Upstaging hip-hop

music

By Mike Hammersley
Copy Editor
While browsing, of all places, Youtube the other day, I noticed that one of the featured videos on the site was a different version of the song “Lollipop” by Lil Wayne.  Intrigued, I clicked on it and proceeded to have my mind blown. I had no idea a random artist could upstage a high-payed hip-hop one. This experience got me thinking about other songs that sounded better as a cover, and I have narrowed my list down to my top three. Here are my top three.
1. Hey Ya – Acoustic version by Obadiah Parker
For those of you that don’t remember, “Hey Ya,” by OutKast, was that fad  song back in 2003, the song that is unbelievably popular for about three months, then dies out, sort of like “Buy U A Drank” by T-Pain or “Crank That” by Soulja Boy Tell’em. To make my research fair, I listened to the original version first, then the acoustic cover second.
What I found in the original was horrific. It was mortifying. I want my four minutes and 52 seconds back. The lead singer can barely be called a lead singer, for his voice is so computerized that he could have been a monkey grunting for all I know. Seriously, he sounds like a mix between those high-pitched hamster songs and the electronic voice for Stephen Hawking.
Also, I couldn’t make head or tail of what Andre 3000, the “lead singer,” was “singing” about. All I knew was he sang for a bit, some xylophone-like instrument played and they started yelling “Hey Ya.”
After my ears recovered, I switched over to the acoustic version by Obadiah Parker. I was immediately serenaded and floored by how much better it was. Why was this not the original? Why was this not the one that made millions and was put on the radio?
The first part that hit me, besides the fact that it’s a normal person singing, was the fact that this actually has a meaning. Apparently, Andre 3000’s lyrics were meaningful and deep, such as “don’t try to fight the feeling because the thought alone is killing me right now/thank god for mom and dad for sticking two together ’cause we don’t know how.”
The lyrics reveal a somewhat depressing message about love and relationships, and with the acoustics in the background it might as well be a lullaby. I went from the upbeat, painful hip-hop to the laid-back, calm acoustic and the transition was flawless. I loved the acoustic version.
Here’s an analogy I think you’ll like. Scientists developed an object called cubic zirconium, which is the closest substance to diamond man has ever made, although diamonds are still tougher. While hip-hop can manufacture their sounds and beats and make songs almost as good of a jewel, real talent and vocal skill is still what makes the best. And I believe Obadiah Parker has made a diamond.
2. Lollipop – Alternative version by Framing Hanley
This song is the only one of my three that actually takes its cover off of a decent song, but it still surpasses Lil Wayne’s original “Lollipop” by far. Framing Hanley does a phenomenal job of turning this song into a rock-esque version that really pumps you up. Hanley’s rendition is the closest second best hip-hop cover ever, losing out to Parker’s “Hey Ya” by the slimmest of margins.
The song begins with an electric guitar that gets your blood flowing, and then comes in with a serene, deceiving voice that leads into the absolutely amazing chorus, which sounds like hardcore rock and borderline screamo. Seriously, the chorus will blow you away.
What really surprised me is that Hanley took such a laid-back hip hop song and made it into a high-energy rock one. I had no idea “Lollipop” had this kind of potential; to me, it was just another popular song about the basics of rap: disrespecting women and gaining money and fame.
The singer’s voice is a great part of the song that you don’t get from the hip-hop version. Hanley’s vocalist hits a wide variety of notes, and especially impressive is the way he reaches up to what would seem to be a girl’s voice when he bellows “that’s when she,” as opposed to the short transition that Wayne uses it as.
Overall, Hanley’s rendition of “Lollipop” is unbelievable; the fact that they could take a slow hip-hop song, completely change around its pace and feel and make it this great is mind-numbing. It also makes you wonder what other songs would have the potential sound better in a different genre.
3. Umbrella – Alternative version by All Time Low
All Time Low’s version of “Umbrella” is so much better than Rihanna’s that I actually fear for the hip-hop industry itself. If too many people found out about these new and improved versions of popular songs, those original  songs would make no money; I don’t see who could buy Rihanna’s song over All Time Low’s take on it.
The old song is your typical Rihanna song: digitalized voice, catchy beat and, quite frankly, annoying most of the time.
The new song, however, is quite the opposite: real voice, even catchier beat – it’s faster and louder, but not too loud – and, quite frankly, pleasant to listen to.
I prefer All Time Low’s guitar to Rihanna’s awkwardly placed drum cymbals. I would take the lead singer’s strong,  serenading voice over Rihanna’s half-real, annoying sound any day. The decision between alternative’s smooth flow and hip-hop’s choppy, uneven beat is a no-brainer.
Low’s drummer and guitarists shine in their cover, for the drummer goes on an absolutely ridiculous solo near the end and the guitars create a smooth background throughout the song.
Maybe it’s that Rihanna’s voice sounds somewhat whiny, maybe it’s that Jay-Z’s part in her song ruins it. Or maybe it’s because All Time Low is better at her own song.
The hip-hop industry may produce some good songs, but it’s the cover bands give them the good vocals and beat to make them great.

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