The Mind Tricks behind Eli Lieb’s Cover of Miley Cyrus

It happened again. On Friday Eli Lieb posted a video cover of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball. By Monday it had been viewed almost 500,000 times and Eli had gained over 100,000 YouTube subscribers and 30,000+ Twitter followers.

It’s another case of an unknown artist gaining huge online success by covering a popular song. Recently we saw the rise of Karmin thanks to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way (it now has well past 3 million views) and numerous other online sensations.

But why do cover videos work so well?

Look at the Video Eli Lieb posted. It’s just him in front of a white background playing a dulcimer. A dulcimer? Granted, he’s a great singer and the video/audio quality is professional, but honestly, is there really anything special here? Why are people drawn to this?

Because cover videos satisfy two of our basic human needs.

Best-selling self-improvement guru Tony Robbins points out that we all have six basic human needs: Significance, Connection/Love, Growth, Contribution, Certainty, and Uncertainty. Cover videos satisfy two of those needs – Certainty and Uncertainty. Say what?

How can we have two seemingly opposing needs?

Think of certainty as stability. Humans like to be able to count on things. It’s in our DNA. We need to count on the spring coming again and crops growing. We need stable relationships. We don’t want a surprise bill from the IRS. We need to feel safe and secure; otherwise we’ll go insane with worry and fear.

So in terms of our cover video, we want a song we know. We want something we’ve heard before and are familiar with. But…

That’s boring. We also desire uncertainty. We want some variety in our life — some of us more than others. Someone who walks a tightrope over the Grand Canyon is looking for more variety in their life than I am. But at the same time, I don’t want to stay locked in my house. I need some adventure and to feel alive.

So in our cover video, the different version of the song keeps us interested. We know the words and melody, but he mixes it up and puts a new spin on it.

Plus there’s the anticipation. Will the song be any good? Will he be able to hit the note? Outwardly we’re rooting for Eli, but inside we’re secretly hoping for a train wreck. But in the end, Eli prevails and we cheer. It’s a roller coaster of emotion and we thrive on it. We crave variety. Otherwise we’d all own one album and listen to it everyday for the rest of our lives!


What do you think of cover videos? Have you made one you’re proud of? Show us.


56 Flares Twitter 54 Facebook 2 Google+ 0 56 Flares ×