Cover shift

On his blog, Brad Skow discusses Theodore Gracyk’s account of cover songs. He gives a fair summary of Gracyk’s view, according to which a version is only a cover if reference to the canonical version is part of its artistic content. So (on this view) you can only appreciate a cover by taking into account the canonical version. In contrast with common usage, Gracyk holds that any version which lacks this referential structure is a remake instead of a cover.1

With all that in place, Skow notes that Taylor Swift’s remakes of her own work seem designed to efface the originals rather than refer to them. So he suggests we might call them anti-covers.2

The problem is that one familiar function of so-called covers has been to crowd another recorded version out of the market. This is often given as an explanation for why the word cover was used in the first place: They were meant to cover over or cover up the originals.3

So Gracyk’s restrictive, stipulative definition tempts Skow to think of a traditional feature of covers as somehow being the utter opposite of a cover.4

  1. For a longer discussion of defining “cover”, see Ch 1 of my book.
  2. This is unconnected with Doyle Green’s use of the term anti-cover to describe a cover that is referential in the sense that interests Gracyk but which is in opposition to or against the original. For example, Sid Vicious’ “My Way.”
  3. I’m not sure this explanation is correct. The word cover also suggests coverage, from a time when artists or labels would record their own versions of all the popular songs.
  4. If this point interests you, see our forthcoming paper on Taylor’s Versions.

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