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“Life is a Highway”

Posted by purplemary54 on March 20, 2016

The President’s in Cuba, we’ve got the moral equivalent of Adolph Hitler running for the GOP nomination, and there’s baby bald eagles hatching in D.C.  I’ve got plans this week with BFF and one of our dearest friends from high school (who’s in town from Arizona).  I’m so far behind on my blog reading I can’t see the top of my email inbox list anymore, and I’ve got an assignment due by Friday.  What am I obsessing about?  This song.

This is an undeniably great song.  I don’t know what makes it great, but my current theory is that is has something to do with Tom Cochrane himself.  He was a one-hit wonder with “Life is a Highway” (two hits, if you count his cult classic “Lunatic Fringe” that he recorded with Red Rider in the 80s).  It’s hard to pin down, though.  He’s not a great looking or especially charismatic dude.  The performance is terrific, but I’ve heard performances just as good or better.  The song is catchy, albeit kind of illogical (most songs are, of course).  Two and two should be four, but really, it’s adding up to something like a hundred and twelve.  And because this song is so good, you would think it would be utterly impossible to ruin it.

Hence my obsession.  I was at the mall last Friday–time for my regular appointment with my hairstylist, Frank–and “Life is a Highway” came on over the PA system.  Normally, this would be cause for celebration in my little world.  Well it would have been, if not for the Disney movie Cars and the country group Rascal Flatts.  See, they covered this song for the soundtrack to the movie.  And they killed it.  Not in the sense that they did a really good job covering it.  In the sense that they took a great song and made a really, really, really bad version of it.

I won’t directly include it here; I can’t even bear to listen to it.  (Here’s the link if you want to subject yourself to the torture.)  But like whatever it is that makes the original so great, I cannot for the life of me pin down what’s wrong with the Rascal Flatts version.  (I feel it’s necessary to note here that I have nothing against Rascal Flatts; I really like a couple of their songs, and the rest I am indifferent to.)  It is almost note for note exactly the same as Tom Cochrane’s version.  What many people would call a perfect cover.  But it’s just wrong somehow.  It’s like they went into the studio, played the song to everyone, and then the producer said, “Okay, let’s do exactly the same thing, except be sure to suck all the life, heart, and soul out of it.”  It’s just dead.

I’m sure there are many out there that have a different opinion.  Most of these people were probably exposed to the Rascal Flatts version due to repeated viewings of Cars at the behest of their small children.  A few are probably just ignorant rubes who wouldn’t know good music if it came up and bit them on the ass.  Either way, I pity them.

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