6 Songs That Need Covers

I’m a huge fan of music. For large portions of my life, music helped me mentally get through the day. I have tons of musicians and songs I love, including some songs I’ve listened to on a daily or weekly basis. That said, I also recognize that the best version of a song may not necessarily come from the person who originally wrote it.

Take, for example, “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails.

It’s a good song. I love Nine Inch Nails. I love dark songs. You’d think I’d find this to be the best version of this song. That said…Johnny Cash exists.

If Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” isn’t the single best cover of any song ever, I’m sure it’s at least in the discussion. There’s plenty of songs though that need covers that either don’t have them or don’t have them in the style that they need to be covered in. For today’s post, I thought I’d go through a handful of songs I think need covers in different styles, different vocal ranges, or by certain artists.

“The Waltz” by Neverending White Lights

I enjoy hearing orchestral instruments in a good rock song. This song is one of my more recent discoveries, however I’m fairly sure I’ve listened to it pretty close to once a day since I found it. I really need to sit down and listen to this whole album straight through at some point to get the full experience. That said, something’s off about it. It’s a good song, but it needs a cover by a different vocal range to be effective. I’m thinking a contralto/alto female voice would make the song a bit more haunting. Perhaps something along the lines of Joss Stone or Rachel Sermanni. I get that Sermanni in particular drifts into alto quite a bit, particularly in the song below, but I think she’d be a good fit.

“Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga

I like Lady Gaga as much as the next person. That said, this song is one of the few she’s written that’s just better as a cover. Take, for example, this cover where Lady Gaga’s vocals are paired with instrumentation by Andy Rehfeldt.

Paparazzi is just meant to be a non-pop song. And as much as I love heavy metal, I don’t think it’s the best option for covering this song. Personally, I’d like to see Paparazzi done in a slow jazz/lounge style. It’s been done well before…see Jessica Lea Mayfield’s cover of Nirvana’s Lounge Act for an example. Lady Gaga has done quite a bit of work with Tony Bennett. Why not have Bennett himself cover this song?

“Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies” by Biffy Clyro

This song has been my favorite song for the past three years or so. Nothing else has come close. That said, I’ve only heard it done in one of two styles — either exactly like Biffy Clyro did it, or with a single acoustic guitar. Both of those ways are fine. After all, it’s an amazing song. But there’s something missing. That something is a piano.

In the event you’re not familiar with Vika Yermolyeva, she’s a kickass pianist1It’s at this point that I’d like to mention that looking up one of Vika’s videos has led me down a rabbit hole where I binge watched two hours of her piano videos in one sitting. While doing nothing else. I am CONSTANTLY multitasking. Her piano work is ridiculous.. While I don’t think she’d need to be the one to do the cover of this song, I do think this style of music — where the entirety of the instrumentation is covered by a single piano can add power to a ton of songs. It’s not like Biffy Clyro’s music isn’t suited to piano, as there’s hundreds of piano covers of their songs. That said, the intricate parts of “Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies” make the song more challenging, but potentially more rewarding.

Need another example of how this can be done well? Take a listen to Norah Jones’ cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”.

“Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani

I just need this covered by My Chemical Romance or Panic! At the Disco. I have no shame.

“Shadow on the Sun” by Audioslave
“Hands in the Sky (Big Shot)” by Straylight Run

I want to end with both of these songs combined into one idea, as when I hear both songs, I immediately think they need big, powerful voices to cover them. I’ve tried singing “Shadow on the Sun”. It is easily the most challenging vocal song I’ve ever attempted. Meanwhile, “Hands in the Sky” is an exercise in vocal restraint, especially as you’re slowly building up to sing with the most powerful voice your lungs can muster. Chris Cornell and John Nolan, respectively, use these two songs as vehicles to show off the amazing talent they have with their voices.

I really want to hear both of these songs done in a female voice. While there’s a lot of good options out there, the singer with the vocal range and style I think would work best — Amy Winehouse — isn’t around anymore for this to happen. That said, there’s a plethora of excellent female vocalists that could do these songs justice. Lzzy Hale of Halestorm seems like a good place to start. Halestorm’s already done some good covers, so they’ve got a leg up on others.

Have a suggestion for a great cover in your mind? Suggest it in the comments.

A Quick Podcast Note

Hey all. The Everyone Is Funnier Than Us podcast has come to an end. Even though it wasn’t totally official, I’ve known the writing was on the wall for nearly two months now. Hell, I even hinted at it in this post.

I’m looking to start a new project in the not too distant future. We’ll see if it happens. I do want to thank everyone who took the time to listen to us, to share your feedback, and care about what we had to say. It really was extremely appreciated.

Writing Diversely From A Non-Diverse Standpoint

A few weeks back, someone posted a thought on Twitter that can be summarized as such:

Dear white people: Please stop writing minority characters into your books. You’re taking away readership from POC/minority writers.

I remember not being particularly caught off guard by the tweet. After all, it came from a writer who identifies as a minority writer in many ways (race, sexuality, religion…those are the ones I can recall at least). And part of me gets the point. There is definitely a gap between sales of books from white authors and from non-white authors, whether we’re talking about children’s book authors or otherwise. There’s a need for diversity in writing, not just in characters, stories, and points-of-view, but also in authorship. That much is very true.

And yet, I can’t do anything about the fact that I am writing from a white, straight, English-speaking, higher-educated male viewpoint. I want to write in a more diverse manner. It’s a goal I put forward for myself after publishing An Epilogue to Innocence.

I do think there are some things I did well in AETI. I tried to make the book less about good guys and bad guys and more about people — regardless of their gender, background, or religious views. Yes, religion, sexuality, gender, and mental illness were addressed in the book to varying degrees. And yes, there were shortcomings I had with the book. In particular, I wanted to find a way to make my future writing more diverse racially and culturally.

As an example, I recently wrote a story that I think has a lot of potential. The story is intended to introduce a larger world and as such, there are very limited deep details given about the main characters in the story that will be reappearing in later iterations of the story. You know, world building and what not.

One of the characters is supposed to be a woman of Filipina descent. I actively chose not to introduce this facet of her character in the first section[1] of the story because I didn’t want her race to become the focus of her introduction. While her race is part of who she is, in the world in which she exists, what causes judgement and discrimination is not race — it’s something else entirely[2]. Yet, at the same time, I feel as though it’s not only important that I have an understanding of the discrimination that any minority individual goes through in order to write my story effectively, but also in order to grow as a writer, I need to better understand how to write characters who are culturally different from me.

So I look to you, my readers, for advice. Many of you are also fellow writers, hence hoping to pick your brain on this topic. How do you write more diversely when you write fiction? What tips, tricks, and recommendations would you have for me as I look to become a writer that writers not just about those I know, but also those I hope to better understand?

The Not-So-Serious Anime Awards (Round 2)

A couple of years ago, I decided to talk about anime in an award list parody post. You can read that original post here if you’re so inclined. With the news of a live action Death Note film coming out, I decided to take a look back at that post, only to realize I wrote the post well before I had watched Death Note…or a lot of other shows for that matter.

While I still like most of the things on the previous post (or at least hold similar opinions that I held on that post), I’ve watched a good bit more anime in the nearly two years since that point. With that in mind, I’ve decided to update my previous list where more recently watched content changes my answers in some way — be that the overall winner of the category or the honorable mentions. I’ve also added a few new categories, as there were a couple of categories I made no changes to.

No Changes: Worst Overdubbing, Worst Series Ending, Best Series Ending, Best Anime Film, Creepiest Moment[1], Worst Villain

As was the case before, spoilers abound from here on.

Changes to Honorable Mentions Only

Best Film/Series – FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

I get that Ranker and a bunch of other sites have Death Note above FMA: Brotherhood, but if I’m looking at an entire series, I care more about just the battle between the main protagonist and antagonist. Hell, that’s over 2/3 of the way into the series in the case of Death Note. FMA: Brotherhood has excellently written minor characters, a compelling storyline, and an ending that isn’t completely anticlimatic[2]. Plus you’ve got two of the saddest moments in anime[3] in this show. I’m not sure what else you could ask for from an anime.

Honorable Mention: Soul Eater, Death Note

Best Series Music – RWBY

Despite a bit of a dip in season 3, RWBY far and away has the best music of any anime (or hell, any animated show) out there. Of the categories from my original list, this is the only one where the category winner actually managed to increase the gap between it and the honorable mentions. Soul Eater stays on the list by virtue of having the single best intro song in an anime, while Black Lagoon makes an appearance on an anime list for something other than Revy’s assets/her ability to kill people.

Honorable Mention: Black Lagoon, Soul Eater

Best Intro Song – “Black Paper Moon” by Tommy Heavenly6 (Soul Eater, Seasons 2-3)

See above. That said, if you picked any of the honorable mention songs here and said they were your favorite, I wouldn’t be too upset. Two of the four songs in this group played at our wedding reception. Anime has good music. Usually.

Honorable Mention: “This Will Be The Day” by Jeff Williams and Casey Lee Williams (RWBY, Season 1), “Unravel” by TK (Tokyo Ghoul), “Red Fraction” by Mell (Black Lagoon, Seasons 1-2)

Best Villain – Medusa Gorgon, Soul Eater

I expected so much more out of Cinder Fall when I wrote my last list. But come to find out she’s a mid-level henchman who manages to go from a sadistic badass to the weakest written character in RWBY in the matter of two episodes. I have hope for Salem, but until then, Jessie and James replace Cinder. As much as Light is the main villain of Death Note, Misa is a much better villain — or at least a more interesting one. Neither holds a candle to Medusa from Soul Eater though.

Honorable Mention: Jessie and James (Pokemon), Misa Amane (Death Note)

Most Unexpectedly Good Anime – Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne

Reminder: Naked throne of creepy sex ladies. Still a damn good anime though. Most of the other animes I’ve watched in the last two years have either been already well-received series, series that were incredible disappointments, or both. Even so, both Black Lagoon and Death Parade are worth the watch. Be warned though…Death Parade’s theme song will get stuck in your head.

Honorable Mention: Black Lagoon, Death Parade, also…can we count Adventure Time here? No? Please? It’s good despite being fucking weird.

New Award Winners

Best Main Character – L, Death Note

Sorry Weiss. When you’re not even the best main character in your own show now[4], you can’t top this list. When I wrote the previous list, I hadn’t seen Death Note, hence L’s absence. That said, after a handful of suggestions to watch the show, I finally got why so many people are drawn to L. He’s just so…strange? I think that’s the best way to describe him. Plus, he’s a good guy who doesn’t win in the end. I always find characters like that interesting.

Honorable Mention: Roy Mustang (FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood), Tsubaki Nakatsukasa (Soul Eater), Yang Xiao Long (RWBY)

Best Secondary Character – Riza Hawkeye, FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

I had a bit of a change of heart on this one within weeks of posting my previous list. While Excalibur is funny and entertains me in his occasional appearances, Riza is one of the best written female characters in film or television, regardless of format. As a side note, I’d watch animes that focus on the lives of Roberta and James. Roberta’s back story prior to her encounter with the Lagoon Company deserved to be fleshed out a bit more, while James is clearly the most loved Pokemon trainer in the series, at least by his Pokemon.

Honorable Mention: Excalibur (Soul Eater), Roberta (Black Lagoon), James (Pokemon)

Worst Character – Rock, Black Lagoon

In my last list, I failed to make a distinction between worst villain (read: horrible human being) and worst character (read: OMFG SHUT UP AND GET OFF MY SCREEN). This is how I feel pretty much every time Rock talks after the first three episodes of Black Lagoon. On top of that, at least Third Kira moves his story line forward and at least Brock is useful sometimes. Rock is just painful, yet he’s supposed to be the main character[5].

Honorable Mention: Brock (Pokemon), Kyosuke “Third Kira” Higuchi (Death Note)

Most Entertaining Character – Bewear, Pokemon

After picking up Pokemon Moon, I decided to check back in on the Pokemon anime just to see what had happened since I’ve been gone. Much to my surprise, the first episode I watched featured Team Rocket actually defeating Ash for the first time in the entire series. All this happened just in time for the Bewear they were living with to show up. Hilarity ensues[6].

Honorable Mention: Greed (FullMetal Alchemist), Near (Death Note)

Can We Talk About Black Mirror For A Second?

Warning: Spoilers. If you care about that. You shouldn’t. But just in case you do.

I’m not much of a TV person. I’ve got a small handful of shows I’ll watch semi-regularly with my wife, but there are very few shows over the last ten years that I can honestly say I went out of my way to keep up with. Even then, the shows have tended to be comedies (Archer, South Park), current events shows (The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight, The Colbert Report), or anime (RWBY, Death Note). It takes a lot for me to care about dramas. Outside of The Blacklist and Sherlock, there haven’t been many dramas that I’ll go out of my way to recommend to people.

And then there’s Black Mirror.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

One problem I’ve long had with most television is that it’s formulaic. You almost always know exactly what you’re getting when you watch week to week. Even with “unscripted” shows like Big Brother or Whose Line Is It Anyway?, you’ve still got production companies to clean up the messes and deliver the message that they want their viewers to see. Though sports matches are unscripted and happen in real time, I’ve even struggled to watch those in most situations because the drama and twists don’t move me the way they once did.

Black Mirror is beautifully written. Because of the fact that each episode is a standalone story within the season, all of the loose ends need to be tied up — not necessarily neatly — in order for the episode to end.  You see this in nearly every episode, though there’s still episode to episode continuity in spite of this. The control technology for the grains in “The Entire History of You” makes repeated appearances throughout the series, while the grains themselves aren’t that different from the “cookies” used in “White Christmas”, which isn’t that far of a leap from the alternate reality technology used in “San Junipero”.

Black Mirror is dark as fuck. But that’s not what makes it interesting. It’s that it’s dark as fuck while straddling a very fine line between reality and science fiction. We can easily envision a reality where a technology company uses social media profiles of deceased person to allow alive loved ones to connect with them once more (and not just because one tech company is already trying it). It’s a bit harder for us to envision a dead person’s social media profiles inhabiting a live, interactive android like the one in “Be Right Back”.

The show, in many ways, serves as a cautionary tale for the reality we’re already in. I mean, it’s not like a joke candidate whose only goal is to speak to the uneducated by being provocative, racist, and otherwise just a general terrible excuse for morality would ever succeed in an election like Waldo the Bear did in “The Waldo Moment”, right? There’s no way a person’s social media status could ever determine their social status like what happens in “Nosedive”, can it? It’s not like internet trolls with no moral compass could ever ruin the lives of so many while remaining safe themselves like what happened in “Shut Up and Dance”. Obviously none of those things could ever come to fruition in reality…

Despite all of the excellent episodes so far[1], there’s two that stood out to me for different reasons. The first is “White Bear”, which is the middle episode of series[2] two.  The episode focuses on a woman, Victoria, who, along with her fiancee, kidnapped, murdered, and filmed said murder of a six year old child. Victoria’s sentence for her part in the crimes is to undergo an experience that would cause her to feel the same feelings of terror that her victim experienced. As such, Victoria is chased around by people trying to kill her all day. Of course, the “killers” are putting on a show, but Victoria doesn’t know that. Victoria’s mind is wiped every night, meaning that she believes that the threat on her life is real. Every single day for the rest of her life.

In addition to Victoria’s eye-for-an-eye punishment going on every day for the rest of her life, her escapades are part of a facility known as the White Bear Justice Park. The park not only administers Victoria’s punishment, but it also charges admission and lets park gets get up close and personal as they watch Victoria’s torture. The episode hearkens back to medieval times where crowds would father before someone was taken to the gallows, only to leave when their blood lust was satiated by death. The episode is an exceptionally bleak look into the psyche of mob mentality. I left the episode wondering deeply about where the line cruel and unusual punishment truly existed in society — as well as whether or not this latent desire for torture really exists within each of us.

The other episode that stuck out to me was the episode “San Junipero”. The episode is arguably the most uplifting of the entire series[3], which is saying something as both main characters of the episode are dead at the end. The city of San Junipero is nothing more than a computer simulation, one where people who have died go to live out their eternity as they see fit if they so choose to do so. Both of the two main characters — Yorkie and Kelly — are terminally ill, and are in the process of spending time in San Junipero to determine if that’s where they want to spend eternity.

Yorkie and Kelly fall in love with each other — a fact which wouldn’t have happened outside of the simulation as Yorkie has been in a comatose state since she was 21 and Kelly was married for 45+ years — and eventually decide to spend their lives (deaths?) together in the simulation after they’ve both passed on. The concept itself is an interesting take on the idea of an afterlife that is so pervasive in religion. Of all of the technologies and advancements shown in the entire series, this is the one I’d most like to see exist. Could you imagine the works of art, literature, and music that could come out of people’s consciousnesses surviving in a digital world?

If you haven’t seen Black Mirror yet, go watch it on Netflix now. If you have seen it, what did you think? What’s your favorite episode? For the love of all things holy, just go comment so we can talk about the show.