In 2001, then 20-year old Alicia Keys became a household name when her sultry “Fallin’” became a number 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Keys’ stunning voice and piano work had America falling in love with her as soon as she hit the scene. Recently, New Orleans alt-rockers Mutemath took to Triple J to do an interesting cover of the decade-old hit.
Like ranch dressing, Alicia Keys goes good with anything. Her capabilities are as wide and diverse as her influences, and even if she chooses to show off only a certain set of skills on her original recordings, her cover songs reveal her epic range of styles.
Near the end of Bob Marley‘s life when cancer had begun to take it’s course he wrote “Redemption Song.” In a song that gives a glimpse into his dealing with mortality, he delivered one of the more widely covered acoustic spiritual ballads today. Some of the versions that ring true to the soul of the song include a haunting rendition by Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer and a live tribute by Lauryn Hill with Ziggy Marley.
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!
A few weeks ago, the music world and 20,000 lucky fans in Madison Square Garden said a bittersweet goodbye to LCD Soundsystem. James Murphy is probably better known for who has taken on his music than for covers he’s done, with everyone from Franz Ferdinand to the Muppets reimagining LCD songs. However, he’s recorded some excellent covers as well (including this week’s take on Franz’s “Live Alone” for Record Store Day). At first, it’s hard to imagine how covers could live up to LCD’s best original moments: the songs that capture the complexities of lost youth, fading love, or hipster culture with a few deft electronic tweaks. But Murphy successfully brings his signature sound to a surprising number of genres, draping sharp, lush electronics over a diverse assortment of other musicians’ work. Here’s a look at five of his best studio covers, along with a bonus live track.
Download This scours the web’s dark corners for cool cover freebies. View past installments.
Some of you might have some familiarity with Wakey!Wakey! by now. If the band’s debut studio full-length Almost Everything I Wish I’d Said The Last Time I Saw You, released last February on Family Records, failed to catch your ear, perhaps frontman Mike Grubbs’ recurring spot as the piano-playing bartender on TV’s One Tree Hill did. And if neither of these ring a bell, maybe you’ve stumbled upon the band on their relentless touring efforts (Currently, they’re doing shows in England both as headliners and in support of James Blunt).
But whenever you have – or will – come across the building wave that is Wakey!Wakey!, you shouldn’t miss the collection of covers that a solo Grubbs released back in 2008 as part of Wakey!Wakey! Wednesdays. Featuring songs by The Decemberists, Weezer, Alicia Keys, and more, the ten tracks were released one at a time on consecutive Wednesdays (the original G.O.O.D. Fridays?), and are all available for free download or stream over at The Family Records’ site.
Recently we’ve seen quite a few Roots posts (1, 2, 3). We’ve also seen some Jimmy Fallon. We haven’t yet posted the two together though (funny, given that they hang out five nights a week). Well now we can. They’ve even brought along Justin Timberlake, the best third wheel ever.
The trio (Timberlake, Fallon, Roots) takes us through a four-minute medley of rap hits from yesterday and today on last night’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It starts with the Sugarhill Gang and ends with Jay-Z (“Empire State of Mind”). In between they tackle Eminem, Tupac, Kanye, Soulja Boy – well, pretty much everyone. Even the Roots’ own “The Seed 2.0” gets the Timb-Fall treatment.
Quick, name a classic Jerry Lee Lewis album. Okay, now try Chuck Berry. Little Richard? Bo Diddley? Fats Domino?
How’d you do? Bet you came up empty. Don’t feel bad. After all, these artists didn’t make albums; they made singles. Sure, labels collected those singles on any number of mix-and-match LPs, but the artist never intended them for that medium. Singles mean to grab you by the lapel for two minutes before the disc jockey switches to someone else. The end result: artists recycled proven formulas. But who cares if “Johnny B. Goode” is basically a “Roll Over Beethoven” rewrite? They weren’t meant to be listened to together.
On The Baseballs Strike! Back, the expanded re-release of their 2009 debut Strike!, the nostalgic trio rips off Domino, Jerry Lee, and all their Brylcreem-slick peers. Their sound isn’t particularly innovate, but that’s the whole idea. These guys adapt that early rock and roll style to current pop hits. Ever wonder what Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” would sound like as skiffle? Probably not, but they’ll show you anyway.
iheartradio, Clear Channel’s foray into Internet radio, runs a performance video series in NYC. Their selections trend toward the pop artists (Justin Bieber, OneRepublic), but every now and then an indie up-and-comer breaks through. This past few days have seen two such artists: Swedish pop chanteuse Robyn and Somalian rapper K’naan. Watch both videos below.
Robyn goes minimalist dance-pop in her yearning version of Alicia Keys’ “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart.” One of 2010’s breakout stars seems to be everywhere these days, putting out not one but two albums this year alone. Somalian-Canadian rapper K’naan hit it big this year too thanks to the World Cup pushing his power-to-the-people anthem “Wavin’ Flag” up the iTunes charts. As a rapper, his singing on U2’s “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” is borderline, but the tight band behind him keeps things locked down. Incidentally, we seem to be in a rappers-covering-U2 trend. Exhibit B: The Roots covering “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Pride (In the Name of Love).”