Who Makes Those Top 40 Piano Covers You Hear on American Airlines? We Found Out

OneRepublic and Blink-182 meet Liberace in the Schmaltzy Skies.

The tails on American's new planes look like piano keys. Coincidence? <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/aero_icarus/9429798188/in/photolist-7EBMnV-pe6GXM-4NiQf9-eceQ4m-eeeYuC-7avRuN-4ZjsBS-4Mbg3K-4NiPdh-panHDa-4NiPcN-4NiQes-bpVwYk-bnNA62-4WaSHP-fnhbto-kD6KSF-6VEsQb-bpVx18-2bRvB-aBaJ9T-9dsrhp-fKCstM-5QFp1E-6jbTLb-975ayV-4MK1R-5dGr1g-eefoeh-cirm8A-dMCAFd-ee94vt-eeePBw-ee94Ht-ee96FP-ee9424-ee96s8-ee98Ki-85FMr1-4NiPr3-4NiQdb-fKkSiw-7zGJC7-gHmBzM-6Aou9o-dMCAEy-7zD1ox-7zCZr4-j3Du6U-7zGHRf">Aero Icarus</a>/Flickr


If you’ve been on an American Airlines flight in the last few years, you may have noticed that the airline pipes in piano renditions of popular songs pre-takeoff and post-landing. “We typically offer slower piano music during the boarding process and more upbeat piano music upon arrival,” notes an airline spokesman. Interestingly, American is one of the few domestic airlines that play any music at all—much less these somewhat Muzak-y offerings.

Most of these covers were produced by a Minneapolis-based group called the Piano Tribute Players. According to their group’s website, they are “a diverse group of talented musicians devoted to transforming the music of rock and pop’s biggest acts of the past and present into unique piano arrangements.” To say that they are prolific would be an understatement: The Players have produced hundreds of tribute albums, spanning all eras and genres. It is, without doubt, the only group that has covered both Lil’ Wayne and the soundtrack to “Rent.”

It turns out that their covers, which run the gamut of Top 40 past and present, are the subject of contentious and often snarky debate among some of the airline’s regular passengers—there is a long thread devoted to the subject on FlyerTalk, a popular travel site. Here are a few of their thoughts, along with some tracks that have been in heavy rotation on American flights recently.

“The AA piano rips are dreadful. The worst one, from a mire of inadequacy, is OneRepublic’s ‘If I Lose Myself,’ truly horrific and I simply can’t believe the lead singer would have authorized his work to be massacred in this fashion.” —corporate-wage-slave

“I did not enjoy hearing “Blurred Lines,” by Robin Thicke. “What a crappy song to choose!” —FriendlySkies

“I really despise the music. Classical would be much nicer. The piano covers are actually very depressing.” —jmc1K

“Both times deplaning I heard “Lights” by Ellie Goulding. Could not figure out why, but it was a nice soothing touch after a long flight.” —dadaluma83

“I like the music…Guess I’m in the minority.” —jaimelannister

OneRepublic and Blink-182 did not respond to my requests for comment.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate