Rap’s Resident Martian Gets The Alien Ant Farm Treatment

Al Shipley | November 7, 2008 11:00 am

As I noted when I proclaimed him pop music’s new Prince of Darkness, Lil Wayne has been doing everything possible in the past couple years to act like a rock star. He plays guitar (badly); he got a lip piercing; he joins Fall Out Boy and Kid Rock onstage at awards shows. But while the rock charts are just about the only singles charts his collaboration with Kevin Rudolf, “Let It Rock,” haven’t raced up, Wayne has finally seeped into Billboard’s Hot Modern Rock Tracks–as a songwriter. That’s because the Tennessee band Framing Hanley has recorded a cover of “Lollipop,” Wayne’s No. 1 single from Tha Carter III, and it’s currently at No. 37 in its second week there.

The video, which (spoiler alert!) drags on for two minutes of dialogue before the song even starts, below:

When I first heard the song several weeks ago, I immediately laughed at its ridiculous brooding arrangement. But my wife, who’s less familiar with the works of Dwayne Carter, was confused by my reaction; “Lollipop” sounded like just another crappy alt-rock song to her, and I can understand why. Even the lyrics, as sung by Framing Hanley, don’t sound that out of place, given the cock-rock resurgence led on those same stations by the likes of Buckcherry’s “Too Drunk To Fuck” and Hinder’s “Use Me.” The band’s arrangement conveniently skips past the many N-words in the second verse, although there’s just no smoothing over refrains like “shawty wanna hump, you know I love to touch your lovely lady lumps.” If “Lollipop” ends up being Framing Hanley’s first major hit, I’m willing to bet it’ll also be the band’s last.

There’s a long history of alt-rockers recording covers of pop hits; some have tongue in cheek, and others have a genuine affection for the song. Most have a mix of both. In recent years, it’s become something of a cottage industry for indie rockers to light up filesharing networks with tossed-off renditions of “Since U Been Gone” or “…Baby One More Time.” But the history of bands actually charting on rock radio with familiar covers is much spottier, and the source material is usually limited to revered ’80s hits–Alien Ant Farm’s version of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” the Ataris’ take on Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer,” Orgy’s massacre of New Order’s “Blue Monday.” (And don’t forget the many covers to come out of the ’90s ska boom, most notably Save Ferris’ “Come On Eileen.”) There’s a whole subgenre out there of ironically mellow gangsta rap covers, but only Dynamite Hack’s “Boyz In The Hood” was a genuine radio hit.

The common denominator between all of those songs, you may notice, is that the covers are the only hits the bands in question ever had. And if there’s one thing less dignified than being a one-hit-wonder, it’s being a one-hit wonder whose one hit was a cover; no one cares about the other songs that your band actually wrote, and you’re getting substantially less in royalties than you would if you had a songwriting credit. Occasionally, an established band releases a cover as a single, like Disturbed’s fairly awesome version of Genesis’ “Land Of Confusion” or Fall Out Boy’s fairly lame recording of “Beat It.” But Marilyn Manson may be the only contemporary rock artist whose long line of radio hits kicked off with a cover. And after breaking through with “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This),” Manson continued to go back to the well of ’80s goth karaoke throughout his career, releasing his versions of “Tainted Love” and “Personal Jesus.”

The fact that Lil Wayne’s track topped the chart mere months before Framing Hanley’s cover, not way back in 1985, makes “Lollipop” kind of an anomaly. It doesn’t trigger nostalgia for the halcyon days of MTV, it’s just a goofy reminder of a song that’s still stuck in our heads from hearing it all summer. “Lollipop” is technically Framing Hanley’s second single, but its first, the dour “Hear Me Now,” wasn’t much of a hit. And if their Weezy cover does blow up, it will probably give the band enough of an afterglow to get a minor follow-up hit, but after that the band’s future career prospects will be slim to none. Like Alien Ant Farm or the Ataris, they’ll be known forever for a cover they probably worked up one day in soundcheck as a joke, and then made the mistake of letting their A&R man hear and get excited about. So here’s hoping Framing Hanley enjoy the next few months of fleeting fame, and maybe do something splashy like get Wayne to perform the song with them on TV, to make the most of it.

[Pic via WDKX]