Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was originally intended to be sung by a male performer. Having a woman perform it totally changed the entire meaning of the song, and was, all in all, a pretty smart move.
On the other hand, the Beach Boys covering the Phil Spector-written “I Can Hear Music” was a decision so mind-bogglingly incomprehensible and confusing that I still don’t understand it.
There’s a certain genre of songs that are common to fifties/sixties girl groups, the song about sex told from the female perspective. The most typical is “Will you still love me tomorrow?” which is a tinpan alley song about the fear of sex and abandonment. The female perspective on sex is a lot more anxious, since the female gender’s got a lot more to lose.
“I Can Hear Music” was a song written for Ronnie Spector in 1966 about a woman losing her virginity. The first line is “this is how I dreamed it would be.” The song makes zero sense when sung by a male vocalist. A woman sounds sweet and innocent, whereas a guy singing the same thing sounds, frankly, like a total dork, the kind that weeps after sex.
What’s more, there’s nobody with a voice like Ronnie Spector in pop music: her voice was distinctive and overpowered what was around it. She was the last of the generation of pop music singers where their voices were bigger. For instance, I couldn’t – even on a bet – recognize the difference between, say, Kylie Minogue and Madonna just by how they sound. Like a Frank Zappa song, even if you never heard it before, you can always tell if it’s Ronnie Spector.
So imagine hearing the same song emerging from the Prozac throat of a queefy, weedy white boy dweeb like Carl Wilson. The song was a girl-group pop song, and the Beach Boys covering it is like hearing Bobby Brown do the Rolling Stones. What's more...and this is something that definitely requires a lot of context...as surprising as it must be to the modern perspective, the Ronettes were the "tough girls" of rock, the Joan Jett of their time. Even in the sixties, the Beach Boys weren't exactly the Rolling Stones. They were something you could listen to with your grandmother.
Here’s what I find astonishing: I’ve seen people that only know the Beach Boys version! The most inexplicable cover ever is one that a great many people don’t even know it’s a cover.
Incidentally, I didn't really understand a lot of things about women and their behavior until I understood something: the fundamental anxiety about sex. There's an association in the minds of a lot of women between sex and fear. This is why women like predatory vampires, for instance: women are often sexually fascinated by things they're afraid of. This is also why many romance novels feature dark, sexually aggressive and untrustworthy giggolo type.