A couple of days ago Paul Anka was on NPR promoting his new CD of lounge versions of 1990s alt-rock hits. This isn't really a new idea: Grunge Lite and Lounge Against the Machine have been kicking around in discount bins for years, and old-timers like Pat Boone and Johnny Cash have also beaten Anka to the punch. I've heard multiple lounge versions of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," multiple lounge versions of "Head Like a Hole," and I myself do a cover of Courtney Love's "Teenage Whore" as performed by Elvis Presley.

But the alt-rock song I have heard the most lounge versions of is the one NPR used to play out Paul Anka: "Wonderwall" by Oasis. Covering this song in a lounge style seems to me to be a classic case of missing the point. I can think of a couple of good reasons to cover a song. One is that you think that the song was well written but poorly performed, and that you can perform it better. Another is that you think the song was fine as originally performed, but you want to do something different with it. This can be as minor as my band's cover of Radiohead's "Creep," which switches the quiet and loud parts, or a major reworking such as when Shonen Knife took the Carpenters' treacly, countrified "Top of the World" and joyously rocked the hell out of it. Now here's the thing. I contend that what makes "Wonderwall" an interesting song is that it sounds like a cover already. It sounds like Oasis took a schmaltzy ballad from 1960 or thereabouts and gave it an edge by having Liam Gallagher deliver the vocals in an even more brittle, sullen, over-enunciated snarl than usual, wholly bereft of the tenderness the rest of the song suggests should be there. It's the tension between disparate elements that makes a lounge cover of something like "Rape Me" catch one's ear — a velvety-smooth delivery of jagged content. But a lounge version of "Wonderwall" doesn't do that. It takes the contrasts that already lie at the heart of the record and removes them, a pointless exercise indeed.

Paul Anka should have stuck to acting.

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