What Are Your Favorite Songs That Are Impossible to Cover?

Some tracks are so memorable and monumental, so difficult to play or sing, or so personal, that it’s simply impossible to imagine other versions of the original material.

It might be because of the sheerly impenetrable presence of an iconic artist, a particularly unique set of recording circumstances, or the fact that the performance happened in a moment that will never truly come about again. It might even be that there’s a legal precedent in place that doesn’t allow a song to be covered…

Well that’s what we’ve assembled to figure out. And we couldn’t be more delighted to take this opportunity to reconnect with artist, songwriter, and producer, Redah, to discuss “Songs That Are Impossible to Cover” for Episode 52 of our podcast, Themes and Variation.

The episode is anchored by selections from the catalogs of Hiromi Uehara, Tina Turner, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and more. The discussion covers topics like inimitable instrumental prowess, the magic of a good musical transition, meantone temperament, and more.

Listen to Episode 52 of Themes and Variation in its entirety right here:

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Episode 52 Highlights

1. Carter on the hazards of speeding up.

Carter: “If something’s gonna fall apart, it’s probably gonna be in that section because you’ve got five bars of 6/8 and then a bar of 7/8 at the end bookending this movement. And every single time you get to at the end of that bar of seven, you gotta speed up a little bit. And it’s challenging as a trio because you gotta kind of feel that out and nail it and everybody’s gotta kind of move their tempo along together. You’re speeding this section up five times. If you speed it up too much, it trainwrecks the rest of the song.”

2. Redah on the magic of “Proud Mary.”

Redah: “Even though we’re listening to the studio version, I bet that most of it has been recorded live and there’s a comp, but everyone is playing live at the same time, ’cause you can hear the ambience on the drums. You can hear that everyone is kind of in the same room, with some exceptions. There’s not a single thing — from the way she speaks to the way the band plays and the chemistry… It’s impossible to find a mistake or something that is out of place in this version.”

3. Mahea wonders whether the word “cover” applies to a song with unclear origins.

Mahea: “So it was published in 1761 for the first time, but it could have been written prior to 1740 potentially, and there is no confirmed composer. So Mozart, you could argue, actually did a cover version, but we don’t know of who. I’m just saying is it possible to cover? ‘Cause it’s so unclear as to whether or not this fits the definition of ‘cover.’”

Join the Conversation

One of our favorite things about our podcast is the fact that the conversation around each theme is so much bigger than the episode itself. We’d love to hear which songs you would have chosen for this episode! Share them with us on Twitter or, if you’re a Soundfly subscriber, in the #podcast channel on Slack.

Plus, with every new episode of Themes and Variation, we launch a new Spotify playlist that includes the songs mentioned in this episode and more. Here’s this episode’s Spotify playlist!

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a (bass) line at [email protected]!

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