Hands down, performing a cover of any song by any artist is the hardest thing to do. There are a few musicians that do it phenomenally, but most of the time it’s a flop. Last Thursday, I stopped in at Iron Hill Brewery to find a group called Element K performing. It was two young men and a young woman playing their guitars and singing, you guessed it, covers.
What makes a great cover is the ability to take a popular song and turn it into something completely different. The successful artist has the ability to make it his or her own and sometimes even make it better than the original. Element K did not have this ability.
The first song I heard was Dashboard Confessional’s “Vindicated.” Right away I could tell that the girl, who sang lead, has a very nice singing voice. It was soft and sweet, but soft to a fault. I could barely understand what she was singing. It wasn’t until the chorus that I realized what the song even was. The whole time she sang she sounded strained as though trying to hit the notes the same way Chris Carrabba [of Dashboard Confessional] does is a fight all its own.
The next song was “Wonderwall” by Oasis, with one of the Element K guys on lead. I’m going to stop right there. In a crowd of a hundred people, ninety of them have this song on their iPods. This song is one of the greatest and to do a cover of it is extremely risky. I commend the band for have the courage to do this song, but I am not the least bit surprised that it was a flop. The singer seemed off and you could hear the challenge in his voice as he sang. The whole song was an uphill climb for him and I could help but think of this man as a modern-day Sisyphus.
These two took turns butchering cover after cover. Once they finished a song or two, they would ask the crowd for a request. Crickets. When I looked around the room to see why no one was making a request, I saw that I was only one paying attention to the musical massacre. Everyone seemed to be making an attempt to ignore the performers. After the fifth or sixth song, I secretly wished that they would simply call it a night.
That said, I could never do what they do and I have to hand it to them. Maybe if they start writing their own songs or at least finding their own sound, they’ll grow. Until then, cover your ears.