Hijacking Our Hits

When I hear the word hijack, I automatically associate it with a negative connotation, usually referring to stealing-or an unauthorized use of someone else’s property. Michael Coyle states, in his article Hijacked Hits and Antic Authenticity: Cover Songs, Race, and Postwar Marketing, that “many made their reputations by re-inventing familiar songs: they project their identity precisely by singing songs associated with another voice or style.”  Many artist “cover” a song that has an origin with another performer.  This idea was started way back in the time of early jazz.  Musicians would take the music sung by African Americans and re-produce it with a white artist.  Coyle spends some time arguing that many artists begin to label their song as theirs, due to the fact that people associate the song with the artist that originally made it popular.  While I believe this was the case back when there was a segregation of music based on culture, I no longer feel this exists.

There are plenty of instances where up and coming artists pay tribute to a band they respect.  In many indie rock clubs, a band will purposely cover a song, in order to draw an audience.  Weather its to draw a new crowd or an established artist covering a song of another band they respect, it is common practice to cover songs. If you know the song already, you can sing along.  Many bands use this phenomenon. 

The Ramones and The Beach Boys: Do You Wanna Dance

Jeff Buckley: Halleluiah

Johnny Cash: Hurt

Green Day: I Fought the Law

Rise Against: Any Way You Want It

Aerosmith: Come Together

Reel Big Fish: Take on Me

Save Ferris: Come on Eileen

Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies: every song they play is a cover.  That’s their gimmick. 

By the art of covering songs, I feel it makes it easy to cross over music genres.  Since there weren’t as many music styles in the early days of recorded sound, artist were labeled with their single.  There are so many different types of styles that many listeners don’t even know their favorite song was by another singer.  Many current artists go beyond covering by sampling another artist in their piece.  Just like The Clover’s, “Fool Fool Fool,” the same song can be under R & B, while another version is under Pop.  In Jason Derulo’s hit, Whatcha Say, he sampled Imogen Heap’s single Hide and Seek.  Funny enough,  when I heard this song for the first time, no one other than me knew his chorus was ‘stolen’ from another artist.  Puff Daddy: aka, P Diddy: aka, Sean Puffy Colms,…etc, makes a living from this art.  

If anything, music is associated more so with a program, not the artist that performed it.  For example, when you hear the song Power of Love by Hewie Lewis and the News, the movie Back to the Future should come to mind.  Another example: For the Love of Money by the O’Jays.  Who are they? What song is this?  Oh, it’s the Apprentice theme song.  Although this single came out in 1973, and we’ve all heard it before this television show, you still associate this song with Donald Trump’s infamous line, “You’re Fired!”

I would have to challenge Coyle’s statemet, “since mid-century, it has become virtually impossible to hijack a hid because audiences today tend to identify songs with singers.” Times have changed as well as the music.

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