PRINCE | Sorry Prince, But We Love Covers …

During an interview on the late night talk show, Lopez Tonight, legendary musician Prince said he thought it should be illegal for other artists to cover his songs. Who am I to argue with the Purple Yoda, right? Prince has been known for his hardline stance against YouTube hosting his videos, and copyright infringement in general. While I agree with him about copyright, to suggest that no one can cover your song is silliness. Might as well stop people from singing along to the music too. Aren’t they in essence “covering” the track? Prince has been known to cover a few songs himself, including Radiohead’s “Creep” at Coachella in 2008. He also pleasantly surprised the Foo Fighters by playing their song “Best of You” at halftime of Super Bowl XLI in 2007. (Which may have been a big middle finger to the band for covering his song “Darling Nikki”.) I respect Prince’s enormous talent, his sincere love of music and his gift for showmanship — I just don’t see what’s wrong with someone else singing about Nikki masturbating with a magazine. Let’s be happy that we live in a world of never ending happiness, where you can always hear a Prince cover, day or night. Below are 10 memorable Prince covers, limited to what I can find on YouTube. I must admit, the more I searched the more convinced I became that people just can’t sing Prince songs. Most are downright awful. (Damn, maybe that’s the real reason Prince hates covers. People brutalize his songs.) The difference between Prince and other singers is so vast that covers often are forced to take the shape of parody. Some tracks, like “The Beautiful Ones”, are sung in high falsetto, and it takes a good female singer to get it right. — Words and graphic by David D. Robbins Jr.

10. Dump “Pop Life”: The song is a downtempo, Casio-led version from an artist going by the moniker, Dump, off his record “The Skinny Motherfucker With the High Voice”. The simplicity of this version, with its off-key vocals, accentuates the fragile aspects of the song: “Pop life, we all got a space to fill / Pop life, everybody can’t be on top.”

9. Cush “I Would Die 4 U”: This is a unique folk-music take on Prince’s cut from off the “Purple Rain” record. It’s mostly acoustic guitar and organ/keyboard. There’s even an odd typewriter sound used as percussion: “Not a woman / Not a man / I am something you will never understand.”

8. Yo La Tengo “The Beautiful Ones”: This is a version played by Yo La Tengo at some live shows. This is also the kind of thing that probably pisses off Prince. It’s really a pretty sounding version of the track, but it’s treated as parody by the audience: “The beautiful ones / They hurt u every time.”

7. Alicia Keys “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore”: This song is a perfect vehicle for Keys’ gifts, her strong singing style mixes with a sweet percussive groove, harmonizing, and church organ: “What I wanna know baby … If what we had was good, how come you don’t call me anymore?”

6. Alain Johannes “It”: Here’s a slow grinding rock version of “It” by what I think is Alain Johannes and Mark Lanegan as part of the Desert Sessions musical collective. This version is downright lovely and nasty — as the best Prince cuts are: “I want to do it every day, alright / In a bed, on the stairs, anywhere, alright.”

5. Meshell Ndegeocello “Something In the Water (Does Not Compute)”: Ndegeocello loves herself some Prince. She’s played “Lady Cab Driver”, “Controversy”, “Pop Life”, “Purple Rain”, and many more. But somehow, I think this is one Prince cut she does oh so well: “What’s the hangup? / What’s the scam? / Guess u think I’m just another 1 of your fans / It don’t compute (Don’t not compute.)”

4. The Twilight Singers “When Doves Cry”: This is a Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs) side-project that turned into a full-time gig. This version was released in 2009 as part of a Spin Magazine download CD: “Dig if you will the picture, of you and I engaged in a kiss / The sweat of your body covers me / Can you my darlin’, can you picture this?”

3. TLC “If I Was Your Girlfriend”: Prince does sexy like Nat King Cole did cool. And TLC could do sexy. They nailed this one. Nothing beats a song about a best friend trying to turn a friendship into something more: “If I was your girlfriend, would you let me dress you? / I mean help you pick out your clothes before we go out?”

2. Sinead O’Connor “Nothing Compares 2 U”: It’s a good indication you’ve done well with a cover when fans associate the song as yours. Sinead takes this unconventional soul ballad, written for Prince and The Family, and fuels it with raw emotion: “It’s been so lonely without you here / Like a bird without a song / Nothin’ can stop these lonely tears from falling / Tell me baby, where did I go wrong?”

1. Arto Lindsay “Erotic City”: Lindsay is an experimental U.S. guitarist, but he’s known for making the most sensual of Latin sounding songs. Just listen to what he does with Prince’s creamy classic. Why don’t people know more about this version?: “We can fuck until the dawn / Making love till cherry’s gone / Erotic City can’t you see? / Thoughts of pretty you and me.”

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