Last week, we posted a new live video of Birdy’s “1901.” We might have held off, had we known an official music video for the Phoenix cover was coming a few days later. Oh well. Both videos are worth checking out.
15-year-old vocal phenom Jasmine van den Bogaerde, who performs under the cutesy stage name Birdy, has been slowly releasing stunning cover videos for about a year now, starting with her take on Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” and following up with “Shelter” by the xx and others on her YouTube channel. While her debut album came out in November in the UK (where Birdy lives), it won’t hit American shelves until May 20th. In anticipation of her impending North American invasion, Birdy just dropped a new video of her solo piano take on Phoenix’s 2009 hit “1901,” treating it as gently and beautifully as we’ve come to expect from this wunderkind of covers.
When people look back in 2011 in music a decade from now, one name will come to mind: Adele. In our little world of cover songs, she dominated. Everyone covered Adele this year. It’s not just that we saw more covers of “Rolling in the Deep” than any other song; they beat out second place (probably “Pumped Up Kicks”) by like a factor of five! We generally try to look for larger cover trends in these annual wrap-ups, but it’s hard to remember anything else from this year except the year-long onslaught of Adele covers hitting our mailbox.
There’s only one “Rolling in the Deep” cover in this year’s list though. The rest are all over the place. Some of the artists listed built their covers with lush soundscapes, thick beats, and intricate string work. Others just took guitars or pianos and bowled us over with the emotion in their voices. There may not be much of an overarching “Year in Covers” narrative, but that means there’s a cover or two for everyone. From feel-good takes on rap songs to kill-yourself versions of pop songs, this year’s list features flips, flops, and genre switcheroos of all sorts. A good cover should be informed by the source material but stand on its own, and we’ll be unrolling the 50 finest examples of songs doing just that all week. Start with #50-41 on the next page and check back daily as we count down to the best cover of 2011.
When we think back to this year, we might remember 2011 as the year that the whole concept of the “cover album” became more fluid, and not always for the better. Thanks to the increased prominence of sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud, a cover album could be conceived, recorded, and shared in the space of a weekend. This didn’t necessarily lead to better cover albums, but it certainly led to more of them. They came in all formats – digital, CD, vinyl, and even cassette-only – and from all directions – labels, blogs, and even some magazines.
Which, we like to think, makes this list that much more helpful. In a year where the biggest single-artist cover album we got came from William Shatner, it proved a particular challenge to dig through the many obscure artists and assorted tributes and extract the gems. Gems there certainly were though, be they from newcomers making an impression with their favorite songs or old-timers honoring groups that influenced them decades ago. It may have taken a bit more work to find them, but the end result is as strong a selection as we’ve seen.
Continue to page 2 to read the list…
Calling Birdy incredibly talented for a 15-year old is accurate, but insufficient. This small singer is incredibly talented for any age. She’s warmed hearts all over Britain in the past year with her covers of the xx and Bon Iver and her debut album just dropped over there. It includes the aforementioned cuts, as well as covers of Phoenix, the National, Fleet Foxes, the Postal Service, and more. We’ve got a few sample tracks to stream below.
Quickies rounds up new can’t-miss covers. Download ‘em below.
• Despite being all of 15 years old, U.K. singer Birdy is quickly becoming a reliable hitmaker on the back of her cover songs. “Skinny Love” hit the British charts first, followed by a cover of the xx’s “Shelter.” She hit Radio 1 this week to perform the latter and threw in a third cover: Ed Sheeran’s “The A-Team.” As usual, Birdy uses her huge voice to craft a heartbreaking piano ballad.
MP3: Birdy – The A Team (Ed Sheeran cover)