Last year, Alanis Morissette’s monster album Jagged Little Pill celebrated its 20th birthday and, as happens on such occasions, got its own big box set. For an even better tribute, though, check out The Land Below’s new cover of one of the album’s hit single, “Hand in My Pocket.” Over low synth drones and a slow crescendo, Sweden’s Erik Lindestad sings the haunting melody at about half the speed of the original. For even those of us who were not Alanis fans the first time around, this cover is revelatory.
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).
As you know, Prince unexpectedly passed away last week. As you may also know, in the last decade or so before he passed, he had a contentious relationship with cover songs. He was famously litigious about getting covers of his songs pulled off blogs and YouTube, and regularly questioned in interviews whether an artist should be allowed to cover another artist’s song without getting the original artist’s permissions. We even wrote a defense of covers to Prince five years to the day before his death (spooky). We loved Prince, but Prince didn’t necessarily love us – or anyone else who recorded or shared covers of his songs.
So today’s staff/reader question arises from that same debate, what specific cover might be the one to convince Prince that covers of his songs were a good thing. Our picks are below, add your own in the comments.
Today’s Question: If you could have introduced Prince to a Prince cover, what would it be?
The Beach Boys‘ Pet Sounds turns 50 next month, which means we’re celebrating 50 years of mediocre bands trying to replicate Brian Wilson’s perfectionist pop and 50 years of publications trying to mold otherwise good bands into pop musicians with misguided Beach Boys comparisons (I’m looking at you Animal Collective). But hey, the original record is still one of the best things you’ll ever hear.
Last week, the Mountain Goats wrapped up a short tour at NYC’s City Winery. It’s a venue much smaller than they’d normally play in town, which is no accident: the concept of the tour was playing lesser-known songs and rarities in listening-room environments. As frontman John Darnielle put it, “smaller rooms, audible frequencies, making eye contact with people in the back row”. These shows were for the superfans (though is there any other kind with this band?). Fittingly, the tour finale saw three rare and new covers: Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark,” Goldfinger’s “Superman,” and even a huge singalong on the classic western song “Home on the Range.”
With his background in jazz, knack for crisp beats and soulful harmonies, Brooklyn-based producer Josh Jacobson tries his hand at the ever-popular “Twice,” turning the track into a slow, atmospheric chillout remix that would do Little Dragon proud.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“Paper Planes” was the penultimate track on M.I.A.’s second album Kala; it took thirteen months from the album’s release for the song to peak at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Guaranteed no other paper planes have flown so high and so far for so long. Riding a sample from “Straight to Hell” by the Clash (who are rightfully credited) and a chorus borrowed from “Rump Shaker” by Wreckx-N-Effect (who aren’t), the song had as great an impact on 2008 as the gunfire in its chorus. Critics fell over themselves praising the record’s sound, somehow both chaotic and serene, and its message, a sort of “Money (That’s What I Want)” gone global for the 21st century.
Now that the dust “Paper Planes” stirred up has settled back down again, let’s take a look at some of the covers it inspired…