Cover Song Analysis “Tainted Love”

Tainted Love covered by Soft Cell

Tainted love/ Where did our love go covered by Pussy Cat Dolls

For Analysis of a cover song I decide to choose the song “Tainted Love” which has been covered by many bands and many artists. Originally compose by Ed Cobb from the American group The Four Preps which the song was originally recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964. Before looking into this song further I had believed that this song was originally recorded by Soft Cell in 1981 and the cover I wish to focus on is the cover done by The pussy cat dolls in 2005. Since I decided to focus my attention on the song from the recording done by Soft Cell and the Pussy Cat Dolls I will only focus on these two different performances of this piece. This song is covered by so many different artists because the meaning of it can be manipulated and changed depending on the message one is attempting to send out.

For starters the covers I focus on for this song is covered by two different sexes. In Soft Cell’s rendition of the song it is recorded from a man’s perspective on love. In the Pussy Cat Dolls case it is recorded by a group of female singers. Just by this seemingly small change from male to female singers the song takes on a new life for both. This minor change to a song can flip the entire meaning of the lyrics due to social stereotypes we all have within us. On how a certain sex should dress or behave, this song is a perfect example of how the double standard theory works. A man is allowed to be mean and manipulative for men it is easier for them to be promiscuous, where a women should only be modest, well spoken and it is such a shock when she doesn’t follow all the rules.

In soft cell’s lyrics you get the sense that she is in the arms of another man with the lyrics “you don’t really want anymore from me, to make things right, you need someone to hold you tight,” that line coming from a man’s perspective seems to me like the female partner he speaks of doesn’t really need him just need the attention from men in general making her out to sound like a whore. He describes this women to be deceiving but yet still attractive. Allowing people who listen to believe it is the struggle between the guys head and well the way she makes him feel sexually. With the lyric lines “Don’t touch me please, I cannot stand the way you tease, I love you though you hurt me so.” Listening to this song now performed by Soft Cell to mean doesn’t sound like real love it is almost as if her is referring to another type of feeling he is mistaking for love. The song ends with him packing up and leaving this tainted love he felt trapped in.

In the Pussy Cat Dolls version of this song many things seems to take one new meanings. It is no longer a deceitful women we are discussing but yet a man, another man in society taking a women for an emotional ride. Being a fan and apart of the generation that experienced the Pussy Cat Dolls from their rise and fall in the music industry they did not choose this song out of a hat. The Pussy Cat Dolls were a female group that prided themselves on being sexual and independent from men. Many of their songs glamorized the single female with songs such as “I don’t need a man” and  “Beep”. Which these songs gave a voice to the modern day feminist, not the feminist that the original composed version from the 1960’s would have known.

Coyle’s argument in understanding a songs historical background and how it’s meaning can change depending on the generation on who is singing. The movement of feminism has changed a lot over the past two generations being a student with parents that were apart of the baby boom generation to have grown up in the 50’s and 60’s, I feel as though the definition of a feminist is not the one I grew up knowing. By the Pussy Cat Dolls redoing this song gives female listeners the emotional backing to tell that guy to go away. The social stereotypes that play along with these two different recordings again just because it is the same song does not mean it gives the same message.

Using the same exact line of lyrics “you don’t really want anymore from me, to make things right, you need someone to hold you tight,” suddenly accompanied by a female voice gives it a new way of hearing the story of this tainted love. It makes the man in which the song is about just another player, not out for a partner rather out for just some company for the night. It makes him sound like a dirtbag but not a promiscuous female as Soft Cells version implies. The Pussy Cat Dolls version also ends with another cover by fading out the song with lyrics from “Where did our love go?” ties this song up to the notion that this female is a glutton for punishment. She truly loves this man unlike the Soft Cell version where the song ends with him just essentially leaving the women to be.

The beats although the same snapping “Duhn- Duhn” the Soft Cells version is more slow and given a manlier vibe. The Pussy Cat Dolls version on the other hand is much more in your face beat faster, more predominate. In the 1980’s this song was a chart topper, extremely popular. The Pussy Cat Dolls cover although also popular didn’t make it’s way to the same standard as the cover before. I believe this to be because it was aiming at a different audience, unlike Soft Cells which was more for a general popular. Pussy Cat Dolls were aiming again at independent modern day feminist with their music and the songs they chose to perform and record.

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One thought on “Cover Song Analysis “Tainted Love”

  1. Great example of a cover of a cover! And I think you make a great case for the implications of switching genders in the Pussy Cat Dolls’ version. A few points I’d add about Soft Cells’, though– first, the full single for the Soft Cell version also included the “Where Did Our Love Go” coda (which means PCD covered Soft Cell directly, not the original). Second, I don’t think we can necessarily presume what gender either performer is singing ABOUT– it’s left ambiguous, and in the Soft Cell video, the homoerotic subtexts are pretty glaring. Which actually makes the comparison between these two songs even more interesting.

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