The Hodgepodge: Country Artists Covering Real Pop Songs

Left to right: Bruno Mars, Thomas Rhett, Thomas Rhett

Today’s Hodgepodge is inspired by this tweet from Josh the other day:

Covering other songs isn’t anything new in music and when done right, can be an awesome experience for the listener, especially in concerts. Some bands have go-to covers that are concert staples alongside their big number 1 hit. One cover song from a band that immediately comes to mind is the Zac Brown Band covering Charlie Daniels’ “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Other artists have famous songs which are covers from another artist. Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” is a Bob Dylan cover that surpasses the original.

But as mainstream country further alienates itself from real country music, the bands and acts who seem more interested in crossing over continue to add more non-country songs to their set lists. Both The Band Perry and Thomas Rhett have added a cover of “Uptown Funk” to recent concert set lists. The Band Perry’s new single, “Live Forever” proves they want a pop crossover hit, and they even recently did some hip hop covers for iHeartRadio. Also, it’s no secret that Thomas Rhett basically wants to be Bruno Mars to the point that Rhett has essentially reset his musical goals to copy Mars. Thomas Rhett even has single recording of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man.”

If you happen to find yourself at a Luke Bryan show for the Kick the Dust Up tour, you’ll hear a cover of Maroon 5’s “Sugar.” And a recent Florida Georgia Line crowd was treated to an encore set that included four back to back covers of Garth Brooks, Dr. Dre, Alan Jackson, and Wiz Khalifa in that order. And who could forget the opening train wreck at the 2014 CMT Awards where Jason DeRulo joined Bryan and FGL on stage for a short performance of “Talk Dirty”? And on top of all this, we have the Eli Young Band’s current new song, the “country” remix of Andy Grammar’s “Honey I’m Good.”

These are just a few examples of some of mainstream “country’s” biggest acts devoting time to music that is far from country. In my opinion, you shouldn’t go to a country concert and hear a Dr. Dre song from the act on the stage. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, but most cover songs are not better than the original. Hendrix’s cover of Bob Dylan is one of the few cases where the cover song is the better version. Thomas Rhett covering Bruno Mars is not good. As Josh said in the tweet, it’s bad enough they’re ruining country music, but now they’re ruining pop songs too.

Last year I reviewed the Nashville Outlaws’ Motley Crue tribute album. I said the following in my review about cover songs:

When an artist approaches a cover song with creative liberty and creates an original composition to the lyrics, and executes that liberty well, it is one of my favorite things.

From that album, The Mavericks cover of Dr. Feelgood is an excellent example of taking creative liberty with a cover and executing it well. The Band Perry even do a cover of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” that, to me, sounds good because they put the song right in their musical wheelhouse. (And, you know, it actually sounds a bit country, too).

As Josh tweeted out, this is yet another example of these acts trying to be “‘cool and popular.’ Because country isn’t cool to them.” These acts who call themselves country try so hard not to be country, and that’s why fans latch onto them. “Country Music” became cool because it’s party music and bad pop music that wouldn’t stand a chance on real pop radio. Covering these “cool” pop songs further drives this home. God forbid Florida Georgia actually cover Hank or Haggard, the music they supposedly listen to while they roll or have a laid back party on Sunday.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Brantley Gilbert has announced the title of his next single, “Stone Cold Sober.”
  • Kip Moore’s second album The Wild Ones will be released tomorrow.
  • Candian Country singer Whitney Rose will release her second album tomorrow. Heartbreaker of the Year was produced by Raul Malo of The Mavericks.
  • Carrie Underwood is poised to make an announcement this evening which will likely be the reveal of her next album or at least a lead single for the next album.
  • Hall of Fame songwriter Mac McAnally will release a solo album called A.K.A. Nobody on September 18.

Today in Country Music History

  • Country Music Hall of Fame member Jim Reeves was born on this day in 1923.
  • In 1974, David Allen Coe records “You Never Even Call Me By My Name.” Within the song itself, Coe calls it “the perfect country and western song.”
  • In 2008, songwriter Will Hoge was in a scooter accident while driving home from a recording session of what would become the 2009 album called The Wreckage.

Today’s Country Music history facts come courtesy of RolandNote.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Little Sister” by Dwight Yoakam. In sticking with today’s discussion on cover songs, here’s a great country cover from Dwight Yoakam singing Elvis’s “Little Sister”! This is his performance of the song on Letterman in 1987.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


Grace Potter Midnight. Grace Potter, frequent collaborator with Kenny Chesney has released a new solo album, without her longtime backing band The Nocturnals. The album was produced by Eric Valentine, and carries much more pop rock anthem type songs than what you may have come to expect from Potter.

Tweet of the Week

I think I had the same reaction when I first heard the song too.

An Negative iTunes Review That Makes Me Mad

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 2.17.29 PM

This was left under Cam’s This is Cam Country EP. This review is extremely sexist and this reviewer obviously has no respect for country music, seeing as they can’t even spell McEntire.

21 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Country Artists Covering Real Pop Songs

  1. Zack August 20, 2015 / 10:24 am

    Billy Currington also does a cover of “Uptown Funk” in his concerts.

    I don’t really mind when artists do covers in their live shows, as long as it fits in their wheelhouse. Whenever I saw Joe Nichols back in June, he did a classic country cover of “Baby Got Back” which was a response to “all the rapping in country music these days”. It was actually pretty hilarious, and I actually enjoyed it for what it was. He also did a cover of The Band’s, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, and it sounded extremely solid. Unfortunately I’ve never seen the Zac Brown Band live (and idk if this tour is the one I’d want anyway…), but I’ve seen their setlists and holy crap, I can’t believe everything they cover. Again, just as you said, if the cover fits in their wheelhouse, I don’t mind. Someone like Thomas Rhett is just a trend chaser. His debut album was full of bro-country cliche bullshit. Why? Because it was 2013 and popular at the time. Now his next album will most likely follow I’m the Sam Hunt direction. So even though I’m sure he really does admire Bruno Mars, it still doesn’t feel genuine, and his cover of Uptown Funk certainly isn’t good. And good Lord, Luke Bryan sings “Sugar” in concert? Isn’t it a little hard to hit those high notes in skinny jeans?

    I’m no crazy Kip fan like some are, but I have to say I’m interested in his new album. I like what I’ve heard off of it except for the title track, so I guess we’ll see how that goes. Great pick with Dwight Yoakam, can never go wrong with him!

    Good topic for discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theknightswhosayni4 August 20, 2015 / 11:21 am

      Zac Brown Band nails just about every cover they play. I’ve seen them 8 times (it’ll be 9 in September at Wrigley Field) and every show they bust out something new. Their best covers are Enter Sandman, Devil Went Down to Georgia and Into the Mystic, but you can always be surprised at what they decide to play. It’s fantastic, if you ever get the chance to see ZBB live, do it. Theyre one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen.

      Speaking of best live bands…Kip Moore and his band the Slow Hearts put on a phenomenal show. I’ve seen Kip 3 times now and he just gets better and better. I am honestly more excited for tomorrow to come so I can buy Wild Ones than I’ve been for any CD in a long time. Also, I’m surprised you don’t like the title track. After “Backseat”, wild ones is one of my favorite tracks. But hell, I love anything Kip writes.

      Like

      • Derek Hudgin August 20, 2015 / 11:46 am

        Yeah, I’ve seen ZBB twice and Kip once. All 3 shows were excellent – great mixes of country and southern rock, which is where both artists shine in my opinion. “Backseat” is one I like too… the production on the track though seems a little over the top for my liking, but I like the song.

        Like

      • Cobra August 20, 2015 / 2:14 pm

        I’m looking forward to Kip’s album, as well. I think he’s a pretty strong artist. The only song I’ve heard off of the new album so far is “I’m to Blame,” which isn’t spectacular, but overall, it’s too short to either complain about or to truly enjoy.
        I’m excited to see what the album has in store, though.

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      • theknightswhosayni4 August 21, 2015 / 10:15 am

        It’s finally here!!! Wild Ones!!! After the first couple listens, I can truly say it exceeded expectations for me, which is incredible considering how high my expectations were. It’s been such a great year for new music….but I might have to give best album of 2015 award to Kip on this one. An easy 10/10 for me.

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  2. Raymond August 20, 2015 / 11:17 am

    I don’t mind covers of pop songs like I wouldn’t object if Kelsea Ballerini did a Katy Perry or Taylor Swift song. I am so pumped for Kip’s album I mean I’ve always liked him. So wish I could’ve seen that Sounds Of Summer Tour.

    Oh heads up Maddie & Tae’s album you can stream it. I’m hearing good things about it. I myself can’t wait.

    I’m also so pumped for Carrie Underwood’s announcement. Please not another kid. Apparentley it’s supposed to be a rocker.

    Are you guys covering Kip’s album.

    Like

    • Ron August 20, 2015 / 10:03 pm

      Just heard “smoke break”. First single from her upcoming album. Pretty quintessential Carrie

      Like

  3. southtexaspistolero August 20, 2015 / 11:18 am

    Yeah, cover songs can be kinda dicey, on record or in the studio. If they can actually make the song sound like their preferred genre, I’d be willing to give ’em a bit of leeway. Stoney LaRue covered Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” and it sounded really good, as did Aaron Watson’s cover of the John Mayer song “Wildfire.”

    But this Dr. Dre and Maroon 5 business is bullshit, and a really long way in the wrong freaking direction from George Strait covering Webb Pierce and Bob Wills, or Jason Boland and Cory Morrow covering Billy Joe Shaver. I’ve said it before and will say it again: I agree with Luke Bryan that not everyone listens to just one kind of music, but that whole multi-genre mixtape thing is probably the most overused trope in mainstream country music anymore. And it’s just so staggeringly inauthentic on top of that. I’ve said it before and will say it again: If you really believe FGL listens to Merle Haggard and NWA and the Rolling Stones back-to-back, then I have a bridge to sell you.

    Or perhaps some ocean front property in Arizona, and a free bridge just outside San Francisco.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. fromthewordsofbr August 20, 2015 / 11:30 am

    OP of that iTunes review is a dork.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cobra August 20, 2015 / 11:40 am

    One of my favorite covers that far surpasses the original is Guns N Roses cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”
    I even like Jack Ingram’s cover of “Lips of an Angel.”
    .
    Sometimes things can get dicey when it comes to “what is the original?” Most people think 98 Degrees (shudder) originally did “I Do,” but Mark Wills actually recorded the song first.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fat Freddy's Cat August 20, 2015 / 1:01 pm

    I find it amusing that the iTunes reviewer thinks that “she belongs on the classic country station” is an insult, whereas most people here would consider it a compliment.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. petemarshall724 August 20, 2015 / 1:38 pm

    This iTunes comment is so stupid and sexist what is wrong with female country singers that person has no clue. I wish that country singers quit doing pop songs either. I can’t stand pop music even it’s in country music I can tolerate it if it’s sounds country.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. brettp August 20, 2015 / 2:46 pm

    I happen to be a big fan of covers when done justice. I especially love when an artists kind of makes it their own. As far as shows go that ive been too, Dwight Yoakam does do some great Elvis covers, Suspicious Minds is a good one and another classic he does really well is Dim Lights, Thick Smoke. Jamey Johnson can really make other artist songs his own, his band is amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Josh Schott August 20, 2015 / 5:36 pm

    Yoakam does some really good Queen covers too. Also this past week was the anniversary of his first album, so good choice for Throwback Thursday!

    One other thing: My soul cringed when I heard The Band Perry singing “Uptown Funk.” It was the worst cover I had heard from a “country” artist since Florida Georgia Line’s cover of “Friends In Low Places.” These covers I think are more appropriate for torture than enjoyment. Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin August 20, 2015 / 8:59 pm

      I, fortunately, haven’t heard The Band Perry’s version of “Uptown Funk” and have no plans to! And I almost made a special case of FGL’s terrible cover of that Garth song, but I decided to keep in focused on non-country songs.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Megan Conley August 21, 2015 / 1:53 am

    I wouldn’t mind all the covering if they were trying to make the songs their own rather than imitate the original and/or attempt to be literally anything but country. It would be less offensive if they covered classic country songs as well, but they choose to be anything but the genre they profess. Also can someone summarize the sexist iTunes review, my screen reader will not read those.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raymond August 21, 2015 / 4:07 am

      Here’s the gist he called Cam a bitch and Ashley Monroe a homewrecker

      Like

    • Derek Hudgin August 21, 2015 / 8:43 am

      The part of the review that made me the most angry was the following: “Get out of the top 10 the boys are dominating the charts and we don’t need females breaking it with their boring whiny ballads take Kelsea Ballerini Jana Kramer and that home wrecker Ashley Monroe and hit the road. Y’all can’t hang with the boys you’ll break a nail.”

      And I agree with your take on cover songs.

      Like

      • Megan Conley August 21, 2015 / 12:06 pm

        Thanks…and as for that reviewer, if you want “whiny” try “Break Up With Him.”

        Like

  11. Lisandro Berry-Gaviria August 21, 2015 / 9:44 am

    I like the picture comparisons of Rhett and Mars! It’s laughable how much he tries to be like Mars and miserably fails…I have a feeling his upcoming album will give “Kill The Lights” a run for its money as worst album of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin August 21, 2015 / 11:39 am

      I wish I could take credit for putting that comparison together but it had popped up on a google image search and I couldn’t resist, but I felt the addition of the caption was necessary to point out how absurd Rhett looks.

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