Nov 162018
 

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.

gettin jiggy wit it covers

Will Smith’s 1998 number-one hit “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” would have been perfect for our current era of YouTube covers.

First and foremost, the song was massive. It topped the charts for three weeks and won Smith his second-consecutive Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. But more specifically, the simple novelty number boasts an instantly-identifiable hook (“Na na na na na na na…”) that would remain recognizable transposed into any genre. Google searches of “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It metal” and “”Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It bluegrass” would likely turn up a dozen options apiece.

But “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” came out in 1997, eight years before YouTube’s founding. Though a massive, inescapable hit – if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t fit this feature – almost no one covered it. We’ll get to the few who did below, but what strikes me most is how this dearth of “Jiggy” covers opens an interesting window into how drastically YouTube has changed the cover-song landscape. Continue reading »

Nov 142018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

erin mckeown cover songs

After almost two decades of critically acclaimed albums, singer-songwriter-guitarist Erin McKeown just added another hyphenate to her resumé: “theatrical composer.” She wrote music and lyrics for the new Public Theater musical Miss You Like Hell in New York. Variety wrote after seeing the show, “Erin McKeown makes an impressive stage debut with music that is eclectic and appealing.” Here’s a taste, two-time Tony nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega singing McKeown’s new song “Mothers”: Continue reading »

Nov 132018
 

The Wall ReduxOften ranked among the best concept albums of all time, Pink Floyd’s The Wall was released on November 30, 1979. Produced by band members David Gilmour and Roger Waters along with Bob Ezrin and James Guthrie, it’s overwhelmingly considered Waters’s baby. He conceived of Pink, the fatigued rock-star figure on whom the album centers, and who is widely thought to contain characteristics of both Roger Waters and Pink Floyd cofounder and original frontman, Syd Barrett. The musical narrative confronts war, the ugly side of stardom, and the conformity encouraged by many English private schools of the day – blending the nominally unrelated subjects into seamless theme.

Covering an album as entrenched in the musical culture as this one is ambitious and dicey by nature. Many well-known acts have covered Pink Floyd, and even the more celebrated among those covers are not immune to pushback from tie-dyed-in-the-wool Floyd fans. The bands behind The Wall Redux certainly get points for chutzpah. The newest redux effort from Magnetic Eye Records, this compilation invites artists from rock and metal to revisit all the songs on Pink Floyd’s 11th studio album.
Continue reading »

Nov 092018
 

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

The Smiths

If you Google “perfect Smiths song,” you’ll find a lot of different titles – “The Boy with the Thorn in his Side,” “How Soon Is Now,” “I Won’t Share You,” “Half a Person,” and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” just to name the results on the first page. But some opinions are bigger than others, and in lead singer Morrissey’s opinion, the perfect Smiths song – or at least, in his words, “very close indeed” – was “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.” Allmusic.com calls it “a minimal yet lush two minutes of almost otherworldly beauty… Almost impenetrably sad, [it’s] a masterpiece both musically and emotionally.”

Starting life as a Johnny Marr instrumental called “The Irish Waltz,” the song became something more once Morrissey sang his lyrics of longing in a voice far gentler and quieter than his usual melodramatic croon. “Please Please Please” turned into a hymn to the art of pining and yearning, the anthem of the unrequited lover, cf. Duckie in Pretty in Pink. And it did so in a minute and fifty seconds, making it the shortest Smiths song ever. Why so short? Morrissey explained:

When we first played it to Rough Trade, they kept asking, “where’s the rest of the song?” But to me, it’s like a very brief punch in the face. Lengthening the song would, to my mind, have simply been explaining the blindingly obvious.

Continue reading »

Nov 052018
 
curtis roush no ordinary love

Curtis Roush, the singer/guitarist for the Austin-based band The Bright Light Social Hour, cites a laundry list of musical influences on his website. They include: ‘70s album rock, heavy metal, classic rock and hardcore. Yet, when we asked him about the inspiration for his recent solo cover of Sade’s “No Ordinary Love,” he named the British Nigerian singer as a favorite. “Her singing, songwriting, and surrounding production have been a huge influence on my solo music,” he told Cover Me. “‘No Ordinary Love’ is mysterious and soothing, but also has this very deep, almost heavy quality to it. I strive for a similar balance in my own music.” Continue reading »

Nov 012018
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best nirvana covers

Nirvana released its first single 30 years ago today. Well, today-ish. That single was the first installment in the now-legendary Sub Pop Singles Club, so I imagine its “release date” was whatever day it landed in the mailbox for the 1,000 lucky people who got it (you can get it too, but you’ll have to drop $3,300 on Discogs).

And what was that very first Nirvana single? Whaddya know, it was a cover! The band launched their recording careers with “Love Buzz,” originally by Dutch psychedelic-rockers Shocking Blue. Not the most obvious start for the most iconic band of the ’90s (apparently it was Krist’s idea). Already a staple of their raucous live show, “Love Buzz” did represent, according to Sub Pop founder Bruce Pavitt, “an indicator of some of their direction in songwriting.”

Three decades on, that songwriting has generated a few covers of its own. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has of course been covered thousands of times, but some other Nirvana songs aren’t as far behind as you might think. “Lithium,” “Come As You Are,” and “In Bloom” remain perennial cover selections, and “Territorial Pissings” seems surprisingly popular. (“Rape Me,” not so much.) Heck, half the artists we hear covering David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” or Leadbelly’s “In the Pines” seem to really be covering Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged versions.

So today, we continue our Best Covers Ever series by whittling down the moshing masses of Nirvana covers to the best thirty. Here we are now. Entertain us!

Honorable Mention: Nirvana – Lithium

No, not that Nirvana. The 1960s British band of the same name covered “Lithium” when they reunited in the 1990s. A cute nod, made less cute when you realize this older group had sued over the grunge band’s use of the name only a few years prior (Sub Pop reportedly had to pay them $100,000). At any rate, this Nirvana’s cover is not that good, but this psych-pop spin on “Lithium” perhaps paved the way for a much better version in the same vein a few years later. But we’ll get there… Continue reading »