Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak was universally derided upon its 2008 release. Following three critically-acclaimed rap albums, a heart-on-sleeve pop album by a guy who clearly could barely carry a tune proved dead on arrival. The fact that he masked his vocal deficiencies with Auto-Tune at the very height of the anti-Auto-Tune fervor made 808s a particularly easy target.
Three years later, though, people look back on the album more fondly. 808s clearly played a role in shaping West’s undisputed masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, so even the holdouts reluctantly credit the album as a stepping stone to greatness. More generous types recognize, however belatedly, that West perversely used Auto-Tune to make his music more human, not less.
One fact has remained consistent, though, and that is that this album lends itself to covers better than any other Kanye album. The reason is clear – covering a pop song is much easier than covering a hip-hop song. The preponderance of “Love Lockdown”s alone could keep a cover blog going for weeks. Below, then, we present covers of every song off 808s and Heartbreak. No other Kanye West album would be remotely feasible – where the “New Workout Plan” covers at? – but this one proved a cinch. Auto-Tune not included.
1. Mobius Band – Say You Will
Mobius Band’s second free Valentine’s Day EP included covers of the Everly Brothers, Tom Petty, Townes Van Zandt, and…Kanye West. It holds true to the synthed-out spirit of the original, taking it in an indie electropop direction. Things get weirder as the song progresses.
2. Blänk – Welcome to Heartbreak
The first look at Swedish production duo Blänk’s upcoming debut album, “Welcome to Heartbreak” combines the hip-hop swagger of the original with spacey electronics and a much more exciting beat. Brace yourself for the hair-metal guitar solo.
3. The Fray – Heartless
The biggest name of this set, the Fray sound exactly as you’d expect: incredibly emotional with extra piano. In other words, kind of like Coldplay. When the style and the song blend so flawlessly though, a classic cover emerges.
4. Vancans – Amazing
Vancans submitted this great electro-rock cover back in November, but at the time the best we could do was include it in a Submissions Roundup. Now it’s time for an encore appearance. It straddles the lines between indie and pop, soul and electro beautifully.
5. Janina Gavankar – Love Lockdown
The twisted xylophone, the brushed drums, the cascading vocal lines. It all amounts to a slow, building churn that threatens to burst on several occasions, but always retreats just at the moment of explosion. The video of Gavankar ricocheting off the walls of an enclosed stone cavern proves an apt metaphor.
6. The Suzan – Paranoid
Japanese quartet the Suzan lend their thick accents and garage-pop swagger to the fourth – and least successful – 808s single. Thudding bass and congas provide all the backing necessary.
7. Boomtap – RoboCop
This cover just surfaced in February, proving again the longevity of this album. The song makes the transition to acoustic guitars and bells so smoothly, you might fault it for sounding too much like the original. Until you remember the original didn’t sound like a couple hippies inviting a Moog synth into their drum circle.
8. Jodi King – Street Lights
If the whole hip-hop thing falls through, West may have a future as a songwriter for Kelly Clarkson types. This highly-polished ballad sounds like a Lite FM hit for preteens and soccer moms alike.
9. Dillon – Bad News
The least-covered song of the bunch, “Bad News” gets stripped down here with acoustic picking, stately piano chords, and fluttery singing. The vocal inflections sound like Tegan or Sara, but the angst is all Kanye.
10. Neal Medlyn – See You in My Nightmares
An early adapter, Neal Medlyn (of Our Hit Parade fame) put on a full theatrical production of 808s, complete with a naked woman rubbing herself with BBQ pork while singing “Love Lockdown.” One audience member looked particularly bewildered: Kanye himself, who apparently broke down in tears during Medlyn’s finale. Sadly, a recording of the full show doesn’t circulate, but Medlyn has covered several 808s tracks on the Our Hit Parade blog.
11. Dave Smallen – Coldest Winter
The first time you listen to this, you keep waiting for the pounding drums to come in. Spoiler alert: they won’t. Smallen’s folk ballad doesn’t look to rattle your ribcage like the original. It aims somewhere underneath.