In the journal Popular Music, Andrew Davis reviews my book A Philosophy of Cover Songs. He says some positive things: The book provides “a perfectly reasonable argument.” It has “quite a few moments of useful insight.”

He also charges me with too narrow a focus. He writes, “The issue with which Magnus is concerned is minor when examined within the context of… other concerns that arguably have more analytical value.” He thinks I’ve failed to engage with work from other disciplines. “Some of the definitive work on cover songs,” he writes, “addresses concerns over (for example) copyright, historiography, race, the archive, changing practices of consumption, cross-cultural influence, postmodernism, commerce, aesthetics, changing technological formats, narrative recontextualisation and the relation between audience use and perceptions of value.”

I’m sensitive to the suggestion that I’ve missed important contributions from other disciplines, but the sources that he cites are ones that I cite and engage with in the book.1 When I was reading some of those papers, though, I found it frustrating that they were just using covers as an entry point to think about other things. OK, maybe my focus is narrow.

Yet he also interprets my focus to be more narrow than it is. The book is in three parts with some (I hope) interesting digressions along the way. He suggests that the whole thing could have just been an article delivering the conclusion of the final chapters, but that would have left out the issues that arise in the earlier parts. He comments on “a number of interludes whose inclusion seems superfluous”, but they were included just because I thought they were additional interesting things.

Although he complains that the book’s approach is “too rigid” and “inadvertently formulates a priori guidelines”, this may be because he sees it all as one unified argument leading to the final chapter. It’s not that kind of book.

  1. George Plasketes’ 2010 anthology and a special issue of Popular Music and Society. I’m not sure I’d call them definitive work, but they are notable.

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