At the end of every year, Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche covers one of the past 12 month’s biggest hits. In the past he’s tackled Ariana Grande, Drake, and Beyoncé (that one made our recent Best Beyoncé Covers Ever countdown). For the project’s tenth year, though, he pulled a twist, covering not one song but three – and not entirely new songs either.
In 2019, Cover Me wrote about more new covers than in any year in our 12-year history. I know; I checked the numbers. Our News team wrote amazing stand-alone stories on sometimes tight deadlines, adding context and research beyond “here’s a new cover” quickie. Plus, we rounded the best of the best into monthly 30+ lists, and added even more for supporters of our new Patreon. Even our Features team, who ostensibly couldn’t care less whether a cover came out last month or last century, seemed to be constantly finding new things to slip into their deep dives.
The point here is not to toot our own horn… well, that’s not entirely the point. What I want to do is emphasize just how high the bar to appear on this list has been set. Calling these covers great almost does them a disservice. There were way more than 50 great covers in 2019. In fact, we’ve already got 150 more bonus tracks lined up for Patreon supporters (which, I know I mention it a lot, but it’s how we keep this site afloat, so please consider supporting us if you like what we do). Honestly, we could throw all of the above in the trash and still come up with a pretty impressive batch of 2019 covers. But these 50 below – these are the cream of the crop, the belles of the ball, the toppermost of the poppermost.
You won’t agree. I guarantee it. As you go through this list, there will be at least one cover you hate. Maybe more than one. And if you followed cover news yourself this year, you’ll probably be outraged when a personal favorite placed too low, or didn’t make it at all. Great! That’s the beauty of these lists: It’s all opinion. Extremely educated opinions in our cases – I can pretty much guarantee that we collectively listened to more 2019 covers than any other site out there – but opinions nevertheless. So dive in and discover something new. Then help us discover something new by adding your own favorites in the comments.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
Britney Spears recently checked herself into a mental health facility amidst rumors she was trying to end her unusual conservatorship, reigniting the #FreeBritney campaign (the whole thing’s too complicated to get into here, but the Times has a good explainer). Everyone from Miley Cyrus to Heidi Klum spoke out in support of Britney – and, in their own way, so have new LA dream-pop band The Marías. They just released a video for their cover of “…Baby One More Time,” originally released a couple months before the latest news but newly relevant.
They wrote on Twitter, “we recorded ‘baby one more time’ to try to get us out of a funk that we were in. it was just for fun to help lift our spirits, and we didn’t even plan on releasing it at all. thanks for the love on it.”
You probably haven’t heard of California funk duo Scary Pockets. We hadn’t either, until stumbling upon their amazing sax-jazz cover of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory highlight “Pure Imagination.” But we should have. Turns out their keyboard player, Jack Conte, was half of one of YouTube’s first viral covers groups: Pomplamoose. (Conte also founded popular crowdfunding platform Patreon – needless to say, Scary Pockets has a page).
That’s the resume, but what hooked me before I discovered any of that were their new cover videos. Like a ’70s funk version of Postmodern Jukebox, Conte and his guitarist partner Ryan Lerman bring in guest singers for vintage soul takes on pop hits across the genre map. Start where I did, with a smooth jazz take on “Pure Imagination” featuring saxophonist Sam Gendel.
You’re probably not familiar with the Surfrajettes‘ oeuvre. An all-girl, go-go booted Surf Rock band from Toronto might not be on everyone’s musical radar. When I think Bikini Beach-era surf rock, I imagine Southern California, Santa Cruz, or maybe the banzai pipeline in Hawaii, but certainly not a Canadian city a thousand miles from any ocean, where the girls that make up Surfrajettes hail from.
Fresh off an ear-popping set at the Asbury Park Surf Music festival where they shared a bill with Dick Dale and Los Straight Jackets, this band seems to be intentionally flying just under the radar. No vocals, just psychedelic instrumental surf music played straight, fast, and furious.
“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty years.
This fourth installment of “Covering the Hits” marks a first: the first time one of these was a hit during Cover Me’s lifetime. Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me” topped the charts in 2011, well within this blog’s ten-year history. In fact, we wrote a feature on the song when it first came out. This is hardly a cut we’re dusting off from the archives of music history.