April 4, 2007

Don'tcha think?

While I'm thrilled Alanis Morissette has finally learned the meaning of ironic, that My Humps cover still can't hold a candle to Nina Gordon's Straight Outta Compton. Too bad she never made a video for it, but settle for this.

Related. An even worse fan video for The Gourd's country version of Gin and Juice. Not in the same category, since I don't really think it's meant ironically. It's pretty great, though.

Update. One thing worth noting about the Gordon and Gourd covers, and the Ben Folds one mentioned in the comments, is that they're songs you might actually listen to and enjoy entirely on their own terms. The same goes for Richard Thompson's Oops I Did It Again, Fountains of Wayne or Travis doing Baby One More Time, the entire ouvre of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and [add your favorites here]. That's because the original songs are all genuinely good. By switching up genre, the cover artists reveal the quality songwriting that often gets hidden behind the production trappings, for better or worse (depending on whether you're a fan of the original genre).

On the other hand, no one will ever listen to Alanis doing My Humps more than once or twice. Because once you get past the humor of Alanis goofing on Fergie, what you're stuck with is a lousy song.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Ben Folds' Bitches Ain't Shit fits this category, too.

And there is something undeniable about that Gourds track.

YouTube, oy, if you f*** with me...

I don't really see what's less ironic about hipster cowboys covering rap than a hipster waifstress covering rap. Sure, I prefer the Gordon, but it's a long time favorite and everything else of it's ilk will pale in comparison. But that doesn't mean less ironic.

I don't think he's recorded it, but I've seen Robbie Fulks do an acoustic cover of Dancing Queen where it becomes this plaintive lament of unrequited love. Completely unironic and at the same time not at all what was intended by the original. It just completely transforms the song.

TG -- you're probably right. Both songs are ironic, but, unlike Alanis, not sarcastic. I guess I detected some intentional humor in Gordon and more genuine enthusiasm in the Gourds, but I could be wrong.

I decided I needed to heard that Robbie Fulks cover (having been impressed with his live show when I saw him open for Amy Rigby), so I tracked down an MP3 from a radio session. You're right, it's excellent.

"Needed to hear", obviously. Gah.

Yeah, the main rift is with Atlantis. Gordon and the Gourds seem to be expressing solidarity with the original writer (Folds I'm not sure about, I sensed a lot of hostility there) whereas she's just being mean, just pointing out the vacuity of the lyrics (why does she think she has the cred to be mean to anyone?), something which the authors would most likely be willing to admit to from point zero.

On the other hand Max Raabe's 'Oops' is kind of mean, too, but does leave you with something listenable.

In Alanis's defense, she's also making fun of herself -- the whole overly dramatic emoting thing.

Is there some reason not to be mean about the awfulness of "My Humps"?

Francis: Yes, it's beneath contempt, defenseless.

I also get the feeling that in some quarters the inexplicable opinion that "My Humps" isn't SUPPOSED to be hilarious in the first place gives this version some humor. Like, it was already a goof. (Someone made the case that Alanis is making fun of herself, but...I dunno, that's just so 1996, right? What has she done lately to deserve self-parody rights?)

Haha, by "someone," I actually mean Radosh himself. Way to skim the comment thread. I've been talking about this elsewheres.

Of course Alanis is mainly making fun of the song, but I think she's also mocking herself (though perhaps the fact that she doesn't realize that no one has thought about her for 10 years causes the joke to backfire; instead of showing that she doesn't take herself seriously, it shows an inflated sense of self-importance).

More important: I have no idea what your first sentence means, Dave. Are you saying the original version is a joke, therefore the Alanis version is funny too? Does that make sense?

Oh, and my composer friend did a fifteen-page analysis of Skye Sweetnam's cover of "Wild World," which is a really amazing cover. Great insight on the little ways an artist can bring out the latent potential/subconscious response to original works. Little tough to parse in parts, tho.

And what the hell, this is very funny. Cover of "Fuck Tha Police" of sorts.

Poorly worded...what I mean is that some people don't seem to think "My Humps" is supposed to be a novelty track in the first place, therefore Alanis is somehow "making fun" of BEP. But if BEP were goofing around in the first place, this doesn't make a whole lotta sense (so the ONLY way it can really be funny, to me, is by goofing more on Alanis than on BEP).

(I mean, I've heard "My Humps" maligned for having bad lyrics. This is like complaining that "Fish Heads" doesn't make any sense.)

Your case would be stronger if My Humps hadn't won a Grammy for best song and an MTV award for best video. (Ah that Fish Heads had so much respect!) Fergie fans don't think the song is an intentionally bad novelty, they think it's hott.

I'm not sure what Fergie thinks. I probably don't want to know.

Well (1) Fergie's album's pretty close to my top ten for 2006 (which makes me a Fergie fan), (2) I think it's an intentionally good novelty with intentionally bad (but hilarious) lyrics (will.i.am sez they wrote the song in ten minutes, kinda free-association style, or so I've heard), (3) I think Fergie's a lot more self-aware than most people give her credit for, seeing as how she out-Gwenned Gwen and out-Pinked Pink (sort of) last year, (4) who sez novelties don't win Grammys or (especially!) MTV Awards?

Francis, thanks for posting that Fulks mp3. First of all, I've never heard Terry Gross give someone such an obvious setup question. Does she really ask every singer songwriter who comes on her show to "redeem" somebody else's song? I'm a pretty loyal listener and I think that's the first time I've heard her say that.

And despite Fulks's accurate dismissal of the lyrics as "wretched words written by people who don't speak English" he takes that one line "when you tease him you turn him on," which I think was originally supposed to be a celebration of a young girl's sexuality or something, and he turns it totally inward. When he sings "feel the beat of the tambourine" at the end you actually kind of feel like some girl at his high school dance is taking a tambourine and beating him on the head with it.

taking you up on the offer to add my favorites here:

local h - "toxic"
dynamite hack - "boyz-in-the-hood"

"toxic" remains western culture's highest achievement.

This white, plaintive, acoustic version of gangsta is a very tired genre, but surely the very best thing in it (if not the oldest) is Dynamite Hack's version of Boys in the Hood, which unlike this Gin and Juice and Straight Outta Compton, is actually better than the original for my money.

Now if I could just find an mp3 of Robbie Fulks's cover of Liz Phair's "Help Me Mary".

While I agree that white acoustic rap is a bit played, I like it anyway. I particularly like Coulton's Baby Got Back, synched up with the original video.

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