How do you interpret rock and pop songs on piano?

When you sit down at the piano to play a pop or rock song, how do you decide how to play it? What approach do you use?

Do you play it exactly like the recording?
Do you think of the lyrics as you play?
Do you completely disregard the lyrics and treat it as a pure instrumental?
Do you try to stay true to the original while “doing your own thing?
Do you “jazz it up” in anyway you like?
Do you take an improvised solo?
Do you add a long intro that takes the song in an entirely new direction?
Do you stay in the same style as the original?
Do you play it in your favorite genre of music?
Do you add jazz chords?
Do you simplify the musical texture?
Do you take a virtuosic approach?
Do you show off your pianistic technique?
Do you “serve the song?”
Do you play the song in the original key or transpose it?
Do you play from the heart and trust that something will come through?
Do you pre-plan the arrangement or “wing it?”
Do you imitate a guitar or other instrument?
Do you play something you know the audience will enjoy?
Do you challenge yourself to play it in a way you’ve never explored before?

I asked myself some of these questions as I sat down to play The Beatles’ classic ballad “Yesterday.” Here’s what I came up with:

Yesterday: Complete Beatles Piano #5

Let us know your own thoughts on interpreting rock and pop sings, in the comments below. Thanks!

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