One of the recurring themes in Daniel J. Levitin’s book, This Is Your Brain on Music, is the the centrality of expectations, both fulfilled and violated, in our experience of music. We have expectations at the level of individual phrases (whether chords are resolved or not, say), at the level of the song structure, the genre, and the overall sound (why Western music sounds different from say, traditional Chinese music). This probably goes a long way towards explaining why most of us need to hear a song a few times for it to ‘register.’ But it occurred to me, reading this book, that there is another important area of violated or fulfilled expectations, and that’s the existence of cover versions of songs. Cover songs – good ones, anyway – combine pleasing familiarity and pleasing novelty in a neat little package.
At a more intellectual level, Rosie Swash, of the Guardian Unlimited’s Music Weekly podcast, talked about the three factors that make for a good cover version: the element of surprise; history or meaning; and the cover artist making the song their own.
So welcome to Coverage, an intermittent feature on this blog, in which I post some of my favourite covers. Enjoy!