Led Zeppelin’s rendition of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” was featured on their legendary 1969 debut album. More recently, a character we all grew up regarding as Hannah Montana has taken on the song again. Now, I realize that the very second a Led Zeppelin fan hears that Miley Cyrus has attempted to live up to the vocal complexity of Robert Plant, they will discredit any further elaboration or explanation.  As a fan of both Led Zeppelin and Miley Cyrus, I do not approve of such hardheaded, preconceived notions. I am interested in knowing how people would respond if they heard Miley’s track with no knowledge of who it was singing—sort of a musical Coca-Cola and Pepsi challenge. 

Unfortunately time has prevented me from pursuing this experiment. I listened to her version on Soundcloud time and time again, back-to-back with Led Zeppelin’s version, of which hers was clearly based, prior to choosing a final position. Every time I clicked replay on Miley’s new track I fell more deeply in love with her ability to wail and deliver the song in a way that moved me just the same as the Led Zeppelin version. Her voice is packed with so much power that the first time I heard the track, chills ran up my spine.

First of all, Led Zeppelin did not write the track. Therefore, nobody can claim that ‘It was Led Zeppelin’s song, she has no right to cover it.’ Led Zeppelin may have been the first to truly gain recognition for their version, but the song was originally released on Joan Baez’s album Joan Baez in Concert, Part 1 in 1962 and written by folk singer Anne Bredon, according to RollingStone.com. This alone proves that artists can inspire other artists to take an artistic vision and recreate it in a completely different way.

Miley never claims to be attempting to live up to the rock legends’ song, nor did she imply she would like to outdo their version. Instead, her recent fascination with covering old rock legends’ classic songs appears to be a mere attempt to explore a variety of outlets of expression as a young artist. This fact is both simple and crucial, as it puts in plain terms what she is—a young artist—and like the many young musical artists I have come across in my own experience, she sometimes covers songs that she likes. Secondly, I would like to recognize Miley’s delivery as she sings with an admirable control over her voice. Her introduction is as sweet and enticing as any, but 59 seconds in, her voice explodes and the girl belts, rocking harder than we have ever heard her voice in any other songs released to the public. She mirrors many of the techniques present in the Led Zeppelin version, yet she does so as a tribute to the band. Her cover is nothing more than a statement of recognition of the great power this song has had over her. Her cover is simply an attempt as an artist to experience expression in a way that her musical idols have. Despite any rock ’n’ roll diehard’s first interpretation to a statement as shocking as, ‘Miley Cyrus covered a Led Zeppelin song,’ I deem it necessary that you at least try to listen to her version before passing judgment. I think any person honestly giving credit where credit is deserved would give Miley a good review, recognizing the capacity of her vocals and the passion evidently fueling her belting voice. Another criticism I have heard amongst my friends is that, “That song does not even sound like Miley. It does not sound like anything she has ever sang.” My point exactly. The girl is an artist­—from her release of what she defines as “dirty south hip-hop” album “Bangerz”, to her soulful rendition of Dolly Parton’s  “Jolene,” followed by her more recent cover of The Beatles’ classic “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” Miley can rise and succeed at any musical challenge thrown her way. Her vocals are both on-point and multidimensional. Unlike many modern pop artists, she actually has a personal artistic vision and the cojones to follow through with those ideas. Perhaps to you, Miley’s version does not sound like Led Zeppelin’s, but that is what makes it hers. That is what makes it art. She is singing an old classic through her own interpretation. I think that Miley’s bravery is commendable. Despite the obvious fact that she would receive just as much negative feedback as positive (if not more) over her post of this cover, Miley proceeded to post the song, hers similarly titled “Baby, I’m Gonna Leave You.” She follows through on her personal goals and despite the negativity of the critics, I congratulate her as I find her to be a gutsy and gifted inspiration.

 

Arline Votruba can be contacted at avotruba@keene-equinox.com