I’ve been meaning to post on the question since the conversation here in which I defended the idea that a cover should play off of or relate to the original in some way.
Thinking about it a little more, I’m really not sure, what the ideal relationship should be between a cover and the original — or, more specifically, I’m sure there are a variety of models for a good cover. I’m not sure, for example, how I would describe the relationship between the Flying Lizards’ excellent cover of “Money” (a song that has inspired a large number of covers because the sarcasm in the original lends itself to creative interpretations).
I stand by my position, however, that one of the most common ways for a cover to fail to be good is to lack a clear concept of what the song means and how the song should be performed. Too many covers feel clever, but like they’re a stretch. To me it can feel like reading bad genre fiction in which the author relies on genre tropes to substitute for original world building. It can feel coherent at first glance, but on greater examination falls apart. For that reason, I am inclined to give covers extra scrutiny for signs of conceptual laziness.
That still feels like a first pass answer to the question about how covers should relate to the original, and I am still mulling it over.