Sara Stoudt

Sara is a statistician, but during her free time she is crafting the perfect playlist for any occasion. Her dad trained her well in the art of music appreciation (for which her live music trivia team is thankful for), and she is definitely judging you by your karaoke song choice. Follow her on Twitter or check out her website.

Jul 222019
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

OutKast played a major role in putting hip-hop from the South on the map. The duo, made up of ATLiens André “André 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, have won numerous awards, including multiple American Music Awards and Grammys. Before Speakerboxxx/The Love Below brought us “Hey Ya!,” Stankonia brought us “Ms. Jackson.” OutKast’s first single from Stankonia was “B.O.B.”, which didn’t get as much attention as anticipated due to its controversial subject matter. “Ms. Jackson” was the second single, and that was the one that propelled the album, winning the Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. 

The idea for the song came from Benjamin’s experience with Erykah Badu (his baby’s mama) and her mother (his baby mama’s mama). Although the song is upbeat, with a catchy chorus and fast rap lines, it tells a rather sad story, not unlike the later “Hey Ya!”

In my search for the top “Ms. Jackson” covers, I looked for a particular trifecta:

  1. a strong start with “this one right here goes out to all the baby’s mamas’, mamas,”
  2. a powerful stress on the “ooh”s after “I’m sorry Ms. Jackson,” and
  3. the delivery of the crucial line: “forever, forever, ever, forever, ever?”

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Jul 082019
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

dead mans town

Did you hear “Born in the U.S.A.” at your Fourth of July BBQ? Maybe a diehard Springsteen fan even played the full album. It certainly packs a punch; seven of the album’s twelve songs became top-10 hit singles. Taking patriotism to a whole new level, this album was even the first commercial CD made in the United States. 

Marking the 30th anniversary of the Born in the U.S.A. album, Dead Man’s Town was released in 2014 with the premise that the original album was so good that, as Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars states, “any of those songs could be played with acoustic guitar alone and still be great.”

Rolling Stone described the album as “reimagining Born in the U.S.A.… with a reduced approach more influenced by that of the acoustic Nebraska.” This cover album certainly would have followed Nebraska more congruously than the original Born in the U.S.A., which marked a departure from Springsteen’s earlier work yet brought him his greatest commercial success.

Dead Man’s Town captures the melancholy aspects of the Fourth of July, a holiday that marks the inflection point of the summer. Summer love is bending towards goodbye. Back to school advertisements abound. If you are looking for a soundtrack to summer’s end or a new take on your favorite Springsteen classics, this is the album for you. Here is a taste of what this album has to offer.

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Jul 022019
 

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.

Handmade Moments

Anna Moss and Joel Ludford make up Handmade Moments, a jazz folk duo formed in 2014 after the break up of their original band Don’t Stop Please. Moss and Ludford developed a following in Arkansas and started to travel across the country performing. Unfortunately, in 2016 they hit a major setback when they were both involved in a serious bus accident, requiring time off from touring to recover. However, this recuperation period spawned their album Paw Paw Tree, released in 2018.

This duo has chemistry and a myriad of instrument capabilities; throughout their repertoire of covers, you’ll see them play saxophone, ukulele, guitar, upright bass, even beatbox. Whether it’s soul, funk, or hip-hop, Handmade Moments have the talent to tackle both classic covers and unexpected ones. Here are some of their best.

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Jun 242019
 

Kirsten Agresta Copely is a harpist with a storied background. She has played harp since she was five and had her first solo tour at fourteen. Over the course of her career she has performed all over the world and shared the stage and recording studio with a variety of stars such as Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, and Evanescence. She has even played alongside Beyoncé at a state dinner for Barack Obama.

At the end of last month, Copely released her first cover album. You may think an album of harp covers is a bit niche for everyday listening, but if you are looking for a cover album with class for your next dinner party, look no further. There is something for everyone on Copely’s new album with selections that span decades, from Fleetwood Mac to Rhianna.
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Jun 212019
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

kt tunstalls best cover songs

Tunstall’s debut album, Eye to the Telescope, contains crowd favorites such as “Suddenly I See,”  which graces the iconic opening scene of the film The Devil Wears Prada. However, Tunstall’s breakout hit came in 2004, with “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.” (Woo hoo!) This song is emblematic of Tunstall’s overall style of guitar playing and vocal tone and features the popular Bo Diddley beat. Continue reading »

Jun 182019
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

across the universe soundtrack

Moviemakers can’t get enough of the Beatles. At the end of the month, Yesterday debuts, with a tantalizing premise: What if no one but you remembers the Beatles? You can claim their songs as your own and piggyback your way towards stardom. 

Over a decade ago, Julie Taymor, perhaps best known as the director who brought The Lion King to Broadway, took a swing at another Beatles-related movie, bringing us Across the Universe. This movie takes place in the ’60s and follows characters with original names like JoJo, Jude, Lucy, Max, Prudence, and Sadie through the Vietnam War and plenty of drug trips.

Despite the fact that Sir Paul McCartney himself said he enjoyed the film, a fun fact revealed by Taymor to Oprah during an interview, critics have middling feelings. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave it 2.5/4 stars. Stephen Holden of the New York Times admits:

Somewhere around its midpoint, ‘Across the Universe’ captured my heart, and I realized that falling in love with a movie is like falling in love with another person. Imperfections, however glaring, become endearing quirks once you’ve tumbled.

Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics Consensus summarizes the overall sentiment best:

Psychedelic musical numbers can’t mask Across the Universe’s clichéd love story and thinly written characters.

All that being said, these are critiques of the movie, not the music, and I’m here to defend the soundtrack as an enjoyable cover album. Throughout, I’ll set the scene in context of the movie because the motivation behind the evoked emotion is crucial to the success of these covers. These covers all have very different tones than the original. They don’t try to be the Beatles. The performers just try to express their feelings and tell their own stories through the words and tunes of the legends.

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