How NOT to do a cover – Weezer: A case study

Weezer's cover of TLC's "No Scrubs" lacks originality.

Audrey Dwyer, In-Depth Editor

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I love Weezer.  And I love TLC. Weezer has this dorky, punk, guy-who-writes-poetry-about-girls-that-will-never-notice-him kind of sound.  Meanwhile, TLC is a hip-hop/funk/R&B group is composed of three ladies whose music and fashion is oh-so 90’s. Obviously, they’re two great tastes that taste great together.  So, when I learned that Weezer’s newest album, “Teal Album,” features TLC’s most iconic bop “No Scrubs” I was very excited. But within the first 5 seconds of the song, I knew I was going to be disappointed.


Because the two songs are almost exactly the same.


The only true artistic liberties that Weezer took were in the bridge and the third verse.  In the bridge, Rivers Cuomo’s voice is distorted– it had this punk feeling. This is the only part of the song that impressed me.  It was different than the original but stayed true to Weezer’s punk-pop genre.


And then there’s the third verse.  In the original, the third verse consists of Left Eye rapping about what she does and doesn’t look for in a man.  It is an underrated part of the song that is often forgotten, but nonetheless, it’s iconic. So, how could Weezer pull off this verse?


They didn’t.  They completely cut it out.


In my opinion, Weezer’s cover of “No Scrubs” is lazy.  In order to make a good cover, a band must manage to make a song their own while still honoring the original.  Take, for example, the song “Hurt.” There is a distinct difference in tone between the original and the cover. The original, by Nine Inch Nails, is angry and hopeless.  Meanwhile, Cash’s cover, which was created just before his death, is about Cash looking back on his life, full of regret.


Cash’s cover also contains the same instrumental elements as Nine Inch Nails’s.  In the final moments of both songs, there is this intense crescendo, but the meaning is different.  In Nine Inch Nails’s version, it is followed by the strum of a distorted electric guitar, symbolizing a gunshot.  Meanwhile, in Cash’s cover, the crescendo represents a swell in emotion as Cash reflects on his life.


Paradoxically, the songs are the same, yet completely different.  This is what makes a good cover; staying true to the original but making the song your own.  And some artists just cannot logically cover any song they’d like. For Weezer’s style and genre, “No Scrubs” just doesn’t make sense.  Why would a band that is characteristically geeky and awkward cover a song that consists of three confident women listing the qualities that they hate about certain men?


If I had to bet, I’d say that Weezer chose to cover “No Scrubs” because it would blow up– but not because the cover is good, rather, because the idea of Weezer covering TLC is hilarious.  But clicks don’t make up for a bad cover.  So, you might as well take blast to the past and listen to the original.