Cover me badly: stop covering “Halo” – it won’t work!

I already mentioned that Florence Welch tried and failed covering Beyoncès “Halo” but at least that seemed to be in fun and not as a single release. However, Jono McLeery thought he could cover this icon of a pop singer to start this year dreery and kinda annoying.

Jono does everything I hate about bad cover songs:

  • He somehow manages to slow down a ballad (that needs no slowing down)
  • He extracts all the amazing pathos and leaves a soft, soggy singer/songwriter tune
  • speaking of tunes: he absolutely slaughters it, he starts out ok but then he veers off, leaves the original melody on the wayside like a sad dog, stop doing that, Jono, write your own songs if you want to make up your own melodies.

Look, I am all for violins and a warm Winter ballad and the orchestration is actually quite beautiful but there’s no need in destroying the melody of a perfect Pop song just so you can be unique and quirky and put your own twist to the song. The best cover songs manage to keep the spirit alive of the original song and to be honest, Jono failed majorly.

He is not the only one, unfortunately. “Halo” is the white whale of many an accomplished artist. Ane Brun – who I love! – did the same with the song. With a beautiful cello, it turns into this timid soft ditty.

Love the cello but NO to the song

Lotte Kessner, meanwhile, somehow creates a funeral march with it.

NO! THIS IS A HAPPY SONG, GODDAMMIT!

People! “Halo” is amazing because it is sung as an ode to someone who is overwhelming, who leaves you breathless, who is like a storm wave, a force of nature, an epiphany. There’s no place for timid breath-singing, this needs to be sung with euphoria, exactly like Beyoncè does.

And before you’re like: well, some of these songs are supposed to be intimate, duh. Here’s Beyoncè singing a live rendition in a hospital for children with just a guitar alongside and she still burns the house down because that’s just how this song is. How can you sing a line like “you hit me like a ray of sun, burning through the darkest night” and think that this should be a sad, depressing song to sing like Denethor is about to send Faramir into death and all is lost?

This love is all encompassing, people, why would you sell it short?

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6 thoughts on “Cover me badly: stop covering “Halo” – it won’t work!

  1. I am honestly confused by many covers. There are good ones, of course, and I think the enterprise can be worthwile.
    But there are some covers that just make me think “You can’t actually think that you added anything to anything with this product. Why didn’t you just fishing instead, or something?”

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    1. I also feel like it’s different when you’re at a radio show and do it for fun/spontaneously or you do a cover as a bonus at a concert. But when you do a cover song for your album or as a single release, it better be amazing. Florence Welch, by the way, did an amazing one with “You’ve got the love”. But her version of “Halo” is really truly painful to listen to because her voice is so strained.

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      1. Indeed.
        I remember a cover of “I was made for loving you” by Maria Mena. Might not be amazing, but it was a recognizably different version that actually added something to the original (I actually always think of it when working on Des Menschen Bester Freund, which I do pretty constantly right now, because it fits the protagonist rather well.). So that’s okay for me. But then, there’s those DJs(?) who get radio playtime by just taking a successful song and adding some kind of danceable beat. And I think that’s not.
        But then, I don’t know the first thing about music.

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      2. Urgh, doing basically nothing to a song but adding a stompy beat is the worst.
        I like Maria Mena’s version. I usually don’t like slow beat versions of uptempo songs but this works because it’s seductive and has this little country twang to it which makes it cheeky. That fits the song. I also like that she enjoys the song. I kinda hate all those slow versions of fun pop songs by guys/gals with guitars who perform their cover songs like they’re full of heartbreak.

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      3. Yes. But then again, Jolene by the BossHoss is also a thing to behold. To me, it manages to at the same time just repeat the original and also completely misrepresent its mood. (Disclosure: I also hate the original for mono normativity and because of my NDR1 trauma.)

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      4. I love Miley Cyrus’ “Jolene”-cover because she really surprised me with how well it works with her voice but also with her interpretation which is not really anything new but still quite lovely.
        I respect the BossHoss for their economic skills but their Rockabilly covers do nothing for me. There needs to be respect for the original but also an understanding for the intention of the song (as you rightly wrote) and those cash-grab-cover-songs usually miss the mark on either or both marks (both marks were majorly missed with “These Boots” by Jessica Simpson, to this day one of the worst cover songs I’ve ever heard and it still makes me so mad).

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