As I’ve said recently, I fear my musical tastes are pretty pedestrian by the standards around here.
If I were to pin down a quality that ties together those songs I like, “sounds pretty” would probably be it. I prefer a definable melody. Toss in lyrics with a certain poetry or poignancy and I’m sold. (After all, I really like “Clocks.”) Songs that are “interesting” in some way may win my admiration, but not my affection. While the artists I enjoy vary (I like Fleet Foxes and Cake, Suzanne Vega and the B-52s, the Rolling Stones and Zero 7), if things get too weird or amelodic then I’ll pass. (This came to mind with the recent passing of a certain influential rock star, whose work I never found all that pleasant to listen to.)
And so, pedestrian as it likely is, I really like the song “Landslide.” Its lyrics appeal to my more melancholy side. It’s got a beautiful tune. And I love both Stevie Nicks’s plaintive original and the Dixie Chicks’ somewhat more lushly harmonized cover.
But what I didn’t know until the other day is that the Smashing Pumpkins also did a cover of “Landslide.”
In the comment thread of Tod’s immensely popular road trip playlist post, I mentioned that I find Smashing Pumpkins lead singer Billy Corgan’s voice… unlovely. This is true. More specifically, I think his singing voice sounds like the dying wheezes of a cat with a mood disorder. (I’m sorry, Billy! I’m sure you’re a charming person.) There were many Smashing Pumpkins songs that I might have enjoyed, but for the singing.
And then the other day my Sirius radio informed me that it was playing the Smashing Pumpkins cover of “Landslide.” I decided to switch over from whatever else I was listening to and give it a shot. I figured there was a decent chance my love of the song would be enough to help me appreciate Corgan’s voice.
It had quite the opposite effect. Instead of the song elevating my opinion of his singing, it simply highlighted how much the latter grates on my every nerve. It rendered a beloved something immediately unpalatable. It was like running out of grape and swapping in KY in your PB&J. It was like casting Judy Tenuta as Gertrude in “Hamlet.”
So that’s this week’s Question — when have you experienced something you liked ruined by a bad interpretation? What may have been fine in another setting, but was totally wrong when added to your precious play or song or what have you? (I will also accept answers that deal with remakes that had no business existing, when there was a perfectly wonderful original that needed no attempts at improvement.)