In 2006, everyone was losing their mind over Gnarls Barkley’s breakout single “Crazy.” The song appealed to just about everyone: young/old, black/white, people who dug Motown and people who dug hip-hop. I was working at a record shop at the time, and music lovers turned out in droves to buy the duo’s debut album on CD, even in a era when most listeners were downloading iTunes singles en masse. Like Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” the song blends dark, paranoid lyrics with a danceable groove.
Others can offer more on Anthony Bourdain’s massive impact on the worlds of food, or travel, or recovery, or just living life to the fullest. But anyone who followed his work closely knew in additional to all that, he was a music superfan. He adored 1970s punk from his early days working in New York kitchens in particular; he wrote a must-read essay on that thirty years later for SPIN.
So we’re going to pay tribute the only way we know how: With covers of Bourdain’s favorite songs. Which we know from playlists he made over the years for Rolling Stone and KCRW. We hope he would have liked these covers of the soundtrack to his life.
Fair warning: the video below will play the song “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
I need to mention that up front. Ever since the advent of Rick-rolling (doesn’t that meme seem like a century ago?), people typically hear Rick Astley’s 1987 hit accidentally, the result of a prank. But this new cover you should listen to on purpose.
It’s by young Los Angeles pop singer Bronze Avery, who channels The Weeknd and James Blake on his early singles. And he says he was inspired to cover “Never Gonna Give You Up” not in spite of the meme, but because of it.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem like these two artists should intersect. But backstage at The Tonight Show, Australian indie-rocker Courtney Barnett covered Americana icon Gillian Welch’s “Everything Is Free.”
The usual disclaimer: Our monthly “Best Cover Songs” aren’t ranked, and the “Honorable Mentions” aren’t necessarily worse than the others.
Update: Hear me discuss this list, along with our Best Pink Floyd Covers ranking, on SiriusXM Volume:
Angus and Julia Stone – Passionfruit (Drake cover)
Three prominent indie artists covered Drake’s “Passionfruit” this month: Franz Ferdinand, Cornelius, and, the best of the bunch, Angus and Julia Stone. Covering a rap song is easier, I suppose, when there’s no actual rapping. Few political or racial minefields in the lyrics for artists to navigate help too (for a counterexample: this month’s worst cover). For Triple J’s great series “Like a Version,” Angus and Julia Stone brought their beautiful harmonies to a smooth soul bed. It floats like Gram and Emmylou singing a Marvin Gaye song.
If you’re not deeply familiar with the full catalog of the unfortunately-named Hoobastank (it hurts just to type it), you would not be in the minority. Six years removed from their last album, and many more from the early-2000s hits, the band is mostly known for their bombastic, over-the-top, head-banging, nondescript rawk. In other words, there was never any real reason to devote any ear time towards checking these guys out. Until now, that is.