It’s Never A Good Idea To Make It Big With A Cover Version

“I like that Ellie Goulding song,” my mother said to me today. Now this should have come as a surprise – my mother’s musical tastes extend as far as Take That and Rod Stewart – but in exasperating reality, it wasn’t.

Of course my mother has heard of Ellie Goulding. And not due to the hype surrounding her at the end of last year, or her winning the BBC Sound of 2010 and this year’s BRITs Critics’ Choice. Nope, it’s down to her cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ which has climbed steadily toward the top of the charts (at time of writing it was number 2) and been slapped on a John Lewis advert, to batter our subconscious in every ad break on the run up to Christmas.

Now although some people may find the song in question a tad naff, I’ve always thought it had undeniable charm. But I can’t help feeling Goulding’s version is a waste of time. Why cover one of the most famous ballads in history – a song that’s already been subject to a fair few adaptations, was one of the lead tracks from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack and that the X Factor contestants sing pretty much ever year? It’s been done to death already.

To me it feels like a ploy from Ellie Goulding’s management – giving her a renowned song with mass mainstream appeal, thus turning her into the household name they think she should be – and probably hoped she would be by now. And tellingly, they’ve re-released her debut album ‘Lights’ to include ‘Your Song’.

Now I’m not saying bands shouldn’t do covers. Far from it, it allows the artist to put their own individual stamp on things, to breathe new life into records past – listen to Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ and Jimi Hendrix’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’ if you disagree.

But releasing covers as singles can be risky. Making it big with a cover tends not to be healthy for a band’s career. Where the hell are Alien Ant Farm (‘Smooth Criminal’) and Toploader (‘Dancing In The Moonlight’) now?

Similarly, Fyfe Dangerfield’s version of Billy Joel’s ‘She’s Always A Woman’ received good airplay – interestingly it was also featured in a John Lewis advert – but did people flock to buy his album? No people, they didn’t.

True, Florence And The Machine have enjoyed massive success off the back of ‘You’ve Got The Love’. But at the same time, it’s kind of saddening to see them make it with someone else’s song instead of their own. One crumb of comfort, though: at least Goulding got her hands on ‘Your Song’ before Simon Cowell could nab it and make it an X Factor Christmas single.