It’s Friday, and that means BitchTapes! Today I thought it would be nice to visit the fabulous land of cover songs. Because this is BitchTapes, I thought it would be even nicer to hear some covers that incorporate a healthy dose of gender bending (they’re good songs, too).
I have always enjoyed a good cover song, and to me that means that the artist doing the covering interprets the song in her/his own way, keeping the lyrics the same but altering the song’s meaning through the performance. This happens especially when the coverer and the coveree are of different genders, and I think it makes for some pretty interesting listening.
Here’s the track list, and a little bit of background info as well. Enjoy!
1. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) - The Fiery Furnaces
Though this track was first recorded by some British band called “The Beatles” (perhaps you’ve heard of them?), I looove this version by The Fiery Furnaces. Bonus points to the fabulous Eleanor Friedberger for not switching up the gender pronouns (and for increasing the song’s overall weirdness).
2. Jolene - The White Stripes
This song was originally written and performed by Bitch fave Dolly Parton, so while I can’t in good conscience say that this cover is better than the original, I will say that Jack White’s vocals on this track get me every time; I think his intensity really helps to capture the desperation of the lyrics. Another round of bonus points awarded to the Whites for pronoun authenticity.
3. Tobacco Road - Roberta Wolfson
I have an ongoing feud with my brother as to which cover version of “Tobacco Road” is the best. His pick is by Lou Rawls, but I always side with this cover by Roberta Wolfson (in no small part because of the gender switch-up; all of the other “Tobacco Road” covers I’ve heard are by dudes). Although this song was written by John D. Loudermilk, it has been covered dozens of times by a variety of musicians. I like this version because it’s sassy, but it doesn’t sugarcoat the song’s dark subject matter. Plus, I love singing along with it.
4. Will You Love Me Tomorrow - The Zombies
BitchTape fans might recall that I included a Zombies’ cover in my last mix, but hey, they’re an amazing band with some equally amazing covers. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” was originally recorded by The Shirelles, and is said to be the Billboard 100 single that launched a thousand girl groups. I love the earnestness of the original, and I think The Zombies do a good job of preserving that feeling while adding a healthy dose of psychedelia.
5. Come Back When You Grow Up - Nancy Sit
Another example of how switching up the gender of the vocalist can really change the message of a song, “Come Back When You Grow Up” was first recorded by Bobby Vee. His version sounds smarmy and patronizing (to me), but when Nancy Sit sings the same words she just sounds like she’s being practical. True Bitch website fans may have seen me promote this song’s album (Girls in the Garage Vol. 9: Oriental Special) before. No bonus points awarded to Ms. Sit for pronoun preservation, but I love this song all the same.
6. Crazy In Love - Antony & The Johnsons
Antony & The Johnsons are no strangers to gender bending, as identity issues play a role in much of their music. This track, which comes from a recent NPR All Songs Considered: Live in Concert podcast, puts a great spin on the Beyonce Knowles original. Although B’s version is awesome in its own right, Antony’s performance here brings out the intensity of the song’s lyrics, which are actually pretty nutso (in a good way, of course). Bonus points are in order here for pronoun authenticity, naturally. (Special thanks to a certain audiophile for editing this track for me.)
7. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction - <a href=http://www.catpowermusic.com/”>Cat Power
The ultimate cock rock song gets a gender makeover here with this cover by Cat Power. Again, I think this is a great example of the meaning of a song changing based on the vocals, because this version gives me a completely different impression than the Rolling Stones’ original. This is only one of Cat Power’s many great gender-bent covers.
8. I Love How You Love Me - Jeff Mangum
I am completely charmed by this cover version of a song first recorded by The Paris Sisters. By paring down the instrumentation (and playing in a coffee shop, since this track is from the Live at Jittery Joe’s album), Jeff Mangum (one of my all-time favorite vocalists) turns a once cheesy-sounding track into an intimate love song. Just a head’s up: The last half of the track is crowd banter. That’s what you get with a live recording, I guess.
So there you have it, my take on gender-bent covers. What’s your take? Do you like cover songs? What do you think could have been added or subtracted to this selection?