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Back in May, the rock band Weezer released a cover of the song "Africa," which was a hit back in 1983 for the yacht rock band Toto. Weezer's rendition of "Africa," which has a very unique origin story, has been all over pop radio stations this summer. But, in our opinion, it's not a very good cover.
So, we wanted to break down how Weezer went so wrong with this song, while also looking at what makes a great cover song. Plus, it's an excuse to listen to some of our favorite covers of all time.
Ray Padgett, author of the book Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time and the creator of the website Cover Me. He tweets @rayfp.
Weezer's cover of "Africa" by Toto
Padgett: "They're so good. I love Weezer. But, I can't believe this happened. I've really been upset about this cover for a while. It's really bad... I think they took probably 15 minutes to do this. It's so bad, becuase it's trying to be exactly the same except with this horrific electric guitar."
Padgett: "Even if you hate the cover, I kind of like the story behind it. A 14-year-old girl in Cleveland one day had some random idea that she likes Weezer, she likes "Africa." She starts a twitter account called literally "weezer cover africa by toto" and like daily is tweeting at the band members, their web developer, their manager — for months. Finally, they cover the Toto song "Roseanna." But, then two days later, they finally succumb and actually cover the Toto song she wanted them to cover — "Africa."
The Fugee's cover of "Killing Me Softly With His Song" by Roberta Flack
Ferrick: "The Fugees nailed this. This was originally made famous by Roberta Flack in 1973. But, it was originally written by this guy named Charles Fox and Norman Gimble who released it under this artist Lori Lieberman in 1971. This is an example of a song that first comes out and does nothing. And then comes out pretty soon after and Robert Flack nails it. And Lauren Hill's vocal on this track is just unbelievable."
Padgett: "[The Fugees] loved the Roberta Flack version.... But, they are a rap group and they're thinking 'How do we sing a Roberta Flack song on a hip-hop album?' What they came up with is that Lauren Hill will sing her beautiful interpretation of the vocal but they will play it over a beat from an old A Tribe Called Quest song."
Devo's cover of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones
Padgett: "They threw out pretty much everything you would recognize from the original song other than the lyrics. The Keith Richard's famous riff: gone. The rhythm: changed. The sort of sexiness and swagger and everything Mick Jagger brings: gone.
"They had a weird sound that only a few art school kids liked. No one else could figure out what Devo was all about. So they said 'Why don't we take a song everyone knows and Devo-fy it?' And it worked. They said that they never would have had a career without this "Satisfaction" cover."
Ferrick: "I think it's awesome. I love when someone destroys something but brings new light to it. Especially when they like the song already."
Taylor Swift's cover of "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire:
Ferrick: "I'm so glad I've never heard that before... You just can't do something that bad to a song that great. I get stuck on the emotional connection between the performance of it and the lyric content. I don't feel anything when Taylor Swift sings this. That's besides the banjo situation."
Padgett: "I am not inherently opposed to a banjo led cover of "September." I think that could be kind of interesting. The way [Swift] delivers it, the production, the overly earnest vocals, I think it's pretty un-listenable. But, I'm not opposed to the idea of a country, western, bluegrass cover of "September" if someone else wants to try it."
This segment aired on August 9, 2018.
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