Ray Padgett

Ray Padgett founded the blog Cover Me in 2007 and has run it ever since, growing it into the largest blog devoted to cover songs on the web. His music writing has appeared in the New Yorker, SPIN, MTV, Vice, Mojo, and more and he’s been interviewed as an expert on cover songs by NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and SiriusXM. He lives in New York City and also works as a senior music publicist for Shore Fire Media. His book Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time is out now. Buy it at Amazon. Email him at rfpadgett @ gmail.

Nov 162018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

gettin jiggy wit it covers

Will Smith’s 1998 number-one hit “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” would have been perfect for our current era of YouTube covers.

First and foremost, the song was massive. It topped the charts for three weeks and won Smith his second-consecutive Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. But more specifically, the simple novelty number boasts an instantly-identifiable hook (“Na na na na na na na…”) that would remain recognizable transposed into any genre. Google searches of “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It metal” and “”Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It bluegrass” would likely turn up a dozen options apiece.

But “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” came out in 1997, eight years before YouTube’s founding. Though a massive, inescapable hit – if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t fit this feature – almost no one covered it. We’ll get to the few who did below, but what strikes me most is how this dearth of “Jiggy” covers opens an interesting window into how drastically YouTube has changed the cover-song landscape. Continue reading »

Nov 142018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

erin mckeown cover songs

After almost two decades of critically acclaimed albums, singer-songwriter-guitarist Erin McKeown just added another hyphenate to her resumé: “theatrical composer.” She wrote music and lyrics for the new Public Theater musical Miss You Like Hell in New York. Variety wrote after seeing the show, “Erin McKeown makes an impressive stage debut with music that is eclectic and appealing.” Here’s a taste, two-time Tony nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega singing McKeown’s new song “Mothers”: Continue reading »

Nov 122018
 
lucius christmas time

As the clichéd complaint goes, the Christmas season seems to come earlier every year. That’s certainly true in the cover-song world, at least. While this may be the first 2018 Christmas cover we’re posting, it’s hardly the first we heard. That happened – really – in September (it was still technically summer!).

But today, we finally end our no-Christmas-covers blackout. And the cover that proved so good we couldn’t even make it to Black Friday? Lucius’s gorgeous cover of the A Charlie Brown Christmas standby “Christmas Time Is Here.” The duo of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig lend their ethereal harmonies to a version that retains the original’s swooning beauty, even with indie-pop twinkles replacing the jazzier touches. Continue reading »

Nov 062018
 
parquet courts neil young cover

Are we undergoing a Trans-aissance? Neil Young’s least-loved album (which is saying something) – the one where he tried his hand at electronic music, the one where he got sued by his own label – may finally be on the verge of redemption. Last month, Danish producer Trentemøller covered the album’s “Transformer Man” and now indie-rock favorites Parquet Courts have tackled “We R In Control.” Continue reading »

Oct 312018
 
cover songs october
AJ Lambert – Lush Life (Frank Sinatra cover)

Frank Sinatra’s granddaughter covers Frank Sinatra. You think you know where this story ends: fawning nepotism. But despite familial loyalty, A.J. Lambert isn’t afraid to twist “Lush Life,” adding a Lynchian undercurrent of menace. More of an overcurrent in the crawling, nose-bleeding video.

Amy Shark – Teenage Dirtbag (Wheatus cover)

Every month, one or two of these selections invariably hail from Spotify’s terrific new cover-sessions series. My only gripe is that they came with no information, the sort a band would write in the YouTube description or press release announcing a new cover, or say on stage before performing one live. That’s now solved with Spotify’s new “Under Cover” podcast, in which the artists performing the covers talk about them. We learn that Amy Shark tried to make “Teenage Dirtbag” a Pixies song, and that she considered the song her anthem when she was young. She says: “The first time I heard ‘Teenage Dirtbag,’ I was in high school. I was crazy obsessed with it to the point where it was in my head every day all day. I would sing it in all day in school. Even teachers would say, ‘Amy, please listen to something else.'” Continue reading »

Oct 302018
 
the lemonheads cover album

The Lemonheads have popped up here a lot recently, despite not doing much. When we posted our Best Covers of 1987 retrospective last year, The Lemonheads’ “Amazing Grace” was on there. The year before that, we decided the also did one of the Best Covers of 1996 (Metallica’s “Fade to Black”). But their biggest list appearance here was the first. The first time we ever did a year-end Best Covers Albums list, in 2009, sitting right at the top was The Lemonheads’ brilliant Varshons.

They haven’t released an album since, but Evan Dando will return in January with Varshons 2. As you can imagine, we’re pretty excited, though he has set himself quite a bar with the first volume.

The track list shows promise, blending obvious peers and influences (The Jayhawks, Paul Westerberg) with some serious left-field choices (Florida Georgia Line??). He announces the album with a cover of the Yo La Tengo song “Can’t Forget.” On paper, this might not be the first song on the tracklist I’d want to hear, but there’s a story here. Back in 1990, Yo La Tengo released their own covers album, Fakebook. Well, an almost-covers album, as the band included a couple originals. One was, you guessed it, “Can’t Forget.” Continue reading »