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Cover Band

April 25, 2010

I’ll get to my usual “OMG ANGEL BEATS IS A VIDEO GAME” rantings in a bit, but the new version of the opening song caught my attention more so than the game hints.

It got me thinking about those Haruhi Suzumiya character singles that came out a few years back. They were your typical corporate cash-in that banked on the fans wanting every little possible thing revolving around their new favorite series. Each character got their own two or three song single. I ended up buying a few of the domestic releases of these damn things.

Each of the singles had the character in question “covering” Hare Hare Yukai. Unfortunately, most of them ended up being lame rehashes of the song, with the only difference being that there was only one character doing the singing. Essentially, they epitomized the problem that most people have with cover songs: There’s nothing different other than the idiot doing the singing.

The key exception was Kyon’s version of Yukai. By changing it from an upbeat j-pop tune to a low-key guitar number, and altering a few lines, it changes the entire meaning behind the song. And Kyon’s Kyonisms tossed about don’t hurt either. It goes from being a celebration if eccentricities to “When will this hell end? Someone please help me!”

We have the same thing going on with the abrupt change in Angel Beats’ opening song. We went from a solemn piano number with electric parts to a straight-up rock number. The shift in tone isn’t as drastic as the shift seen between the standard version of Yukai and Kyon’s version, but I dig the change none the less. And I think the song works better as a rock piece once you insist on inserting in the lyrics.

It goes to show that the best cover songs change the inherent meaning of the original tune, much like how the best manga to anime translations make changes to the original storyline.

Returning to this week’s dose of me claiming that Angel Beats is a video game.

The series outright admits that Yuri is a villain, much like how last week’s episode had Angel questioning why she’s being made out to look like a bad guy. Only villainesses go “ohoho!” Kodachi wasn’t a nice lady, and she went “ohoho!” This fits perfectly into the idea that Yuri is some sort of video game level boss or something along those lines. She’s like the big bad at the end of a dungeon, guarding the Tier 8 (Endless) goodie that Angel needs to complete her set.

And the baseball tournament was totally, like, a seasonal event that Angel had to put up with to get some rare item. She’ll probably post it on the auction house later in the day and rake in the Gil.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2010 3:18 PM

    Which is EXACTLY what Hetalia does with it’s ending song. It’s made a habit of each country singing it at the end of each episode, slightly altering the lyrics and musical instrument each time. Germany’s sounds like a war march, England has an electric guitar playing etc. Each song also starts off with them asking for a certain type of drink. Italy has wine, Germany beer, Russia vodka, Japan sake and so on.

  2. Taka permalink
    April 25, 2010 3:51 PM

    I think the Emiri Kimidori version was pretty different too. Almost like a slow trance song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUyM6A_L94Y

    But yes I love the rock version of Angel Beats OP. I watched it several times in succession. I particularly like the last image with the P.A. Works logo branded on yui’s cheek.

  3. April 25, 2010 5:36 PM

    The series outright admits that Yuri is a villain

    I disagree with this. What the series has admitted is that Tenshi is the good guy, but I don’t think this necessarily makes Yuri the villian. It’s an interesting overturn of the whole antagonist/protagonist dichotomy, because from the main characters’ point of view, Yuri is the protagonist, while Tenshi is the antagonist. But, certainly, Tenshi probably has the more noble ambitions of the two, so that makes her the good guy. I just think it’s oversimplistic to then say Yuri is the villain based on what we know. I have a feeling this show has a few curveballs left in it yet.

    I still think the “Angel Beats is a video game” theory will turn out to be right… just not in the way you’re thinking.

  4. April 25, 2010 6:43 PM

    “ohohoh”

    The noblewomens laugh is my favorite type of laugh. I enjoy the OP for Angel Beats. I enjoy pretty much anything with piano in it.

    This is the first time I’ve seen the new OP (I have yet to watch episode 4). And the thing that catches my attention most is that the short girl with pink hair DID indeed take Iwasawa’s spot in the band.

    I’m still bitter and mad that Iwasawa is gone.

  5. Aile permalink
    April 25, 2010 7:53 PM

    My first meeting with the imagesong cover cash-in scheme was NGE: Multiple dozen variations of “Fly me to the moon” with all possible combinations of genres and voice actresses. Ballsy transparent move, but apparently the buying otaku audience ate it right up.

    I’m not against character singles in general, when they offer something more than “VA does generic karaoke on the standart OP theme”. The best image discs take care to bring out the unique personality of the character and open another medium path to get to know/appreciate them. I certainly don’t like hearing 20 versions of the same song, because I usually don’t care for the majority of opening themes (or actors voices) anyway besides a few favorites.

    “It goes to show that the best cover songs change the inherent meaning of the original tune,”

    While I certainly concur with the sentiment itself, as a musician I can add some more input to this:
    I make a distinction between a “cover” and an “interpretation”. For example, I had jobs in various “Top40”- and “Tribute”-bands, you know, bars, birthdays, town fairs etc. You’re basically a glorified jukebox there, as your goal (or rather, the audience’s expectation) is to reproduce the original very closely. That’s “cover” for me.
    On the other hand, I like to sit in at my local jazz joint, where we also play existing tunes, but with a completely different approach: The only thing that’s fixed there (and even that is more or less loose) is the main melody and the basic chord progressions, and it’s pretty much left to our discretion what we’ll do with it. This context is more open to individual expression, you can pretty much do what you want in your spot in the general framework (or let the group dynamics change the framework altogether). If one night you feel like modulating “When the saints go marching in” into a minor key and play it as a melancholic ballad, awesome. Want to play “Autumn in New York” as a bossa-nova waltz ? Go for it. And THAT is “interpretation” for me. A prime well-known instrumental example (which ties into your notion of changing meaning, even without words) is Hendrix’ rendition of the Star-spangled Banner.

    Angel Beats ? Stopped following it. Couldn’t connect to it, kinda bored me. Maybe if the blogs I trust announce in future episodes that it made a sudden turn into awesome, I’ll look into it again, so ..thanks for your work, I guess.

    • Landon permalink
      April 26, 2010 10:10 PM

      You’d think that out of all of those Fly Me to the Moon covers they’d get at least one that’s good. I’ve heard a few and I can’t think of one that’s even decent, much less coming close to any of the original renditions. And the song goes great with the series.

      And yeah, jazz and improv and all that is a completely different beast. Can’t really think of anything from an anime OST that really approaches that, although I’d kill to hear some renditions on the stuff from Cowboy Bebop’s albums. Outside of a couple of concert videos, all we have are the takes off the OSTs.

      • Aile permalink
        April 27, 2010 10:39 AM

        Ya, well an anime series usually needs a certain kind of popularity to get them to do anything more creative with the music than a generic OST release. And even if they do, satisfying results aren’t always guaranteed (for example, if they ever do an auxilliary album, most of the time they release something lame like easy-listening remixes… just what the world needed).
        However, there is a certain “doujin music” scene in japan, where lots of fans play lots of anime music in lots of styles; unfortunately this stuff isn’t as visible or accessible to get into for us outsiders like other aspects of doujin activity. It’d be certainly interesting to see a website (in english) for this like maybe ocremix.org is for videogame-music fancovers.

  6. April 26, 2010 12:54 AM

    I instantly liked the new opening because I had a problem with the piano in the first one, it just felt too out of time with the rest of the music.

    I hope the series doesn’t go all Shaft on us and end up having 4 different openings in 13 episodes, though…

  7. Aile permalink
    April 26, 2010 1:17 PM

    “I hope the series doesn’t go all Shaft on us and end up having 4 different openings in 13 episodes, though…”

    I hope that this trend continues and grows even more because no matter how good an OP/ED is, I tend to skip it after the fourth iteration or so to save the minutes. One can argue personal taste if one feels that a new intro is inferior than the old one, but for example I liked all of Bakemonogataris’ openings (which were basically animated character singles anyway), and the fresh endings of Hanamaru kept me excited each week, all were great and some were especially amazing.

  8. Taka permalink
    April 26, 2010 1:28 PM

    I read somewhere Jun Maeda composed 12 different songs for the Girls Dead Monster band. So I expect there is much more to come.

  9. April 26, 2010 4:26 PM

    Until this episode, I hadn’t considered Yuri being the bad guy, but especially at the end when Hinata wasn’t allowed to disappear, it clicked for me, that yeah, she’s on the wrong side.

  10. Landon permalink
    April 26, 2010 8:52 PM

    That’s a lot of posts. Not even sure where to start other than “y’all rock.”

  11. April 26, 2010 9:36 PM

    If y’all want Covers of songs where the singer or character makes it their own…

    Here’s the TV version of Climax Jump:

    Here’s a cover by one of the characters, who has an Osakan accent apparently:

    Here’s a song called Double Action, from the same series:

    And here’s the cover. Which turns it into an ode to coffee:

  12. vucubcaquix permalink
    April 27, 2010 10:09 PM

    One of my favorite instances of a cover song illuminating the original in a different light was Johnny Cash’s version of Trent Reznor’s Hurt:

    Trent Reznor’s version had a sort of alienated and eerie feel to it, reflecting the disaffection of youth. Johnny Cash’s version is full of nostalgia and poignancy, as if he’s looking back on his life as he’s singing it, recognizing that the twilight of his life is upon him.

    “Everyone I know, goes away in the end.”

    “If I could start again, a million miles away;
    I would keep myself, I would find a way.”

    Those lyrics have a dramatically different meaning attached to them in both songs. Trent Reznor himself so loved Johnny Cash’s cover, that he no longer considers Hurt to be his own song anymore.

    I love good song covers.

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