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Publication Date

Fall 2013




Cover versions form a loose but identifiable category of tracks and performances. We distinguish four kinds of covers and argue that they mark important differences in the modes of evaluation which are possible or appropriate for each: mimic covers, which aim merely to echo the canonical track; rendition covers, which change the sound of the canonical track; transformative covers, which diverge so much as to instantiate a distinct, albeit derivative song; and referential covers, which not only instantiate a distinct song, but for which the new song is in part about the original song. In order to allow for the very possibility of transformative and referential covers, we argue that a cover is characterized by relation to a canonical track rather than merely by being a new instance of the a song that had been recorded previously.


This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: MAGNUS, C., MAGNUS, P.D. and MAG UIDHIR, C. (2013), Judging Covers. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 71: 361–370. doi: 10.1111/jaac.12034, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

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