“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.
The first Madonna song I remember hearing is “Music.” It topped the charts in September 2000, when I was 13: peak Top 40 radio age. I suppose I must have heard “Like a Prayer” or “Borderline” somewhere before – or her more recent hits “Ray of Light,” the Austin Powers 2 song “Beautiful Stranger,” and, inexplicably, an excruciating “American Pie” cover – but “Music” was the first I registered as a Madonna song.
It offered a lousy introduction to Madonna. From the cloying “Hey Mr. DJ” opening, I hated it. It presented a rhythmic jumble, an obnoxious hook, and lyrics that seemed dumb even to a 13-year old. An actual verse: “Don’t think of yesterday / And I don’t look at the clock / I like to boogie-woogie / Uh. Uh.” (Admittedly, the same complaints could all be made about her much-derided James Bond theme two years later, and I love that song). It took a year or two more before I saw the “Material Girl” music video on some VH1 Best of the 80s countdown and became a fan.
All these years later, I’ve discovered I don’t really hate “Music” entirely. I just hate the original recording. The killer cover by soul band the Dynamics – included in our recent Best Madonna Covers Ever ranking – started the trend. The lyrics remain insipid, but having an infectious enough groove to get into can paper over a lot. It took me a while to dig up other winning covers (“Music” is a pretty hard-to-google song title), but I eventually found quite a few other gems. I guess music does make the people come together after all.
The Dynamics – Music (Madonna cover)
As I said in the intro, the cover by this French soul band redeemed the song for me, so we’ll start here. Weirdly, “Music” seems to have been disappeared from the various digital versions of their excellent 2007 Version Excursions covers album where it appeared originally. Licensing issues, perhaps? But though the internet can taketh away, the internet can giveth, too: it thankfully lives on on YouTube.
Heike Has the Giggles – Music (Madonna cover)
I discovered Italian trio Heike Has the Giggles when we included “Crazy in Love” on our Best Beyoncé Covers Ever countdown (or re-discovered them; apparently I wrote about that cover in 2011, but had zero memory of it). Only a few months later, I’m pleased to find a second killer cover they’ve done. Like that Beyoncé cover, it’s spiky and jagged and irresistable.
Eths – Music (Madonna cover)
The official YouTube video for this features a topless cheetah-woman in warpaint, but I don’t want to get anyone in trouble at work so we’ll embed this other version. As you can probably guess from that video description alone, this band doesn’t pull punches. Their heavy goth-metal recalls the brief moment when Evanescence inexplicably became pop stars. It’s not my sort of music (or “Music”), but few Madonna covers push the genre boundaries this far.
Les Bandits de Belleville – Music (Madonna cover)
A gypsy-jazz Madonna cover sounds like something I would be very prone to liking, and Les Bandits de Belleville did not disappoint. YouTube superstars Postmodern Jukebox have made a big business out of slicker productions along these same genre lines, but I admit I still prefer the smaller scrappy-band-on-Soundcloud variety.
Florian De Schepper – Music (Madonna cover)
What’s this, a second “Music” cover tagged as gypsy-jazz? Redundant, you say? Never! It is quite different than the first, a solo guitar take as if Django Reinhardt got into turn-of-the-century dance-pop.
Bo.Dà. – Music (Madonna cover)
Forget the “gypsy” half; this Italian band go full jazz on their succinctly-titled album Bo.Dà. Plays Madonna in Jazz. With horn solos, upright bass riffing, and singer Deborah Bontempi’s terrific pipes, “Music” fits this 1930s swing sound better than you might expect. In this context, saying one likes to “boogie-woogie” sounds much more appropriate.
Roy & Ádám feat. Jamie Winchester – Music (Madonna cover)
Who knew Bon Jovi covered Madonna under a different name? Hungarian duo Roy & Ádám sound exactly like Jon & Richie attempting “Music” – talkbox solos very much included.
Matteo Pascotto – Music (Madonna cover)
Do Italians adore Madonna more than other people or something? Three of the covers on here come from Italian musicians! They know this isn’t that Madonna, right? At any rate, of the many emotive acoustic-guitar covers on YouTube, Matteo Pascotto’s strikes the best notes.
Keep the music going with our Best Madonna Covers Ever countdown.