Perhaps Depeche Mode’s most iconic song, at least for the general public, “Personal Jesus” manages to combine singer Dave Gahan’s sex appeal with a sinister undercurrent of dominance and submission. Songwriter Martin Gore wrote the song after reading about the relationship between Priscilla Presley and Elvis, and how utterly one-sided it was. In Gahan’s delivery, though, the relationship seems considerably more appealing. The original video, set in a brothel, also emphasizes the sexual side of the relationship over its more troubling aspects.
Kid Moxie’s upcoming score for indie film Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have a Serious Talk is, as film scores typically are, mostly instrumental. But it closes with a surprising cover, as Kid Moxie aka. Elena Charbila tackles Alphaville’s ’80s synth-pop classic “Big in Japan.” Her cover keeps it synthy, but adds a wistful dreampop sheen that gives it a darker undercurrent. No surprise if it sounds vaguely Twin Peak-sy; she’s worked with David Lynch and his longtime composer Angelo Badalamenti (on a new version of Blue Velvet’s “Mysteries of Love”).
Dom Thomas is perhaps best known for his other gig, as founder of acclaimed reissue label Finders Keepers. So no surprise that the songs he selected for his band Whyte Horses’ new covers album dig deep. With a shifting group of collaborators, he covers some real cratedigger picks by groups like Belgian music polymath Plastic Bertrand (“Ca̧ Plane Pour Moi”) and Long Island twin soft-rockers Alessi Brothers (“Seabird”).
Paul McCartney’s classic ballad of elderly isolation is given a bluegrass update in The Brothers Comatose‘s new cover of “Eleanor Rigby.” The Beatles‘ summer 1966 single (paired with “Yellow Submarine”) is their first song to feature no instruments by the band members, though McCartney wrote it on piano. Instead, George Martin wrote a string arrangement for a doubled up string quartet, giving the song a cinematic quality no Beatles songs and few pop songs had previously. The Beatles only contributed vocals to the finished product.
Perhaps no new artist was covered as often in 2019 as Billie Eilish. And as the year wound down, two more high-profile covers snuck in under the wire – both live, and both quite different than Eilish’s original recordings.
In 2019, Cover Me wrote about more new covers than in any year in our 12-year history. I know; I checked the numbers. Our News team wrote amazing stand-alone stories on sometimes tight deadlines, adding context and research beyond “here’s a new cover” quickie. Plus, we rounded the best of the best into monthly 30+ lists, and added even more for supporters of our new Patreon. Even our Features team, who ostensibly couldn’t care less whether a cover came out last month or last century, seemed to be constantly finding new things to slip into their deep dives.
The point here is not to toot our own horn… well, that’s not entirely the point. What I want to do is emphasize just how high the bar to appear on this list has been set. Calling these covers great almost does them a disservice. There were way more than 50 great covers in 2019. In fact, we’ve already got 150 more bonus tracks lined up for Patreon supporters (which, I know I mention it a lot, but it’s how we keep this site afloat, so please consider supporting us if you like what we do). Honestly, we could throw all of the above in the trash and still come up with a pretty impressive batch of 2019 covers. But these 50 below – these are the cream of the crop, the belles of the ball, the toppermost of the poppermost.
You won’t agree. I guarantee it. As you go through this list, there will be at least one cover you hate. Maybe more than one. And if you followed cover news yourself this year, you’ll probably be outraged when a personal favorite placed too low, or didn’t make it at all. Great! That’s the beauty of these lists: It’s all opinion. Extremely educated opinions in our cases – I can pretty much guarantee that we collectively listened to more 2019 covers than any other site out there – but opinions nevertheless. So dive in and discover something new. Then help us discover something new by adding your own favorites in the comments.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief