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STOP LISTENING TO COVER SONGS

STOP LISTENING TO COVER SONGS

Weezer is one of my all time favorite bands. A couple weeks ago, they released a surprise new album. Many of their die hard fans just about took to celebrating in the streets because of the news. I, on the other hand, met the album’s release with a roll of the eyes and a shrug of the shoulders. Why wouldn’t I be excited if one of my favorite bands puts out a new album?
Because it’s a covers album.
If you’re not familiar with Weezer, they’ve been enjoying a new wave of popularity because last year they recorded a cover version of “Africa” by Toto. Following that up with this surprise album - an entire album of covers by other 80’s bands - is a brilliant career move, and I’m sure they’ll gain even more popularity as a result. But I’m not buying it. I’m a fan of the band because they’ve broken new musical ground, not because they re-recorded songs that were already made popular by somebody else.
I took to Facebook to vent about it, and my friend Mike from MercyMe called me out on it. “Dude, lighten up. It’s fun,” he told me.
And Mike is right. Cover songs can be fun. He and MercyMe used to do a thing called “Cover Song Grab Bag” where they would record a video of them playing a random song every week. They were well-done and they were hilarious. Third Day even took part in one on tour a few years ago. I think we did “Firework” by Katy Perry but I can’t remember for sure.
Third Day has recorded a few cover songs in our day. On our very first national tour back in 1996, we played “Solid Rock” by Bob Dylan. On the Offerings projects, we recorded Dylan’s “Saved” as well as “These Thousand Hills” by Jacob’s Trouble and “You Are So Good to Me” by Waterdeep. Probably my favorite Third Day cover song though, was when we did “Morning Has Broken,” made famous by Cat Stevens, who Mac used to get compared to quite a bit.
There is a fine line to walk when doing cover songs. When done right, recording a cover song involves putting your own personal touch on a tune while pointing people back to the original. In Third Day we had an elaborate list of rules about them. Don’t play a song that’s too new. Don’t play a song that’s too obvious. Make sure that you add something different that gives it your own unique voice. But always point people back to the original.
Apparently Weezer didn’t listen to our notes at all. Or maybe they only listened to that last rule. Their cover versions on this new album sound exactly like the originals. And the songs they chose were the most obvious. All they are is a poor translation of the primary source.
Once upon a time, I was a history major. One of my biggest takeaways from that season in my life was to always seek out primary sources. Cover songs feel like a step back in that regard.
In matters of faith, another kind of “cover song” can creep in. Instead of spending time in prayer and in God’s word, we will listen to sermons or read Christian living books or listen to Christian music. We substitute spending time WITH God to spending time listening people talk ABOUT God.
How often in your walk with God do you listen to cover songs? How often are you relying on secondary sources instead of hearing straight from God himself? How much time are you spending in the Word of God and in prayer, listening to God’s voice? And how often are you listening to worship songs or reading Christian books or listening to sermons?
As great as all of these “covers” are, and as beneficial they can be as tools for unlocking God’s word and enriching our walk with God, they are not to be a substitute for the primary source, for the “original.” Jesus.
I would even take it a step further. When studying the Bible, make the story of Jesus and the words he spoke the center. Of course spend time reading Paul’s letters and Old Testament prophecies and histories. But make sure that Jesus is at the center of your attention and that your relationship with him informs all of your reading. I heard a preacher one time say that whenever you have a dispute, or you read two passages that seem to conflict, run it past Jesus. Read the Gospels and see what they have to say about the matter.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with cover songs, so long as you remember who wrote the originals. In that same sense, there is nothing wrong with reading great works by Christian authors, listening to Christian music, and listening to sermons and podcasts.
But make sure that the cover songs you listen to point you back to Jesus, the primary source, the original artist.

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