I take some flak from my friends sometimes because of my distaste for pop music (and indeed pretty much anything that's currently "trendy", but that's another matter). I was being forced to learn the Rihanna song "Umbrella" (ella, ella, eh eh eh, etc.) for a skit earlier, and I was mentioning my distaste for Rihanna. The comment was made that Rihanna was one of the ones who can actually sing and I should respect Rihanna (note the implied admission that there are indeed pop "singers" who cannot sing). I replied that I might respect her if she put some clothes on.
I have in the past mentioned my distaste for things like "Ke$ha" (or Ke-dollar-sign-ha, as I prefer to call her), which like to portray themselves as pop "singers" when in fact they cannot actually sing without the aid of auto-tune. Their primary function is to look hot and be minimally dressed while bouncing about to whichever catchy song someone has written for them to "sing" on that particular day (or, in the event of a live show, lip-synch to).
I remember I was watching an interview with Shaun Morgan once in which he stated that they didn't put a lot of pictures of the band in their album covers/booklets because they didn't want the focus to be on what they look like... they wanted the focus to be on the music. He pointed out that in the case of bands like Tool, almost nobody knows what those guys actually look like. Their faces aren't recognizable, their sound is. The guys from Slipknot all wear masks 100% of the time when they're performing as Slipknot... the only way to know what they look like is to find pictures of them from their personal lives (or collaborations with other artists in the case of Corey Taylor). The focus isn't on whether or not the guys from Slipknot are good-looking... it's on their music.
I was pointing out to the Chamaco in the car earlier that most of the bands I like, such as Seether, Nirvana, Three Days Grace, Shinedown, Lacuna Coil, etc., write their own songs. On the other hand you have artists like Britney Spears, who are mediocre singers but are good-looking, so specially trained monkeys in Sweden write their songs for them and they are paid to sing them (with auto-tune if necessary), then dance around wearing as little as possible and earn money. He agreed this was pretty dumb.
Then as I was wandering about in the inky depths of YouTube this evening after forcing myself to listen to "Umbrella" a few more times, I stumbled upon the original version of a song I only knew the cover version of. The song is called "Losing My Religion", and the original is by REM. I'm new at posting videos in this manner, so hopefully it works, but you should be able to see the original here:
Now I'm not saying that REM sucks... I like some of their stuff. But Lacuna Coil, which happens to be a band that can do almost no wrong in my eyes, comes along and covers "Losing My Religion" and it comes out like this (please note that this is a fan-created video, not official... but the audio is good):
And that thought reminded me that just about everything is better with Lacuna Coil. Even a perfectly respectable band/song like Megadeth's "A Tout Le Monde"....:
... gets a million times better when you add Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil!:
This thought led me to ponder how many other songs get better when covered by a proper rock band. Take, for example, "London Bridge" by Fergie. I recommend not listening to the whole thing... just enough to get the idea:
Now see what happens to it when Bowling for Soup covers it!:
This is not the only song that Bowling for Soup has improved immensely. They also took on one of Britney Spears' earlier travesties, "Baby, One More Time."
Now look what BFS did with it!!! This one is even cooler because I can actually play it on guitar... :)
Even I will admit that Lady Gaga can craft a catchy pop tune, such as the following "Bad Romance":
However, it takes Lzzy Hale and the guys from Halestorm to make the song truly great. Also Lady Caca only wishes she could sing like Lzzy Hale...
And it doesn't stop here... I'm not even done! Of course Seether has been on this bandwagon as well. Take the original 80s George Michael "classic", "Careless Whisper":
Seether had their wicked way with this one, resulting in the following:
And they even did the video with old video games! How awesome is that?!?! Seether has also worked their magic with Frank Sinatra... "I've Got You Under My Skin". Behold, the original:
And now Seether's take on it!:
Seether has also covered "Across the Universe" by the Beatles, but I'll let you dig that one up on your own. And I'll say again... Shaun Morgan can come sing me to sleep any time he wants... ;-)
There's a lot of fantastic improvement of pop songs going on out there, and today I'm especially proud to be a part of the not-so-mainstream rock brother/sisterhood that is improving most of what the music industry machine is currently mass-producing.