Mar 132020
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Brass Against

Protest music is back, spread the word!

The bio for Brass Against on Spotify tells it all: “In this politically challenging era, it’s time to stand up against the machine. We want the music we perform to sound inspiring and resonate with people’s emotions, encouraging them to act.” Their style is a mix of big band and sick bars. The band does have their own original music, but they are known for their covers, like those of the band they paid homage to in their own name, Rage Against the Machine.

Brad Hammonds, leader of the Brass Against group, was inspired to return to protest music as Donald Trump started amassing power. He told Louder, “I know when I listen to political inspired bands I get really energised, especially Rage.” Same, Brad. Same.

And as alluded to, Rage Against the Machine is no stranger to protest music (or covers, for that matter). The band members have been vocal about their anti-authoritarianism and have used their platform to advocate for their beliefs. They have held protest concerts at both the Democratic National Convention (in 2000) and the Republican National Convention (in 2008), which led to both violence and police action. Rage Against the Machine is back to raging, reuniting for a world tour nine years after they have last played together and twenty years since their last full tour. Proceeds from the tour will go to charities, including those that advocate for immigrant rights.

I encourage you to work through Brass Against’s full three albums when you need a little fuel for your hate fire, but we’ll go through some highlights here.

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Nov 272019
 

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.

independent women covers

In honor of the new Charlie’s Angels movie, directed by Elizabeth Banks, we throwback to the original movie and the lead tune from its soundtrack. Before Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey told us not to call them angels, Destiny’s Child informed us that if you “try to control me, boy, you get dismissed.” Before Ella Balinska, Naomi Scott, and Kristen Stewart, we had “Lucy Liu, with my girl, Drew, Cameron D and Destiny.”

This song, despite heavy references to the movie in the intro and throughout, rose to fame beyond the soundtrack. Destiny’s Child even released the song as a single off of their Survivor album, home to other bangers like the title track and “Bootylicious.” There is even an “Independent Women Pt. II” on the album, if you aren’t pumped up enough from just one. Part I was number one on Billboard‘s Hot 100 for 11 weeks, putting it among only three percent of top hits lasting for a double digits number of weeks at the pinnacle.

Fifth Harmony did a Destiny’s Child tribute medley including this jam (pre-Camila Cabello’s departure), and KT Tunstall’s version of this song is superb, but here are three more covers that tell us how “angels get down like that.”

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Nov 082019
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

at last cover

Released in 1960, “At Last” was Etta James’s second hit single from and the title track of her debut album. It crossed over from the R&B charts to the Billboard Hot 100 and went on to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

From commercials to the first dance at President Barack Obama’s first inaugural balll. (covered by none other than Beyoncé), the song permeates our culture. According to IMDb, James’s “At Last” appeared in 64 television show episodes or movies. From classics like Rain Man to unexpected venues like Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never documentary, the song has celebrated victory in love (finally!). However, James was almost twenty years too late to claim this song as her own.

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Nov 012019
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best cover songs october 2019
Angie McMahon – Knowing Me, Knowing You (ABBA cover)

It comes too late for our Best ABBA Covers countdown, but Angie McMahon’s low-simmer version of “Knowing Me, Knowing You” would make a worthy addition. Though it comes coated in a layer of rock grit, the band’s vocal harmonies stand up to the Swedes. And just wait for Angie McMahon’s cover-closing holler. Continue reading »

Apr 302019
 
best cover songs of april
Beyoncé – Before I Let Go (Maze cover)

Last week, Beyoncé surprised-dropped her live album Homecoming. It accompanied the Netflix film of the same name, which immortalized her lionized 2018 Coachella performance. The biggest surprise of all was the bonus track: a cover of Maze’s 1981 “Before I Let Go.” The original song wasn’t a huge hit when it first came out, but has grown to be referred to sometimes as the “black national anthem.” Beyoncé brings it right up to the present with a big production including marching band, new rap verse, and a sample of New Orleans bounce artist DJ Jubilee. Continue reading »

Apr 012019
 
best cover songs march
Amaara – House of Cards (Radiohead cover)

We just posted the 45 best Radiohead covers ever, but there’s already a 46th. Unsurprising, really, considering how much this band gets covered. The musical project of actor Kaelen Amara Ohm, Amaara took on the In Rainbows gem “House of Cards.” Her cover carries echoes of the haunting original, but with a smoother electro-ambient sheen.

Chris Anderson – Eh-Hee / Digging in the Dirt (Dave Matthews / Peter Gabriel cover)

Composer Chris Anderson draws from some pretty deep wells of music knowledge on his new Song Cycle. He covers Laurie Anderson and John Cage and Tom Waits – twice. He covers Peter Gabriel twice too, on a beautiful “Mercy Street” and more subtly here, working bits of “Digging in the Dirt” into – of all things – a gospel Dave Matthews cover. “The addition of a choir was important to me to create the feeling of a ground-swell of support,” he writes in an email. “The fact that the song is about ‘knocking the devil to his knees’ made the gospel choir a natural choice.” Continue reading »