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RIP The Ironic Acoustic Cover, The Musical Form Of Mansplaining

Music
Collage photos via Getty Images

Boy, bye

In 1999, Scottish indie band Travis included a cover of Britney Spears’ "...Baby One More Time" on the single release of their song "Turn." With this cover, Travis did what you’d expect an earnest indie rock band at the time to do: They slowed it down, stripped it back, and placed tongues firmly in cheeks. Now in 2017, it’s fair to say Travis don’t have the cultural capital they once did, but back in those heady post-Britpop, pre-indie-revival days, rightly or wrongly, they had more critical credibility than Spears, and the reception to their version of her song made that clear—it was embraced by music snobs who wouldn't have been caught dead listening to the pop star. It was also a sign of a trend that would soon become ubiquitous, one in which indie bands would cover pop song, as if to say, “The music we make is serious and important, and even though this song isn’t, we're making it so by covering it.” This became a template that was to be replicated countless times for years to come—until now.

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Flash-forward 18 years and the musical landscape is much different. Pop music has enjoyed a critical resurgence, with artists who would once have been marginalized as mere pop stars—like Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Lorde, and Beyoncé—putting out records that are fastidiously analyzed and dissected by the music press—and rightly so. Meanwhile, purely guitar-driven indie music is far less celebrated, and far less culturally significant. As a result, the ironic guitar cover has less space to thrive. But why was something so implicitly condescending allowed to thrive for so long in the first place? And will it ever make a comeback?

One of the biggest contributors to the life cycle of the ironic cover is BBC Radio One’s Live Lounge, a segment of midmorning radio in which acts promoting their new single would also be invited to do a cover of a song not usually in their genre. Over the years this has given us Elbow’s take on "Independent Woman," Foals' "Hollaback Girl" (this one’s really bad guys), The Automatic's (who?) "Gold Digger," and all manner of other songs that, in a more utopian society, wouldn’t exist. The success of the Live Lounge format led to the release of 12 compilation CDs, all save three of which have reached number one in the album charts, with every song recorded as part of it made available on iTunes immediately after. 

If Live Lounge is the cream of covers rising to the top (it’s not, but go with the analogy), then YouTube is sour milk. YouTube is the student open mic night of the internet, a long, never-ending street of buskers all hoping you’ll throw down some change and stick around long enough to listen to their own music. When Beyoncé released her groundbreaking "Formation," the white guy covers dropped almost as fast, each of them clumsily mangling the song into four guitar chords, whilst not shirking away from using the word “negro;” easily one of the worst things about this kind of cover is that it often feels like certain songs are selected as an excuse for white people to justify using racial epithets. (Incidentally, the #TrapCover trend that sprang up in opposition to this was really, truly excellent.) 

Far from just being a fixture of the internet, the trend of these covers has been mined for commercial ends. U.K. department store John Lewis has made their Christmas advert a huge part of the holiday season, hinging its ads upon slow, twinkly covers of well-known songs; Oasis, Elton John, and The Smiths have all had the John Lewis ad treatment. However, unlike Live Lounge, whose covers rely on knowledge of both the song and the band stepping out of their genre, here the singer is almost incidental. In fact, of the nine ads that have included a cover, the only household names to have sung them have been Ellie Goulding and Lily Allen, maybe Tom Odell at a push, the formula for the cover so perfected that it literally doesn’t matter who the singer is. 

If John Lewis provided the commercial apotheosis of the genre, then the critical one surely came in 2015, in the form of Ryan Adams’ take on Taylor Swift’s 1989, at the time maybe the biggest pop album in the world, both critically and commercially. The response fell into two camps, those who felt Adams had unearthed some previously hidden depth to the record, and those who felt he’d done, well, the opposite. Pitchfork’s Mark Richardson called it “a lot of fun to think about and talk about, not much fun to listen to.” But again, the praise for Adams’ record was based on the idea that pop music cannot claim to have the emotional depth that a serious, world-weary singer-songwriter has. Anna Leszkiewicz of the New Statesman put it best in the aftermath: “Pop songs are not inherently devoid of meaning, and alternative genres are not deep by default,” going on to say, “even with the intention of celebrating her, Ryan Adams has made it possible for dozens of music journalists to mansplain Swift’s own album to her.”

The recent history of the pop cover is interesting to consider with regard to how the music industry itself played out at the start of the 21st century. That first decade saw huge changes in how people consume music—the iPod was launched in 2001, YouTube in 2005, Spotify came on the scene in 2008. All of these things challenged the traditional distribution model and provided new outlets for people to listen to music for free, or, in the case of the iPod and iTunes, at a much lower cost than physical records. In the midst of an industry in flux, covers were a safe bet.

The irony is, covering songs shouldn’t be a safe thing to do; covering songs should be a risk, to take something beloved and well-known and try to interpret it in a new way, to make it a new song. All the best cover versions have elements of risk to them—Jeff Buckley stripping down the lush bombast of "Hallelujah" to his haunting, reverb-laden guitar and vocal; Johnny Cash channeling the lyrics to "Hurt" to sum up his entire life; Whitney Houston turning Dolly Parton’s gentle, poignant "I Will Always Love You," making it a soulful torch song, and a showcase for her breathtaking vocal ability. Where these songs take risks and ask you to measure them against the originals, acoustic pop covers play safe, ask you not to really worry about the original, just have a laugh, don’t sweat it. The other irony is, when talking about musical depth, sincerity, rawness, emotion—all the things that these covers are often applauded for—it is mainstream pop artists who are the ones writing music that speaks to relevant, often heavily politicized issues, whether that be Beyoncé supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, U.K.'s grime scene coming out in support of Jeremy Corbyn, or even people like Harry Styles or The 1975 defending the intelligence of the teenage girls who make up their audience. If alternative or indie musicians want to try and achieve a similar level of emotional depth, maybe it’s time they began looking at their own music and their own scene, rather than taking ironic jabs at what’s in the charts. 

Photos by Joe Maher/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

Must have been pretty awkward

Taylor Swift and Sophie Turner were guests on the U.K.'s The Graham Norton Show together, which must have been awkward for Turner's husband, Joe Jonas, seeing as he also happens to be Swift's ex. I wonder if his name came up?

The interview doesn't come out until Friday night, but promotional photos show the two sharing a couch. Swift is making an appearance to perform her new single, "ME!" while Turner is promoting her new film, X- Men: Dark Phoenix. But it seems necessary for the two to be asked about Jonas.

Swift was just on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, where she brought up the fact that she felt bad for putting Jonas "on blast" on DeGeneres' show back in 2008 by telling the audience that he broke up with her in a record-setting short phone call. But, according to Swift, she and Jonas are chill now, since it happened pretty long ago, which means she's probably already hung out with Turner and maybe even gossiped about him with her.

We can only hope that they get the chance to spill some tea on television.

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Screenshot via YouTube, Photo Courtesy of HBO

"That's! His! Auntie!"

Leslie Jones has rewatched the Game of Thrones finale with a beer in hand, Seth Meyers at her side, and a full camera crew ready to take in all her glorious reactions. Spoilers ahead, but, if you haven't watched last week's episode already, that's kind of on you at this point.

When Jon Snow started to make out with Daenerys, also known as his aunt, only to stab her through the chest moments later, it was emotional whiplash for everyone watching. And, Jones' reactions—both from her first and second viewing—sum it all perfectly.

"That's! His! Auntie! [gagging noises]," Jones says before making an aside about calling the police if her uncle ever tried to do the same. But then the knife goes in, and Jones screams. "Did you see that?!" Jones asks, "Yeah bitch, that's a knife in you." Meyers points out the funniest part of all: "Why are you so upset about someone kissing their aunt but totally fine with someone killing their aunt?" Jones replies, "Because that bitch needed to go," and, well, same.

Other highlights from the comedians' rewatch include comparing Dany's victory speech to a bad improv gig, predicting that their dogs would have less of a reaction to their deaths than Drogon did to his mother's, and more.

Watch all of Jones' reactions from this Late Night clip below.

Game of Jones: Leslie Jones and Seth Watch Game of Thrones' Series Finale youtu.be

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These lyrics are a lot

Robbie Tripp, aka Curvy Wife Guy, is back with a music video, titled "Chubby Sexy," starring his wife and a trio of models. In it, Tripp raps about his bold choice to find women with an average body size attractive.

The video begins with a series of statements laid over some pool water: "Curves are the new high fashion," "Chubby is the new sexy," "We Out Here." Tripp posits that these queens deserve an anthem, which they do. What they do not deserve is this Cursed Song. As he lists all the names he knows to call them by (thick, thicc, and BBW), one model (who I really, really hope was paid well) squirts some lotion down her cleavage, and Tripp begins dancing.

"My girl chubby sexy/ Call her bonita gordita," Tripp states in his chorus, before going on to compare "big booty meat" to the peach emoji. Another thing he mentions is that his wife can't find a belt that fits her waist, and that's why he calls her James and the Giant Peach. He then tries to dab. Here are some of the other Cursed highlights from his, uh, verses:

Got those Khaleesi curves/ Knows how to dragon slay
She like a dude that's woke/ We like a girl that's weighty
Some say a chubby girl that's risky/ But they ain't met a curvy girl that's frisky
Imma dunk that donk like I'm Andrew Wiggins.
Thick like an Amazon/ Built like Big Ben.

Tripp says one thing in the video that I couldn't agree more with: "She don't need a man." No, she does not. Please run. If you must, watch the entire video, below. Or send it to your nemesis!

Robbie Tripp - Chubby Sexy (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

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Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images.

See the promo here

It was bound to happen. The Kadashians and Jenners have committed themselves to letting the cameras roll on their lives, for better or for worse. So if you thought that the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal was off limits, you thought wrong. The trailer for Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was just released, and it involves the famous family working through the fallout of what happened when Woods went to a party at Thompson's house.

The teaser includes the infamous clip of Khloé Kardashian screaming "LIAAAARRRRRR." It's still not explicitly clear who prompted that strong response. She could be responding to Thompson, who clearly isn't always honest. Or she could be reacting to Woods account of the events on Red Table Talk. But the most revealing moment comes when we see Kylie Jenner—who was Woods' best friend before all of this happened—react for the first time.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, momager Kris Jenner says, "For you and Jordyn, it's like a divorce." Kylie only offers this in response: "She fucked up." Based on Woods' version of events—which I'm inclined to believeThompson is the one who fucked up. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of reconciliation between the two longtime friends. Perhaps we'll have to wait until next season for that.

Check out the promo video below.

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Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Getty Images for Topshop Topman

We'll miss you

According to Business Insider, Topshop will close multiple Topshop and Topman locations in a step to avoid bankruptcy, including all 11 of its U.S. stores. In total, 23 stores will be shuttered globally.

This decision follows Topshop's recent filing for bankruptcy in the U.S., and a string of controversies surrounding the chairman of Topshop and Topman, Sir Philip Green. Last year, Green was investigated for sexual assaulting and racially abusing employees. Business Insider notes that though the brand thought it would fare much better in the States, it has not grown as quickly here as it expected. This is likely due to the successes of less expensive U.K.-based online retailers like ASOS.

Topshop stores first arrived here in 2009, and were met with crowds and excitement—for a time. The brand's dwindling success in the U.S. and declining revenue globally has been chalked up to a "challenging retail environment, changing consumer habits, and increased online competition," according to Ian Grabiner, the CEO of Topshop's parent company, Arcadia Group.

Arcadia Group is also submitting a restructuring plan for approval, which would involve negotiating lower rents for its shops and cutting pensions for employees in half. These proposals have not gone into effect yet. Grabiner said that the restructure and closings are a "tough but necessary decision for the business."

If you live in the U.S., you'll still be able to shop from the retailer online and at its wholesalers, such as Nordstrom—but it won't be the same as stepping into its stores.

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