Review Summary: A bowl of oatmeal with thumbtacks hiding at the bottom.
My favorite YouTube cover is originally by Swedish trio Earto. They take Robyn’s Call Your Girlfriend and strip it down to percussion provided by butter lids and airtight harmonies. It’s absurdly impressive and looks really difficult, like huge amounts of time and effort went, not just into the performance, but the arrangement and how it shed new light on a song. Pulling away all the elements of a massive synth burner to almost nothing exposes the bleeding heart at the center of the dance floor.
But what’s more impressive is how the 12 & 8-year-old American duo Lennon & Maisy Stella redo that with their freakishly developed country drawls. The talent on display is wonderful but what’s more impressive is Robyn isn’t a major star in America like she is in Sweden. Despite releasing tons of phenomenal music Robyn has never caught on in the states. Which means Lennon and Maisy’s cover has turned millions of people onto an artist they would have other wise never heard of.
This is the exception, not the rule. YouTube is otherwise drowned in a flood of gimmicky covers of popular songs that do not need the boost whatsoever. Many of these cover bands are talented too, they're just taking the shortest route to success. The true nature of the YouTube cover is shameless self-promotion. Worst part is, its working. Timeflies answer the age-old question “What if bros dropped hot fire over a dance remix of Kansas’s Carry on My Wayward Son?” 53 million views later, they have a record deal. Karmin surpass dentist drills in general cranium related annoyance with their murder-suicide covers of Chris Brown and LMFAO songs. 215 million views later, they have a record deal. And sitting on top of the garbage pile, Walk off the Earth, with 149 million view of their buffalo-guitar take on ”Somebody That I Used to Know” alone.
Allmusic praised it as “stunning” some dude on Wikipedia calls it “a classic all its own” but if you close your eyes, cramming everyone around one single guitar adds nothing to the song. It sounds like a competent cover that people used as a stand in for the (far superior) original song until that caught on. Hell, even if you open your eyes you have to watch the entire band mug for the camera so that’s out too.
Now they have a record deal and their exhaustingly boring album follows in its wake.
Tracks one through four float into your brain and straight out the back, even though everyone in Walk off the Earth are competent musicians with a strong sense of melody and finely textured voices the fact remains that these songs are totally hookless. Right at home in elevators and waiting rooms. The only semi notable thing about any of them is “Gang of Rhythm”, which is a meta song about creating all these boring folk rock songs. “Bring in the uke and it will complete the groove!” Hand me my bucket.
But if REVO were simply inoffensive, it would put them head and shoulders above their competition.
I direct your attention to “Sometimes”.
WOTE remember they once covered a Rage Against the Machine song and decide to drop some hot fire into their lame folk album. What emerges has to be heard to be believed, but quotes will get you most of the way. Check out these opening bars, “You’re at the top of my list/Higher than milk and eggs/Higher than Huey’s fist”. More? How about “I dismiss promiscuous misses/like Jehovah Witness does to Christmas”. MORE? HOW ABOUT THIS? “If you call out in distress or need/I’ll be there more than a Mormon marries”. Their bars can’t even just be lame; they have to be ignorant.
Hypocrites too. “We never sold the flame!” they cry on the self-titled opener “Not for love or money!” If you didn’t sell the flame for money, why is your cover of “Somebody that I Used to Know” on your album? It's the exact same song, it adds nothing to the record. How do you explain the deplorable “Money Tree”? “You sold out for that tree/And I'm just playing here for free”. Are you guys for real, or are you just f*cking with us now? You put this song at the end of an album full of radio ready refrigerator buzz. You left your indie label SlapDash Records for the cash crammed arms of Columbia Records and you have the nerve to scoff at the bands you’ve left behind while lining your pockets with major label money.
Young artists, I beg you. Don’t do this. Form a band, make music with friends, and cover songs you love. Don’t rent expensive studio equipment and begin churning out lame covers of popular music to gain quick success. You have to keep your head down and develop your own styles or you’ll end up with bland mush like this. Walk off the Earth are figureheads for laziness disguised as creativity, dont be like them.