Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
On the 25-track David Bowie tribute album Howard Stern’s show released this week, many of the names were familiar: Billy Corgan, Dawes, Peter Frampton, etc. One that didn’t ring a bell was Jade Bird. But her version of Bowie’s Hunky Dory deep cut “Quicksand” was a surprising highlight. I wondered how I was so late to discover her.
Turns out, I wasn’t. Despite running in such heady company, Jade Bird (her real name) has only released one EP so far. But things are moving fast for her, and by the time she releases her debut record, she might not be so under the radar any longer.
She was just nominated for the BBC Sound of 2018 which, if you’re not in the UK, might not mean much. But it’s as good a measure as any of who might blow up in the next year. Winners in the past decade include the then-little-known Sam Smith, HAIM, and, oh, Adele. Hell, the losers include The Weeknd, King Krule, and Savages (and that was just in one year!).
Though she only has that one EP so far, the twenty year-old Jade Bird been playing music for a few years and has a number of covers online spanning a wide variety of genres. Here are the best.
Jade Bird – Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush cover)
In honor of her recent nomination, we’ll start with her BBC Live Lounge cover from this past fall. Tackling Kate Bush on solo piano is a risky proposition. There’s nowhere to hide if you can’t match up to Bush’s imposing voice and gift with a melody. Luckily, Bird can. In spades.
Jade Bird – I’ve Been Everywhere (Johnny Cash cover)
After than the BBC nomination, Bird’s main accolade so far is being named one of ten country musicians to watch by Rolling Stone last summer. Now, the genre tag won’t make much sense if you just watched the Kate Bush cover. It will after you see her lead a roaring honky-tonk band through this 1996 Johnny Cash deep cut, itself a cover of a Geoff Mack song from 1959.
Jade Bird – Grinnin’ In Your Face (Son House cover)
We’ve heard her cover pop, and then country. So how about some blues? She takes on “Grinnin’ In Your Face,” the Son House classic Jack White has called his favorite song ever. With Bird’s hand claps and holler, we suspect he’d like this version too.
Jade Bird – Where Is My Mind / Forever (Pixies / Drake cover)
This is the earliest cover of the bunch, released in 2016 before any of the recent attention. And she tackles two more genres here, indie-rock and rap, blending the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” in with some lines from Drake’s hit “Forever.” Rapping that fast while strumming an acoustic guitar so fast is no small feat.
Jade Bird – New Rules (Dua Lipa Cover)
If that was the oldest cover, this is the newest, taped only a week ago. Recently-minted pop star Dua Lipa was herself nominated for the BBC Sound Of… award in 2016, so this seems a fitting tribute. Her version falls very far from pop, though. Bird turns the top-ten EDM hit into an old-timey Americana jam, accompanied only by acoustic guitar and upright bass.
Jade Bird – Quicksand (David Bowie cover)
We end where we began, her Bowie cover from that Howard Stern tribute that aired last weekend. Bowie’s Hunky Dory original is a somewhere between glam and the Renaissance Faire. Bird brings a southern-waltz beauty to it, stripping away some of the weirdness without removing the song’s soul.