We’ve often discussed what makes a cover song “good.” And while each listener has their own subjective criteria, certain themes do reveal themselves in these discussions. One theme that we tend to highlight is an artist making a song his or her own. It’s probably fair to say Scandroid’s recent cover of Tears for Fears’ “Shout” misses this critical criteria. I’d argue it’s good anyway.
Last year, Ryan Adams shocked the music world with his earnest track-for-track cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Initially, news of the album was assumed to be either a joke or purely inspired by irony, but the finished product was strong enough to land a spot on our favorite cover albums of 2015. Swift responded favorably to Adams’ tribute, but as far as we know she hasn’t gone into the studio to cover any of his songs.
Jack Garratt is one of the newest British R&B singers on the scene, releasing his debut album, Phase, earlier this year. The inevitable comparisons he gets to James Blake make sense, but in a new live cover for Australian radio station Triple J, Garratt shows some serious fire that contrasts with Blake’s icier style.
Back in 2012, when news of Whitney Houston‘s death came out, there was a massive outpouring of love for her work. Her legendary career and persona had an effect on music fans of all ages and backgrounds. There were tributes, vigils, and in at least one case, an impromptu dance party.
Justin Keller, the artist behind the band Land of Leland, recently recorded his version of Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” but the story behind the song goes all the way back to the day the news of Houston’s death broke.
If you haven’t heard of Natalie Prass yet, just wait until the end of the year “Best Albums” lists start rolling out. Prass’s self-titled debut, released early this year, is a gem. The lush backgrounds support her (usually) reserved delivery. She’s had many comparisons to Jenny Lewis (for whom she has previously sung backup) but Nick Drake references work as well. With that in mind, a cover of Simon & Garfunkel‘s “The Sound of Silence” seems an apt choice, but Prass flips the script with a stripped down funk cover of the folk classic.
Nick Drake has been covered a lot. His music has a straightforward beauty to its melodies but contains enough complexity to be open to endless reinterpretation. Typically this shows up as a cut by a singer-songwriter or indie-folk group, but rarely as a jazzy R&B version. And let me be the first to say: we need more R&B Nick Drake covers.