There is something gutsy about a cover. You are using someone else's thoughts and art as the foundation for your own. Let's be honest: it's copying. There's a repackage (hopefully), and you need to add a little something of your own, sure. But at the most basic level, you are borrowing someone's pride and joy. There's a line to walk.
While Cyrus has better pipes than I expected, and I think country is more in her wheelhouse than pop, the problem I have with this cover is that she does not walk that line. Its composition and cadence are almost identical to Dolly Parton's. And Cyrus lacks the depth and sadness of Dolly Parton's rendition. It's flat.
While a surprising number of artists have covered "Jolene" at one point or another, from Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling to The White Stripes, they at least had the good sense to take the song and made it their own. Cyrus doesn't, really. Hers is way too close to the original, leaving us to ask, "What did you add?"
And there's the added irony that, with her auburn hair and eyes of green, and Miley swinging around naked on a wrecking ball after covering a song about a home wrecker, that Miley Cyrus basically is Jolene. After you rub your crotch on Robin Thicke, it's hard for us to be all that worried about some other woman stealing your man. It's surprisingly easy for us to be worried about you stealing someone else's man.
But this criticism isn't entirely fair. After thinking about covers for the past couple weeks, I've realized that a lot of what I do on this blog is basically the same thing. Rarely any of the ideas on frugality or financial independence on the blog are truly original. Most are borrowed (liberally) from somewhere else. Roughly half of my posts are blatant covers of NPR stories, with a few more stolen from Behavioral Economics 101. Sure, I repackage them a bit, and add enough of my thoughts to at least claim the writing is my own. But it's not the same thing as coming up with truly original concepts.
And that's okay. I don't need to reject the idea of writing about early retirement just because I first heard about it from Mr. Money Mustache. And I can make peace with the fact that a lot of my writing is a take on someone else's. So long as you give credit, being first doesn't matter all that much, I figure, when it comes to ideas, or songs for that matter. Better to try to make the writing interesting, or at least honest. So if I can write about basic economics concepts just because the ideas are new to me, then I guess Miley can sing "Jolene". She at least made "Party in the USA". When you give that to the world, I figure you get a pass.