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Cover: Wonder Bear-Runaway


I hold an affinity for “good” cover songs, and it goes far deeper than just the new “spin” aspect of it.

I think cover songs say something about the art  that is held within songwriting and production. It shows us that the smallest nuances and slightest changes in the way a piece is sung or produced can transform the entire setting and mood of a song.

For instance, take Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’ Connor. The song was originally written by Prince and was intended as a happy upbeat song, a duet in which a man and a woman are happily saying to one another, “Baby, nothing compares to you.”

However, slow down the tempo, make slight rhythmic adjustments and give the song to Irish crooner Sinead O’Connor and the song becomes a heartbreaking tale of a woman crying out for her lost lover. Which is the complete antithesis of Prince’s joy filled, soulful,toe tapping love song.

Compare them here and here.

(Prince is notorious for not allowing his music on youtube, so no telling how long that link will be up.)

Point being though, I find immense art in various aspects of music. There is an art in writing the lyrics–yet another art involved in performing it, and another art withheld in mixing and producing. Covers just show how much subtly matters in music and how an artist can take a piece and transform it into something entirely their own.

Wonder Bear is a (young) “bedroom pop” duo that hit the scene a year or so ago and have released three EP’s via their Band Camp page.

One of the EP’s that is currently getting rave reviews is Avalanche which is actually a concept piece detailing the tales of four Alaskan teenagers. Apart from the EP’s, Wonder Bear also put out a few cover songs that I stumbled across that I came to enjoy. One in particular was a rendition of Runaway by Kanye West.

In this version of Runaway some of Kanye’s more controversial moments are looped–clips such as his infamous post-katrina tirade and his Taylor Swift VMA ambush. Using these soundbites in the intro as well as the outro–seem to put more emphasis on the “runaway” lines of the song. The clips seem to act like voices in the head of the singer, echoing out to him.

The track becomes more of a story in which the protagonist is tormented by his own actions and plans to runaway. The guilt over comes the singer so much that he is also telling his loved ones to..“just run away, run away from me, baby.” 

Now, in no way am I trying to claim that it’s better than the original–it’s simply a fun take on a popular tune–but it shows how small changes to a song can make a huge impact on its content.

For more free tunes from Wonder Bear check out their Band Camp page here. 

  1. 06/20/2011 at 7:29 am

    A couple of months ago I had started thinking a lot about cover songs, which were the best, which were the worst. My list of the best contains covers where there is, as far as I experience them, a dramatic difference in sound and tempo and to the extent that the covering artist(s) through personal style take ownership of the song covered. Those in my worst pile are either covers that just don’t appeal or those that sound way too similar to the original to offer anything new and exciting to me.

    I really like the comparison you make and what you say about cover songs conveying “something about the art… changes in the way a piece is sung or produced.”

    Not being a musician, I’d never thought of subtleties, but I do notice the differences in sound, especially at the beginning of Wonder Bear’s version of Runaway when compared to West’s original. It’s something I might have overlooked had I not read your blog, but it’s a fascinating topic. I may have to revisit that list of mine!

    Great post and thanks for sharing another (new to me) band.

    • 06/20/2011 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks for the reply!

      Yeah, covers can very easily be poorly done–and done in a way that appears to be more like bad karaoke or a college cover band rather than something new. So it’s refreshing to see covers done in a way that contributes something new to the piece.

      Thanks so much for reading, I’m glad you enjoy!


  2. Matthew Planchard
    06/23/2011 at 8:36 am

    Another good song. Thanks!

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