Mar. 25th, 2011

Part of the Song a Day Project! Also part of Transformative Songs Week in honour of the OTW March Drive.

While works in the public domain are most commonly and easily adapted, the art of the cover is alive and well. Many covers consciously try to stay within the genre, style, and overall feel of the source work while just giving it the unique touch of the cover artist, a time-honoured and valuable practice. But there are also many covers that take a source work and do something pretty... different with it.

One such is the Da Vinci's Notebook cover of Stuck In The Middle With You, which takes the original by Stealers Wheel (itself a parody of Bob Dylan's work) and redoes it entirely in DVN's distinctive comedic, upbeat a capella style.

But there's a specific subclass of this style of cover that I'd like to highlight: taking songs originally performed by or in a style associated with US Black musical artists and styles, and consciously subverting the source work by putting them in what's perceived as a culturally diametrically opposed style (usually something with White associations). There's a lot going on in this practice — it's appropriative (aggressively so!) and problematic — but in many cases it's also a very conscious commentary on race, class, misogyny, and other concepts.

One such is Jonathan Coulton's cover of Baby Got Back (there's a studio version but I like the live one better, where you can see Coulton's reactions and opinions, as well as the audience participation), original by Sir Mix-a-Lot (itself cultural commentary! "she's just so.... black!"). But the one I really want to feature today is the Dynamite Hack cover of Boyz In The Hood, the source originally by Eazy-E and styled Boyz-N-The-Hood. This is definitely best listened to while also watching the vid, so do that if you can to get the maximum on the conscious commentary angle. I do want to warn for some language and violent imagery in the lyrics (totally played with in the corresponding parts of the video).

Youtube Link: Dynamite Hack - Boyz In The Hood.

Lyrics after the cut )

This is problematic — but it's undeniably transformative and a very interesting snapshot of some complicated interactions in our culture. And this is another reason I support the OTW.



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