We’ve often discussed what makes a cover song “good.” And while each listener has their own subjective criteria, certain themes do reveal themselves in these discussions. One theme that we tend to highlight is an artist making a song his or her own. It’s probably fair to say Scandroid’s recent cover of Tears for Fears’ “Shout” misses this critical criteria. I’d argue it’s good anyway.
Any collection of a popular artist’s songs presented as children’s music should always be approached with some level of trepidation. And with good reason, given the glut of inanely saccharine covers delivered either by children and twee instrumentation or adults pandering to the younger demographics. The latter case is perhaps the most egregious, as these adults seem to believe that the only way in which to create music kids will understand is to severely dumb down the content and up the intolerably cartoonish elements of the worst of so-called children’s music performers. The question often becomes, Why subject your children to these atrociously subpar re-imaginings of popular songs when the originals are vastly superior and just as accessible?
Thankfully, the folks at Spare the Rock Records seem to have felt the same with regard to the world of children’s music and, rather than adding to the pap currently clogging the marketplace, have ventured to release music aimed at children but ideally suited for the whole family. And there is perhaps no better artist, save perhaps the Beatles, for whom this approach is ideally suited than David Bowie. With his passing in January of 2016, he left a gaping void in the musical landscape, one artists across myriad genres have, in the months since, sought to fill in the form of countless tributes, think pieces, and heartfelt expressions of admiration.
And while we may have lost the man himself, we will always have his music. His is a catalog so vast and stylistically diverse as to perfectly warrant the stylistically diverse assemblage of artists and styles gather here on the newly-issued Let All the Children Boogie. Stripped to their barest elements and rebuilt in individually idiosyncratic ways, the work of David Bowie presented here remains wholly recognizable, yet affords listeners an entirely new way of hearing these well-known songs.
Since the surprise election of Donald Trump last week, musicians have responded in all sorts of ways, from benefit concerts to social media missives. A few have taken to the world of cover songs to express their feelings and frustrations, picking songs with titles like “Drunk On Election Night” or “Time To Move On.” We’ve pulled together a few of the best.
It’s hard to do a fresh cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine.” It’s been covered so well by so many at this point, and if you’re trying to compete with Bill Withers or Joe Cocker on their turf, you’re bound to lose. But British singer-songwriter Richard Maule found a novel way to make the song his own. The cover he sent us is inventive, bold, and the right amount of irreverent. Instead of going for big soul belting like so many do, he created a quirky quasi-acappella arrangement looping his voice and handclaps over and over again – and while it seems complicated, it wasn’t.
As we continue to mourn Leonard Cohen, here’s one little gem his death has dug up. Earlier this year, Bruce Springsteen made a point of paying tribute to artists we lost on stage. He covered “Rebel Rebel” for David Bowie, “Take It Easy” for The Eagles’ Glenn Frey, “Dream Baby Dream” for Suicide’s Alan Vega, and “Purple Rain” for Prince. And were he on tour, he’d surely sing something by Leonard Cohen (I bet he’d do a great “Everybody Knows”).
But he’s not on tour, so instead check out the one time he did cover Cohen: way back in 1967, years before the E Street Band. He was only 18 and playing in a local New Jersey band The Castiles. Somehow he got onto Leonard early – before Cohen had even released his own version of “Suzanne,” Bruce was covering it. He probably learned it off the Judy Collins version, which came out the year before Cohen’s own.
On Friday, we posted our tribute to Leonard Cohen, calling him maybe the greatest gift to cover songs ever. Many musicians agreed over the weekend, covering his songs across the world in live shows. We’ve rounded up a bunch below, from Coldplay, Norah Jones, Okkervil River, The Avett Brothers, Car Seat Headrest, and more.
The biggest surprise: Not many people picked the most obvious choice, “Hallelujah.” It seemed so perfect that I saw at least one person on Twitter begging musicians to pick something – anything – else to cover, and they listened. I figured it would dominate even more than “Purple Rain” did when Prince died, but perhaps many felt intimidated by the iconic Jeff Buckley and John Cale versions. It also might seem a daunting song to really sell, particularly if you just learned it in the tour bus (one of the only bands who did cover it: Styx).