By no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself a Meghan Trainor fan. Between her confused mantle of feminist empowerment and overexposure, she simply wasn’t an artist to whom I was willing to give time. Fortunately, there are artists who are able to reinterpret some of her more recent and tolerable work. Her duet with John Legend, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” despite its simplicity, can have universal appeal to any of those who have experienced doubt within a relationship. Newcomers Smithfield take this somewhat generic ambivalence and manage to make it more personal and aching.
The beautiful synth pop from the band CHVRCHES often plays on the disconnect between singer Lauren Mayberry’s sweet vocals and heavy, almost industrial, backing tracks. It’s not the most obvious cover material for Muse, a band spawned out of the mid-’90s alt rock movement, but Muse recently played a cover of CHVRCHES’ “Lies” for the BBC Live Lounge.
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.
When all the bien-pensant trendsetters diss the Eagles (and they do, they do), “Boys of Summer,” written post-Eagles 1.0 and pre-hell freezing over by Don Henley, their best singer and their best writer, is the song that leads my opening statement for the defense. I remember the first time I heard it; I’d long before grown weary of the old band, but this song astonished and delighted. The combination of sound and lyric served to kick me into a mythical time remembered, irrespective of impossibility, brown skins shining in what little sun made it into my drab surroundings, lifting me into celebration, looking back, yes, always looking back. (I recall actual Deadheads kicking up over the perceived lyrical put-down, but to me, hell, it was a reminder and a kick-start.)
It’s a difficult song to do well, as the original hits all the bases available. Second Hand Songs tells me at least twenty-three have tried, with YouTube adding several more risible attempts to the list. One was even a successful hit in Eurodisco land, as some may remember. Wanna hear that one again? Tough, it ain’t here tonight. But here are three others, in ascending order of quality.
Back in 2011, we named Texas singer-songwriter Robert Ellis one of our favorite finds at the CMJ festival. Four years later, he’s cut his long locks, signed to a hip Americana record label, and earned a ton of accolades for his 2014 album The Lights from the Chemical Plant. It was so successful, in fact, that today he releases a deluxe version of it, complete with a bunch of demos and a live cover of Richard Thompson‘s classic “Tear-Stained Letter.”
Earlier this summer, Nick Cave’s 15-year old son tragically died after a fall. To pay tribute, Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon has begun putting a cover of Cave’s “The Weeping Song” into his set. In context, the song’s lyrics – a conversation between a father and son about how miserable life is – are even more brutal than they were already.
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!
Ever since September 11 joined November 22 and December 7 as being among the darkest dates in American history, it’s been difficult to associate anything celebratory with it. But if we can’t find it in ourselves to wish acoustic virtuoso Leo Kottke a happy 70th birthday, then the terrorists win.
Back in the 1970s, Alice Cooper was president of The Lair of the Hollywood Vampires. It was a drinking club of various rock stars that hung out in the loft at the Rainbow Bar and Grill in L.A. Members included Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Harry Nilsson and Micky Dolenz. (John Lennon was also an honorary member.)
Recently, Cooper brought back the Hollywood Vampire name for a super group that includes Johnny Depp, Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Paul McCartney, Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction), Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters), Brian Johnson (AC/DC), Robbie Krieger (The Doors), Slash (G-n-R), Joe Walsh (Eagles), Orianthi and Kip Winger. (And that’s not even all of them.)
Here is their cover of The Who’s “My Generation”.