Watching Katy Perry's cover of Lady Gaga's “Born this Way” reminded us: In college, roughly 68% of undergraduates (a figure we made up for purposes of sounding researched) take up the acoustic guitar. Think of it as a rite of passage marred by awful covers of Neil Young and the inevitable Blackbird tab.
The world of rock today is no different from those lazy nights on a beer-drenched sofa. Artists still preen and peacock their talents through the acoustic guitar, as if it alone signifies musicianship. Flash-produced, fast tunes don't stand a chance to a beige Gibson and a Dylan cover stored safely in the back pocket.
While performance has allowed unplugged the opportunity of incorporating piano and percussion-lite, we still manage a groan when artists demand that we somehow take these songs seriously. We groan even more when we find ourselves falling down the rabbit hole.
So, here are they are, the Top 10 Gratuitous Acoustic Pop Covers:
10. Avril Lavigne– “Tik Tok”
Artists often use acoustic arrangements to highlight the lyrical content of a song in need of praise and attention. This cover is a sober take on a so-drunk-you-lose-track-of-your-knickers party anthem. It, like its original, praises the puke-and-rally.
9. Alanis Morissette– “My Humps”
To it and its artist's credit, the “My Humps” cover was intended as a joke. The song serves as a medium for our beloved alt-rock royalty to make a triumphant, viral return to cultural consciousness. Unfortunately, it serves to illustrate that Alanis Morissette, once gifted and real, needs to use gimmicks to get our attention.
8. 30 Seconds to Mars– “Message in a Bottle”
The internet has truly failed the younger generation if 30 Seconds to Mars thought this song deserved more attention. Was “Canary in a Coal Mine” a close second?
7. José Feliciano– “Light My Fire”
The heat of the original, which came in part from its drug-addled vocalist, is doused in this Latin-inspired arrangement. In its heyday, the song profiteered from the popularity of its predecessor, topping the charts; which means some of you probably have it in a dusty collection of 45's you've been meaning to sort through. Joke's on you.
6. Johnny Cash– “Hurt”
Cash was the arbiter of cool. His decision to cover a song by Nine Inch Nails sent ripples of prestige, the effects of which we're still seeing today (Academy-award winner for Best Score, pfff). That said, Cash didn't need to sing a song about drug use or its deleterious effects for us to take notice.
5. Obadiah Parker– “Hey Ya”
The stripped, earnest cover provided by Obadiah Parker endears you to the song until you're jolted from sublimity with the phrase, “Shake it like a Polaroid picture.” Without reconciling this artistic gap, there's really no reason to cover the song except to make it acceptable in certain households (you know, the way Elvis was acceptable in certain households). With honesty out the door, egg on your face, and a gratuitous Scrubs nod to boot, well: “You know what to do.”
4. Iron & Wine– “Such Great Heights”
This cover eliminates the issues presented by the original's lead vocals (which come uncomfortably close to those of a tone-deaf, rhythm-deficient fourth grader). Unfortunately, the song trades indie for hipster–making it a perfect song with which to swoon your high school girlfriend or laze around wishing you had one, but as far as we're concerned: 6 of 1.
3. Travis– “Hit Me Baby One More Time”
This song did wonders for Britney Spears' lyricist, but at what cost?
2. Dynamite Hack– “Boyz In The Hood”
There are some covers so emblematic that they stand apart from their predecessors in style–forging new ground off their own merit. This song manages to both honor and mock its Eazy E counterpart, spurning the typical dialogue about art and racial politics. Intentions aside, the cover still captures the essence of misogyny and latent violence that made the song so very special.
And the number one most gratuitous acoustic pop cover?
1. Eric Clapton– “Layla”
Only Eric Clapton could top himself.