Entertainment Weekly recently interviewed Chris Cornell on David Cook and his Top 10 performance of “Billie Jean” Here’s what he told EW:
Were you flattered by the performance?
Very much. It was clear to me [that] he was a big fan as he followed my arrangement down to the T, including the most subtle vocal nuances. I think he did a great job at pulling it off.
Can you tell us a bit about how this cover came to be?
It was a complete reinvention of a song that no one thought would work until they saw me play it in Stockholm acoustically. It received such an enormous reaction that it prompted me to do a studio recording. It ended up on my second solo album, Carry On.
In general, do you find anything disingenuous about Idol contestants doing covers of covers?
This song is a special case, but in general, I don’t think it should be an issue to cover a cover, as long as it’s clear who the creator and/or interpretor of that piece is. I think David’s performance was great and I want to thank all my fans for their dedication!
More After the Jump
Cornell is smart. He’s happy for the exposure. And as far as the whole “covering a cover deal”–first of all, it happens more than it gets mentioned. It’s only when a contestant does well that it causes a stir. And the real problem starts with the judges, who haven’t heard the original version and assume the contestant did the arrangement. Or, when the contestant mentions the inspiration in their video package, and the producers cut it out. Few contestants arrange their own performances. Blake Lewis arranged his own music, but he has strong skills as a producer/arranger. For the most part, the kids don’t have time to work out something new in a few days. Seriously, American Idol is a big fat karaoke contest. The knack for choosing the right songs is THE most important skill to have in order to survive. David Cook has that skill in spades. One more thing. While David may not have been original, he was brave. Performing a completely switched around arrangement of a well-known and beloved song IS taking a big risk. David took the risk, and it paid off.
ETA: Cornell managed to say that he didn’t find David’s performance original in any way without being a dick about it. Clever!