#2. "Cat's in the Cradle": Ugly Kid Joe's Cover of Harry Chapin's Song
If you'd sat me down in a room last year and told me that I was going to write about Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" two times in 2012, I would have said ... well, wait a second. Are you hot? If you're hot, I probably would have said, "Hey, baby, we're in a room and I'm already sitting, if you know what I mean." Then I would have offered up my lap like a big papa bear waiting for you to sashay your way over in nothing but clear heels and a bikini with a Betty Page leopard print. But that's really not the point, and I wish you wouldn't distract me with your wanton sexuality while I'm trying to deliver journalistic excellence in list form so you can amaze and delight your friends with bite-sized insights and factoids that you won't bother to credit me with, or, worse yet, will mistakenly attribute to Ian Fortey.
In any event, in 1974, Harry Chapin wrote the ultimate song about absentee dads. Morons think it's a Cat Stevens song because the word "cat" is in it and because Cat Stevens had a song called "Father and Son." It's not. Similarly, Madonna didn't write "Lady Madonna" by the Beatles and Suzanne Vega didn't write Pat Benatar's "Hell Is for Children," even though she also has a song about child abuse, called "Luka." Anyway, here it is:
In 1992, California's Ugly Kid Joe was knee-deep in not being very talented and not having hit records. The solution to the problem was obvious: do a cover. But what if some of their signature, completely not interesting sound were to infect the Chapin classic, making it less appealing to people who had ears? Problem solved. Don't change a thing.
#1. "Try": Pink's Cover of GoNorthToGoSouth's Song
For the number one spot, I'm switching the order, presenting the cover first. Are you one of the close to 9 million people who have listened to Pink's new hit on YouTube? I have to admit, it's pretty damn catchy, and the video is pretty great. Somehow, Pink has managed to stay relevant and popular for over a decade even though she has a merely adequate voice, has a very limited writing ability and is not the sexiest thing ever to set foot onstage. I've become kind of fascinated with her lately. Somehow, in this age of diminished expectations, just not sucking has become a virtue. She hasn't thrown her career away with tantrums or drug abuse, and she hasn't repeated herself over and over until she's worn out her welcome.
Her fans will say that her staying power is due to the fact that "she doesn't give a shit," and I'm sure that's part of the appeal, but how many badass rocker girls have affected that persona and quickly gone away, or worse yet, married the lead singer of Nickelback? I'm guessing Pink's secret is her sensibility. Years ago, she had the good sense to hook up with Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes fame, who wrote a bunch of her songs. And in the case of her latest hit, she picked some strong material:
Now, I wasn't under the illusion that Pink wrote "Try," but I was a little surprised to find out that it was a cover. "Try" was released on an EP by the band GoNorthToGoSouth and was written by Michael "busbee" Busbee. What did surprise me, however, was that the production of the original sounds almost identical, even down to the ethereal piano opening.
Unlike the other songs on this list, however, this cover doesn't piss me off. Although busbee has released material on his own and with his band, he's more of a behind-the-scenes guy, working with people ranging from Justin Timberlake to Liz Phair. So when he releases music, it seems mostly designed for the purposes of being heard by industry people. More-established acts covering his material is the best thing that can happen to him financially. And as opposed to the other songs, where a new hit came from banking on a once popular song that people had forgotten, here, Pink had the good sense to recognize the commercial potential of a largely unknown song. And busbee got to see his music presented to a large audience with almost no change in arrangement. Indeed, Pink was so faithful that, just like busbee, she also can't vocally nail the high end that the song is dying for in the final chorus.
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