Duran Duran decided that the best way to plough a new career furrow was to cover Public Enemy's 911 is a Joke.
After hearing the horrifying results, it's clear that the group's collective common sense didn't just nip out to the corner shop for 20 Bensons - they swam to Virginia to pick the tobacco by hand, and took a mini-break in Cuba for rolling lessons on the way back.
But there's often a lop-sided beauty to be found in the activities of the truly stupid, and awful cover songs almost always fulfil this criteria: versions of songs that are so dreadful that repeat listens are - horrifyingly – almost obligatory. And the aforementioned Duran Duran seems like a good place to start...
Duran Duran cover Public Enemy's 911 Is A Joke
The immediate question, as with all ill-thought-out cover versions, is '....but... why?...". You must learn to immediately reject such notions. The key to truly appreciating excruciatingly bad cover songs is to disregard rational thought.
Rational thought, after all, would never have led to a soppy 1980's quasi-boyband to cover the angriest song ever written by the angriest hip hop group there has ever been.
The secret is to revel in the detail:
- Luxuriate! in the blunderingly stupid faux-bad-attitude styling of Simon Le Bon, as he hops around, busting middle-class stupid-fresh stylings and attempting to look menacing in skin-tight pink spandex trousers.
- Shudder! at the dawning realisation that Simon Le Bon looks like a drunken escaped mental patient enjoying a night of freedom in a Karaoke bar.
- Prepare To Sue! for the emotional pain caused by the 'impromptu' segue into a verse of Theme from Shaft. (This actually happens.)
Limp Bizkit cover George Michael's Faith
In some respects, this cover is a resounding success: Teenyboppers can sing along to lyrics they know, and still feel edgy; TV network execs can rest assured that they’re being ironic and cool; and tedious jocks can do that snappy-finger-above-the-head thing and remark, “Dude, he just totally burned that fag Boy George Michael’s ass!” before chugging another Heineken and smashing the empty cans against their foreheads.
For the rest of us, normal, human beings, the misery associated with the original version of the song is forever compounded by Fred Durst and Co.’s plunge into the stinking depths of the corporate-friendly-cover-version sewer. Like, gnarly.
Sting covers Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing
This previously beautifully brief song is subjected to the same over-rich over-stuffing as the Gluttony victim in Se7en. Jimi's Little Wing was 2 minutes 45 seconds long. Sting’s is nearly 9 minutes in length.
How – where – did he find the extra 6 minutes? What did he think he could add that Jimi Hendrix didn’t?
Sting, however, is a Man With A Mission – whether it's saving the rainforest, or whelping woeful, bloated covers of rock classics. In his version, he sings the whole song twice. Only the most rampant of idiot egos could deem a whole song to only be truly useful as a verse. Abominable.
Big And Rich cover The Beastie Boys' Fight For Your Right To Party
This cover is so wrong, it’s almost right. The thought of a slick, ultra-tight bunch of Country and Western session-musos heading into a $1000-dollar-a-day studio and re-recorded a dumb teen ode to smoking, playing truant and wanking is wonderful.
Except, of course, that would be too good to be true, wouldn’t it? So, middle America’s posterboys deemed the words ‘porno mag’ too offensive for the delicate redneck constitution, and replaced it with the words “country mag”.
“Hell – while we’re at it,” they thought, “why not stick some fiddles, some honky-tonk piano and some vague swelling choral harmonies in there too?” So they did.
Paul Young covers Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart
There is a certain amount of real bravery in covering a song so revered and treasured as Love Will Tear Us Apart. There is also rank stupidity, utter tunelessness and a suicidal urge for exposure to ridicule in it too. But there’s room for both, right?
From the first woeful strains of the exact same synthesiser sound that filled the gaps between montages in the Rocky movies, to the utterly facile hand movements of the backing-singers-from-hell, Paul Young manages to create – nay, craft – a song with all the dynamism, appeal and punch as warm, damp lettuce.
Brave to the last, Paul heaps absurdity upon absurdity, and wholly destroys the song that soundtracked a thousand suicides. Don't complain though – simply appreciate that it was even possible to turn the world’s most crushing, most remorselessly glum ode to lost love into an upbeat pop number.
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