Cover song: Khan vs. Kanye

Cover Song Kanye vs. Khan
By Milagros Zapata

In today’s music there are a lot of artists who use, borrow, sample seasoned songs. However what may be just a sample or borrowing may be what Michael Coyle “hijacking”. He explains that hijacking is when one artist remakes an existing song while the original song is still charting. This then not only takes takes lime light away from the artist with the original piece but also affects him/her in a financial way. A cover song according to Coyle first has to have historical distance from the original and the artist covering the original song must have an obvious difference which derives from adding his/her personal flare to the song .
Chaka khan was born Yvette Marie Stevens in the cold city of Chicago. Her musical career started in the 70’s and has influenced many artists today. Since then she has won Grammies, soul train awards and has made it to the Soul Music Hall of fame. She has had many other achievements but those were some just to name a few. Today she is well known as a Diva and the Queen of funk. Through the Fire (one of her popular songs) was written by David Foster who is also the producer, Tom Keane and Cynthia Weil , recorded in 1984 under the Warner Brothers label and released in 1985. It came to be number sixty song in the U.S and number 15 on the R&B charts.
Kanye West was originally a producer from Chicago who no one really knew about. He produced most of Jay-Z’s The Blue Print album along with songs for many other rap artists out at the time. One tragic night on october 23 2002 while driving Kanye collided straight on into another car who had cut him off which put him in a near death experience. He was hospitalized for a while and had his mouth wired shut due to a broken jaw. Luckily for him this was a turning point in his life that inspired the song through the wire and would lead to the launch of his rap career. That November after his accident he recorded Through the Wire and the song was released in September 2003 under the label of Roc- A-Fella and Def Jam and of coarse was produced by Kanye himself. The acknowledged writers for this song besides Kanye West is the same three writers responsible for Chaka Khan’s Through the fire.
Like Coyle used different examples to clarify his definition of cover songs vs. hijacking I chose to speak upon Kanye West’s song “Through the wire ” which i believe is a cover song to Chaka Khan’s song “through the Fire” . Although Kanye doesn’t use all of the words form Through the Fire he does use the song’s chorus and ends his song with the same lyrics:
“Through the fire, to the limit to the wall
For a chance to be with you I’d gladly risk it all
Through the fire through whatever ,come what may
For a chance at loving you id take it all the way
Right down to the wire
Even through the fire”
” to the wire , to the limit
Through the fire, through what ever (repeats)”

These lyrics in Chaka’s song is in reference to a man that she is in love with. She wants to be with this man and in order to do so she’ll go through great lengths because she feels its worth it . To Kanye these same lyrics meant the same to him but instead of referring to a significant other he referred it to his dreams which was his musical career and status in the industry . The to the wire part of the song was literal for him because he recorded the song while his mouth was still wired shut that’s why he titled the cover Through the Wire to tell his story of what he went through due to the accident what he learned from it.
Listening to both songs a few times I noticed that Kanye’s version uses Through the Fire’ s rhythm and melody as a platform form his song. He spreads up the tempo and uses different instruments such as base guitar,conga drums and snare drums as well. Chaka’s Through the Fire uses instruments like the piano, keyboard and base drum. Further more Kanye alters the chorus by using auto-tune to change the pitch in which the original song is sung in, I like to call it the chipmunk voice.
In conclusion are alike in many ways yet different due to each artists own personal experiences. They where released almost 20 years apart from each other. Each of the artists got there time to shine equally and make there royals from their songs. Kanye payed homage to Chaka which she accepted with arms wide open and all of this to me makes Kanye’s song a cover.

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2 thoughts on “Cover song: Khan vs. Kanye

  1. This is such a rich example! In some cases, I think sampled songs might not relate to their source material in the same way that covers do. But here, you make a very strong case for West’s rendition being a cover with strong ties to the original composition. Nicely argued!

  2. Dear Milagros, I agree with you, I think the fact that these two artist’s were or are very popular for their time says a lot about the music of that specific time period. Kanye only takes an excerpt from the original song and uses it in his but it is significant lyrics that makes the most sense to him and the audience he is attempting to reach. Great analysis.

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