About Genderswap.fm

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Andrea Lawlor replies in an email “Whoa this is THE COOLEST thing I have EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. Thank you! Wow!”

What’s this site for?

Occasionally, people make music, and then wildly different people cover that music with wildly different sounds and results. I like when this happens. I especially like when it happens without changing the pronouns of the original piece. “Look into his angel eyes…” hits differently when it comes from a sparsely accompanied, gravelly male voice, instead of, ah, ABBA. Covers are neat!

I was first inspired by Andrea Lawlor’s Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl:

Some covers deliver the age-old simple pleasures of drag—knowledge, the opportunity to investigate the simulacra and make comparisons, that obscure little frisson of dissonance. Take Joan Baez singing “Virgil Kane is my name… like my father before me, I’m a working man” (which, of course, is originally from The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down)” or Cait O’Riordan from the Pogues crooning, “My name is Jock Stewart, I’m a canny gun man” (from the traditional “I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day”). Joan Baez’s contralto can, if you squint your ears, pass as a farm-boy tenor; Cait O’Riordan’s chalky delivery might be that of a rich ponce.

After finishing the book, I made a big Spotify playlist for covers. Over time, the playlist got too unwieldy to manage, so I made this site. It’s much nicer.

What makes a gender-swapped cover? How do I label songs “correctly”?

For most things it should be obvious. But if you find yourself asking:

  • What if there are performers of mixed genders?
  • What if one cover is instrumental?
  • What if a performer is trans?
  • What if a performer is non-human (cat, whale, etc.)?
  • How can we really know a performer’s gender?

I encourage you to make it up. Because gender is kinda made up, too, and this is just a silly site I built. If it feels good, do it.

How do you tag covers?

Tags like “faster”, “key change”, and “sadder” come from the Spotify Audio Features API. Spotify runs an automated analysis on every track, and then different fields like “valence” get returned with a number. I ask the computer to compare numbers from two tracks, and voilà! A tag is born. Explore all tags on the homepage.

Can I submit tracks that aren’t on Spotify?

Unfortunately, no. Because I rely on the Spotify API to search tracks and store audio feature data, anything outside of Spotify’s library can’t be added to the site. There won’t be any Joanna Newsom covers here soon, alas.

Can I give you money?

If you’d like! I do pay out of my own pocket for hosting, database storage, fonts, and more. If you enjoy this resource and want to chip in toward my costs, you can send me some dollars via Kofi.