The euphoria of tripping over weird Spotify cover songs

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Everyone agrees that Spotify has had an apocalyptic impact on the music industry: the 12-cent royalty checks, the two-hour Drake albums, the fact that “Heat Waves” is still in the Billboard Top 10 because of the greedy power of the algorithm. -weaned playlists that pump the song straight into the speakers of countless H&Ms across the country. The recording industry wasn’t exactly known for its morality in the pre-Cloud era, but the savage desperation unleashed by the streaming lords has brought us into uncharted territory – a world where labels must scramble to position on curations called “Ultimate Indie”.

All of this makes me miss the days of scrolling through the Limewire trenches, risking the basic integrity of the home PC with every alleged Eminem file. You never really knew what you were downloading at the zenith of the MP3 revolution, which is a tradition lost when music companies reduced our tastes to a constellation of sterile data points.

However, Spotify still manages to recreate the wonderful unpredictability of music consumption in the mid-2000s, and it can be found when you accidentally double-click on, say, the Children of Bodom cover of “Danger Zone.”

This cover, one of many takes of “Danger Zone” on Spotify, is one of the funniest things I have ever heard. Children of Bodom was a power metal institution in Finland, meaning each of the band’s albums feature a Grim Reaper on the cover. I usually search for ‘Danger Zone’ by curdled bite or two-beer sincerity, so when I was first blindsided by Bodom’s death growl instead of Kenny Loggins’ tenor on a particularly melancholic Friday night, I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair. I had delved deep into the Benthic Regions of the World Pop Music Database and discovered an incredible artifact that somehow matched the keywords I was looking for. Really, there’s no euphoria like stumbling across a weird Spotify cover.

My “Danger Zone” experience is just the tip of the iceberg. The music streaming model is essentially an attempt to archive every song that’s ever been recorded — from triple-platinum BTS hits to static demos from your cousin’s garage band — into one accessible repository. This philosophy levels the playing field of SEO to infinity, which means you and I could find ourselves listening to a terrible god metalcore cover of “Blank Space” with an errant thumbs up. Yes, Spotify has served me plenty of covers that I adore without pretense – a killer take of Girlpool, a regal take on “Higher Love” and a mind-blowing reimagining of a Blawan techno classic in a post-hit ass foot. punk banger – but there are also plenty of thirsty miners in the mix, a whole cottage industry of musicians eager to feast on the residual fake clicks. (That “Good 4 U” remix, my goodness.)

Sometimes I type a song name into Spotify and create an impromptu playlist with whatever comes up – a slew of covers, radio edits and extended mixes, presented in a huge range of quality, sincerity and visibility. You see it all at once, twinkling in the void. Wrestling rappers add their own verses to Migos songs, aging Warped Tour veterans squeeze all the juice they can from a Doja Cat banger, teenagers try their hand at going viral with their favorite Paramore jams. That’s what I miss, man. Give me that weird old digital music banquet, like an iTunes library filled to the brim with mislabeled Weird Al Yankovic songs. The streaming giants have tried to break down our consumption habits into a mathematical problem – something that can be solved with a rubric – but if you know where to look, you can still push past the margins and into the wild underbelly of the industry. of the disk. I can’t guarantee what you find will be any good, but you won’t soon forget the redesign of “Semi-Charmed Life” by the Vitamin String Quartet.

Children of Bodom recorded their cover “Danger Zone” in 2015, on what turned out to be the band’s penultimate album together. I like to imagine the track coming just as the core members enter their confusing middle years; maybe at an age when the Grim Reaper seemed a little less cool. I imagine the band giving themselves the privilege of being embarrassing and sounding like a dad, breaking all the trappings of death metal to indulge in what makes them happiest – in particular, whatever was popular in 1986. I identify with that. I just turned 31, which means I’m experiencing my first brushes with what it means to be washed. Pitchfork reviews are going through to an alarming degree, and my personal context continues to deteriorate as I rely on everything I listened to 10 years ago. It can be so humiliating to tell Spotify our desires. But as long as these covers continue to show up in search results, we’ll never be alone.

Luke Winkie is a writer in Brooklyn.

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