On their album Classic, the Living Legends define classic as something that is "generally recognized as excellent or authoritative, defying time, criticism and fashion" and something "that stays cool no matter how old it gets." If a thing really is classic, it does not need to be remixed, revamped, redone, or covered. That's the point. It fails the timeless classic test if it is improvable. Tell that to Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, who "produced" covers of a bunch of Sergio Mendes classics.
'Timeless' is a popular album because it sounds just like a Black Eyed Peas album. You will like it if you like Black Eyed Peas music. Because the Black Eyed Peas make catchy, danceable, fun pop and occasionally interesting hip-hop, this album is like that. But it is not Sergio Mendes anymore. People who really liked Sergio Mendes as he was are going to be sad that every track gets Pead on by Will.i.am and his special guests.
It takes a significant ego to attempt to upgrade a classic; someone has to think, I could do better than that. However, I have rarely heard a cover that is better than what it is based on. Madonna's cover of 'Bye Bye Ms. American Pie' was sickening compared to Don McLean's; Britney Spears failed at Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll" and now Incubus has defiled Big Pun's "Still Not A Player" (they actually get some of the lyrics wrong). That's only in other genres; hip-hop is the worst offender, with everyone and their momma "sampling" classic tracks, writing booty shake lyrics over it, then reselling it to a musically ignorant generation.
The thing about classic music is that it also communicates information about history; for instance, Sergio Mendes was most popular during the sixties, when people needed something chill to listen to after a long day protesting. His music was popular when international pop first began to sell in the U.S. and his songs are trademarks of that time period. In fact, Mendes might be the biggest Brazillian musician in the U.S. ever; in 1968, Sergio Mendes's singles rivaled the Beatles'. So when a someone like Will.i.am tries to cover music with that magnitude of acclaim, it begs the question, just who does he think he is? Thankfully, there is a solution to the cycle of wrecked and resold classic music: don't buy it. Learn about the original artists, the impact they had in their time, and appreciate the true value of all the beats Sean Combs wasn't creative enough to make himself.
I don't meant to put all covers on blast. The Living Legends also say "Just because it's classic don't mean it ain't brand new." I agree; I am not arguing that genres shouldn't intermingle or that collaborations suck or that every cover is a tragedy. On the contrary, some work out well. For instance, Dangermouse's Grey Album was surprising and Wyclef is an artist who tends to sample respectfully. But that is the difference: respectful, honorary sampling that leaves the classic much the same or somehow makes it cooler, versus a musical takeover. Or worse, a tribute album meant to exploit two fan bases by joining artists. Sadly, Timeless falls into one of the latter categories. So if you want a new BEP album, here's one. And that loungy, melodic background music is this spectacular Brazillian post-bossa Samba artist named Sergio Mendes who has about forty albums you should also check out.