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 222020
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Indigo Girls

Emily Saliers, of the folk duo Indigo Girls, turns 57 today. She and Amy Ray have enjoyed a long collaboration. They have known each other since elementary school and have been playing together since high school in 1985. Since then they have recorded 16 studio albums, including their most recent Look Look that they released in May.

As Karen Tongson writes in her Turning the Tables piece on the band’s influence: “To know if you are an Emily or an Amy is akin to declaring a strong preference for Wordsworth or Coleridge, as much as for Lennon or McCartney.” The pair write songs individually but then join together to perform, building albums with a mix of both of their songwriting styles and points of view. Despite never really becoming mainstream, these two as individuals and as part of their iconic duo have had a powerful impact on their fans and on the culture of music itself. Want to know more about their legacy? Check out the band’s Tumblr blog that documents the history of their work together.

As our contribution to Saliers’ birthday celebration, we’ll hear a cover by the Indigo Girls, covers of three Indigo Girls hits written by Saliers, and a cover of one of their particularly political collaborations.

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Jul 132020
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Madonna's "Ray of Light"

Madonna’s seventh album, Ray of Light, marked a turning point in her life and style of music. Ahead of writing this album, Madonna was preparing for her role in Evita, a film adaption of the musical about the life of first lady of Argentina, Eva Perón, and had her first child. She was learning about the Kabbalah school of thought and Hinduism as well as experimenting with different musical styles.

The Ray of Light album includes electronic and dance elements and shows off a wider vocal range (thanks in part to Madonna’s vocal training for Evita). Critics showed it love, calling it “adventurous,” “mature,” and crediting it with bringing electronica to the mainstream. The album cleaned up at the Grammy Awards winning Best Pop Album and Best Recording Package as a whole and Best Dance Recording and Best Short Form Music Video for the title track.

But let’s talk about that title track. It was the second single off of the album and brought Madonna her highest debuting single at that point in her career. But did you know it was a cover?

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Jul 102020
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Coldplay Parachutes covers

Band members Chris Martin (vocals and piano), Jonny Buckland (guitar), Guy Berryman (bass), and Will Champion (drums) met at college and started a band in 1996 (plus their original manager, Phil Harvey, is often considered the fifth member of the band). They settled on the name Coldplay (other names like Pectoralz and Starfish don’t have quite the same ring to them) and released two EPs before embarking on their first full-length album. Parachutes was released twenty years ago on July 10, 2000. Time sure flies! Continue reading »

Jul 062020
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Ride Wit Me covers

Hot shit! Nelly’s debut album, Country Grammar, turned twenty at the end of June. The album brought Nelly into the spotlight and made the public aware of the hip-hop scene in St. Louis (check out that famous arch on the album cover). Other St. Louis rappers followed, such as Akon (“Smack That”), Chingy (“Right Thurr”), Huey (“Pop, Lock & Drop It” ), and J-Kwon (“Tipsy”).

The album’s third single, “Ride Wit Me,” had the highest US charting of all the songs on the album, reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100. The song features Nelly’s friend, City Spud, who also produced four songs on the album. City Spud ended up going to jail thanks to an unfortunate choice of person to ride with. Under the circumstances (and mandatory minimum sentencing laws), City Spud was in jail during the ascent of “Ride Wit Me.”

Although we probably won’t be riding with anyone outside our immediate household any time soon, we can dream while listening to these new spins on a 2000 classic (although, sadly, City Spud’s verse is missing from them all). Go ahead and scream “MUST BE THE MONEY” into the void. And for all of you wanting to celebrate another one of Nelly’s masterpieces, “Hot in Herre,” you’ll have to wait two more years for Nellyville to turn twenty. (By the way, Nelly’s iconic bandage on the face on this album’s cover is a reference to his friend, City Spud.)

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Jun 292020
 

Saving for a Custom Vanjenn champion the blue album

Adam Schlesinger died on April 1st from COVID-19 complications. Not even three months later, “collaborators, tourmates, friends, and fans” put together Saving for a Custom Van, an extensive tribute album spanning songs from his varied career. Schlesinger is best known for being a founding member of Fountains of Wayne, but he also was in the more indie band Ivy and the supergroup Tinted Windows (with members from Hanson, Cheap Trick, and The Smashing Pumpkins). He also wrote songs for a variety of movies (Music & Lyrics, That Thing You Do!, Josie and the Pussycats), television shows (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), and Broadway (the postponed show, The Bedwetter) that also make an appearance on this tribute album.

The resulting collage of covers is heartfelt and plays like a personal mix tape of sorts. This makes it hard to pass any judgment. Overall, it is a powerful homage that also educates listeners on the history of Schelsinger’s work. In the sad context of the album, lyrics stand out as especially poignant, from the sad irony of “All Kinds of Time” to the evergreen “Troubled Times.”

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Jun 242020
 

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

Nina Revisited

Nina Simone, the “High Priestess of Soul,” had a storied career, producing over 40 albums throughout her life. She gained popularity with her original music as well as through reinventions of standards (including a Hall and Oates tune later in her career). She was formally trained on the piano from a young age, and although she never reached her dream of being the first African-American classical pianist, she did become the first African-American woman to play piano at Carnegie Hall (even if she wasn’t playing classical tunes). Simone went to Julliard, but she was denied entrance to the Curtis Institute of Music, which she suspected was due to her race. She had the last laugh, though; a couple of days before she died, she was awarded an honorary degree by this institute.

Simone was active in the civil rights movement (she even performed at the Selma march), and she wasn’t afraid to speak (or sing) her mind despite how this affected her career. She was more in the Malcolm X school of thought (and was his literal neighbor) than in Martin Luther King Jr.’s, but King’s death still affected her and led to a tribute song.

Simone’s accolades are many. She has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame, and her legacy lives on. Her songs remain in the public ear, including being sampled in modern hip-hop and rap songs by Kanye West, Jay-Z, Timbaland, and Lil’ Wayne, among others.

To coincide with the release of the original Netflix documentary about her life, What Happened, Miss Simone?, in 2015 this tribute album was released with liner notes by Angela Davis. Let’s listen to some reinterpretations of some of her most iconic songs.

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