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Cover songs: Making a case for musical do-overs

My name is Sonya and I like cover songs.

That confession was designed to erase my guilt. Maybe it worked. I'm already a little bit more relaxed.

At least I'm relaxed enough to tell you I don't usually confess my passion for cover songs in public.

I've tried in the past, but received exaggerated eye rolls and follow-up comments suggesting I must also own music by Miley Cyrus and Ke$ha. (That statement is only half true.)

Anyway, as I prepared to interview musician Natalie Stovall in conjunction with this weekend's Frogtown Hollow Jam, my guilt resurfaced.

See, I couldn't stop listening to her fiddle medley, which centered on cover tunes. I was particularly mesmerized by her cover of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love."

I listened to the collection of fiddle covers at least a dozen times. Then, the shame set in.

This is an emerging musician. Shouldn't I be praising the sense of innovation she brings to original tunes, rather than viewing her in the context of songs that have already seen commercial success?

Yeah, probably. But I can't stay away from a good cover.

Of course, my obsession has limits. For example, certain songs are so big in their original version that in most cases they should be banned from the world of cover tunes. Please refer to "I Will Always Love You."

I'm also not a fan of covers that value imitation over innovation. So you sound exactly like Dave Matthews. Big whoop. That doesn't mean I'll go crazy for your version of "Ants Marching."

I'll put a cover on repeat if it turns our notions of musical genres upside down.

Take, for example, Kanye West's "Heartless." The tune took on a life outside the rap/hip-hop market, thanks to covers by acts like Kris Allen, Dia Frampton and The Fray.

In an interview, Kanye once quipped, "Everybody who sings the song sings better than me."

That's another reason why I'm making a case for covers. They eliminate the all-or-nothing quality that often defines music. Don't like the artist? The song must not be good. Don't like the opening verses? That's a good excuse to write off the entire tune.

Of course it isn't. But we often view our musical tastes in terms of absolutes -- and a good cover song successfully challenges that tendency.

So now I've come clean, exposing not only a tolerance but also a passion for cover music. While I'll keep my ears open this weekend for The Next Big Thing, I'll also have no shame in singing along to songs with familiar verses.

Anyone want to impress me with a heavy metal cover of "My Heart Will Go On"?

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516.

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