Sarah Cothran’s first YouTube cover song was a collaboration with her sister. On 21 October 2018, Sarah and her elder sister Michaila posted a cover of Avenged Sevenfold’s Dear God. The success of the video (over 4.1M views at present) encouraged Sarah to keep recording and posting covers. A number of her early uploads went viral.
Her covers of Ava Max (Sweet But Psycho, 1.9M views at present), Taylor Swift (Love Story, 8.1M views) and Mother Mother (Burning Pile, 3M views) were particularly successful. Everything changed when she uploaded her cover of Matt Maltese’s As The World Caves In. Driven by the massive popularity of a short video of the song on TikTok, it exploded.
The extraordinary interest in Sarah Cothran’s May 2021 cover of As The World Caves In caused a significant bump in the sales of the 2017 original. In January 2023, the Matt Maltese single was certified Silver in the UK (for selling 200 000 units). The Matt Maltese video now has an impressive 9.7M views on YouTube. The Sarah Cothran cover has 114M views and the single has been certified gold in the U.S! Compared to the original, Cochran’s version is more dramatic, more pop, and more melancholic.
Maltese’s original is a droll apocalyptic lounge ballad influenced by Leonard Cohen. The song was prompted by Theresa May’s support for the UK Trident nuclear program, the election of Donald Trump, and Britain’s EU referendum. In the sardonic song, Maltese posits a romantic fling between Trump and May on the last night before nuclear mayhem obliterates the planet. It was first released as a single in 2017, then became the highlight of Maltese’s critically acclaimed LP Bad Contestant (2018).
“Hopefully it comes across romantic, sexy, but also sinister and stupid,” Maltese said of As The World Caves In 2017. Reviewing Maltese’s debut album, NME describes him as a “true original” with “staggering abilities as a lyricist” and calls the album “stunning”.
While Maltese’s As the World Caves In is more self-aware and more in control of the black humour at the core of the song, it has been eclipsed in popularity by Sarah Cothran’s epic, soaring reading with it’s auto-tuned vocals. Given current efforts to control TikTok in the West, it is interesting that the phenomenal listenership for Cochran’s cover is underpinned by nearly 400M TikTok shares and that the song broke big on TikTok before there was a spike on other social media channels.
In the wake of her success with As The World Caves In, Mississippi-raised, Nashville-based Cothran has released a single (Baby Why, 2022,1M sales in 10 days) and an EP “I hope you’re happy” (2022). The songs are originals composed by Cothran, either alone or with collaborators. She also featured on select dates of Alec Benjamin’s autumn tour.
Speaking of her path to social media acclaim as a young musician, Cothran has said, “Social media and TikTok opened up so many opportunities and doors. For me, even posting a video on TikTok was scary since it was something vulnerable. Don’t be scared or shy, keep pushing and it will work out.” Here is the third, most recent video, from her EP “i hope you’re happy”. Cothran has described it as her personal favourite on the EP.