“License to Kill” is one of the most well-known tracks from Bob Dylan‘s notorious reggae-influenced album Infidels. At the time, Infidels was viewed by some as a bit of a return to form, as he stopped singing explicitly Christian songs for the first time in half a decade. Working with Sly & Robbie, Dylan delivered his new songs in a style he’d never attempted before.
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Jaime Joshi lives in South Florida amidst geckos, 24-hour Cuban coffee and soup-like humidity. She has been writing for Cover Me since 2013; of all her pieces, she is particularly proud of her pieces on Bruce Springsteen and Madonna. (She’s the one on the right.)
Back in September, we posted a shaky live cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” by the Horrible Crowes, the new project by the Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon and guitar tech Ian Perkins. Now, they’ve covered Perry’s song live at WFUV radio in New York, and listeners can get a way better idea of how well these guys rock Perry’s pop tune. While it may seem like a strange choice for the band, Fallon hits every note in Perry’s tune with such effortless charisma that listeners are bound to ask for more genre crossing covers from the Crowes in the future.
When Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem covers a song, he generally looks to classic rock– Tom Petty, the Clash, and, of course, Springsteen. When he latches onto a cheesy pop song though, man oh man. We heard him deliver lightning in a bottle once a few years ago with his stunning version of Kelly Clarkson’s “I Do Not Hook Up.” Now he does it again with the Horrible Crowes, his new band with guitar tech Ian Perkins. They played their first show ever last night at New York’s Bowery Ballroom and let loose with a cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.”
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!
The Gaslight Anthem is a band that inevitably draws comparisons to other artists, whether they’re channeling the sound of Social Distortion, the spirit of Johnny Cash, or the lyrics of the Boss. It only makes sense, then, that this group of Jersey Shore boys has a knack for covers. This blog has spotlighted some of their best work before. Who could forget their haunting full-band reading of Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” or singer Brian Fallon’s totally sincere and totally amazing reworking of Kelly Clarkson’s “I Do Not Hook Up”?
For this installment of In the Spotlight, though, I wanted to dig a little deeper and find some less-represented Gaslight covers. This is a band that is totally about context—their place in rock ‘n’ roll seems wholly dependent on those that have come before (for example, try to find a Gaslight review that does not mention Bruce Springsteen. Go ahead, I dare you). The goal here was to find a range of covers to show that the band is not only aware of those comparisons, but is also aware that their audience knows them too. Thus, while some of their choices in cover songs—Springsteen, Tom Petty—are pretty obvious, others—the Replacements, The Who—are a bit of a curve ball. Even a song that’s essentially become a standard for our era (Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”) receives a fresh treatment complete with new vocal melody. In a nutshell, the songs below illustrate that Gaslight knows what their fans want, but also knows how to keep them on their toes.
It’s the last day of August – time to look back at the songs that defined Summer ’09. Admittedly, the “song of the summer” thing always seems to become clearer in retrospect, but in terms of sheer ubiquity it’s hard to beat the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow.” In fact, the only group that can really challenge them is…the Black Eyes Peas, for the grammatical nightmare “I Gotta Feeling.” Guys, “gotta” is short for “got to,” not “got a.”
Regardless, here are the contenders. My song of the summer is number two. I’d call it a guilty pleasure, except I am proud to walk down the street singing “pa-pa-pa poker face, pa-pa poker face!” If I was singing “I Love College”…well, that’d be a different story.
The Maccabees – Boom Boom Pow (Black Eyed Peas)
This one would be the indisputed song of the summer if the Peas hadn’t challenged their own legacy by providing another contender. In my eyes, they’re both somewhat generic AutoTune pop that, unlike most of these other songs, never get stuck in my head. Perhaps that’s why hearing a version with actual singing is so refreshing. [Buy]
Ruby Weapon – Two Weeks (Grizzly Bear)
As “indie kids” slowly take over, offbeat left-of-the-mainstream artists like Grizzly Bear can finally begin challenging the Fergies of the world for summer-song glory. They’re not they’re yet, but the gauntlet has been laid. Your move, Katy Perry. [Buy]
Donna, Anna & Ruby – Best I Ever Had (Drake)
Three girls, an acoustic guitar and some beatboxing are all you need to make the summer’s stupidest love song drop the “guilty” from “guilty pleasure.” Plus the new raps – complete with Erykah Badu reference – ups the ante, [Buy]
Run Toto Run – Sleepyhead (Passion Pit)
“Sleepyhead” seems like the perfect title for a summer song. Maybe “Sleepyhead at the Beach with a Margarita” would have been better, but give Passion Pit a break; they’re new. [Buy]
The Gaslight Anthem – I Do Not Hook Up (Kelly Clarkson)
As a huge Gaslight fan, I thought they were above novelty covers. Then I listened to this…and realized I was right. Somehow, against every odd in the book, Brian Fallon needs only an acoustic guitar and his Jersey sincerity to make this one sound like another Springsteen cover. You’ll never hear the original the same way again. For that matter, you’ll never want to hear it again. [Buy]
Matt Toka – I Love College (Asher Roth)
I realize summer songs (like summer movies) are supposed to be stupid, but this one really lowers the bar. I’ve noticed only high schoolers seem to enjoy it. I think that’s because college kids are just embarrassed by it. Asher exploits every stereotype of higher education with the lyrical dexterity of an eight year-old. Then at the end it takes a left turn into some unexpected proselytizing about safe sex. [Buy]
CHAINGANG – Day ‘N’ Night (Kid Cudi)
Well this one’s hard to describe. It’s like shoegaze guitar, metal-dance drums, and a Joan Jett vocalist. But you know what’s truly indescribable? How well it works. [Buy]
Ruby Isle – My Girls (Animal Collective)
I’m one of the few blogger who loathes Animal Collective. Take out all the pretentious blips though and there’s a decent tune underneath this one. Ruby Isle scores the ultimate zinger at the end though: “All I’m trying to say is, social status isn’t really a material thing.” [Buy]
Fightstar – Battlefield (Jordin Sparks)
It was a good summer for American Idol winners. Expect Taylor Hicks’ #1 smash any day now. [Buy]