Why are music covers and movie remakes so popular? Assuming you can manage to get it out there with all the copyright licensing issues, its much more likely for a new take on an old success to become rapidly popular, so its a much safer investment. The population is already sensitized to the material. If you have talent and can “make it your own” in an interesting and possibly more compelling way (to a different demographic maybe) than the original you may even rewrite history in people’s minds, many music covers are widely considered to be original work: “You Really Got Me” which was Van Halen’s first single from their meteoric debut album was really a hit for the Kinks back in the 60s. We’ve probably all heard it on an oldies radio show but only our parents were there when it first came out.
This re-imagining of musical history can lead to comical situations: the 80’s all stars were “performing” recently at an ultimate tournament and Bobby Brown’s 80s hit “My Prerogative” came on the ghetto blaster. An adorable girl (yes she’s in the photo) squealed: “Omg, somebody already covered Britney Spears?!?!”
If you’re interested the YouTube video which was the key viral vector for the Hey Ya cover, the original is no longer there, presumably due to copyright violation. Intellectual property law has yet to adapt to the rip, mix and burn, viral meme sharing culture, but catch this copy here while you can: