The Great Big Cover Up: Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”

Posted on November 11, 2011


Love n all those pesky things foto@me

I love covers.

Obviously, the good ones. But I’m even prepared to extend a benevolent kindness to mediocre ones, as a sympathetic pat on the shoulder for trying. Covers are awesome – they’re all about excitement, inspiration, love of the art, and also ego. And when it comes to the creative process we all know that ego can be a very good thing.

So today let’s talk covers, specifically, covers of a teeny-bopper chart-topper that I think is actually pretty good as teeny-bopper chart-toppers go. It’s “You Belong With Me”, by the capacious-lunged, mom-haired, Kanye-slighted Taylor Swift.

This is what it sounds like, with the best professional studio skillz, sound-mixing, backup band, mastering etc etc that money can buy. It’s ueber professional. Everyone sounds like they’re there to do a job, and do it damn well. What makes it adorable to me is Taylor’s delivery itself. She believes in her song, in what she’s singing, she’s young and cute, the sentiments are sweet and while not awe-inspiring, are certainly aww-inspiring (sorry).

Can we talk about the video, though.

I am SO NOT A FAN of the sad old storyline in which the nerdy but secretly hot girl moons hopelessly over the nice, over-achieving and openly hot boy who is dating the openly mean and openly hot cheerleader who treats him like crap. He puts up with it cos he’s such a ball-less piece of wimp nice guy, failing to realise that the nerdy girl is actually his soulmate, until she shows up at a big-ass event dressed like someone he’d like to fuck. Come on, big label producer folksez. Even for a bubble-gummy mass-market product you don’t have to take that old chestnut out again for another boring ride on that well-worn path.

But still, it’s a fun, easy and catchy tune. Now, let’s get to the covers. They range from Wow to Wow-that’s-bad. OK, that was a joke. They’re all actually quite alright.

Better than the rest, better than the original: Butch Walker

Clean, clear vocals with age-appropriate instrumentation in the form of simple strings and percussions. It’s still a heartbreak song, but with the drama-mama grandeur of teen angst sufficiently dialled down for those of us who have (ahem) left high school. Thanks to 4TT for this.

Go Periscope

Ignore the unfortunate “video” I’ve linked to. This offering by Go Periscope, an electro-rock band from Seattle, is actually an interesting take on a pop song. It sounds a leeetle manufactured (well, it is electro afterall) but I  guess that’s just my personal preference for electronica that sounds a bit dirtier.

The Promise Estate

Umm. The Promise Estate is an indie rock band from Ohio, and in one of their live shows last year they did this cover. It’s rock, and quite rock-ily done, but I didn’t think it added too much to the song. It’s good fun, though. Apologies for the crappy vid, but then it is from their Youtube channel.

I Hate My Ex

These guys area punk-pop band from Worcester, Massachusettes. On their Facebook page they proclaim with crushing confidence, “We are a pretty ok band.” By the way, trying googling them. It will take you down a rabbit hole of hate and fury so terrifying that you will never want to get into a relationship again. This, of course, has nothing to with the band or their music, which sounds palatable and fun but again, does not add to much to the song as a cover.

Thomas Fiss

Of course, someone would have to do an acoustics cover to “let his beautiful voice, so pure and angelic, blah blah shine through” blahblahbityblah. And that someone is the cute, boyband-y Thomas Fiss. Well nothing against him, but I guess I don’t have anything to say, except that I will stand aside for his marauding girl fanbase to crash through the security barriers and rip his shirt off. OK, his cover was serviceable, but I didn’t quite dig that snarky smirk at the end. Your own songs ain’t any less pop, y’know? Nothing wrong with that, either.

So! I guess the winner is Butch. He respected the integrity of the original song, and yet changed it significantly enough to make it obvious he had something new to offer.

Also Butch Walker is fabulous. This is another track of his I love (and the music vid is hilariously cheesy):