Internet fame is a fickle friend. For some, it turns you into the next teen sensation and even inspires its own ‘Fever.’ For others, one of the biggest jokes to date (“Friday”). You may not have heard of Steffaloo yet, but your cool 17-year-old neighbor with two thousand Tumblr followers has. Steffaloo manages a cult online following with everything she does, whether it be photography, blogging, or yes, even music.
YouTube is filled with amateur cover “artists.” Most stink. On the ‘Tube extracts the exceptions.
Our series continues today with college student Kiersten Holine, who has an addictive set of covers on her YouTube channel. You come for her impressive repertoire of songs, but you stay for her poignant and impassioned vocals. Holine decided to post her first video in 2007 and was overwhelmed by the great feedback she received from her online fans. 600,000 viewers can’t be wrong, can they? [Editor’s note: Ke$ha’s newest video has 1,500,000 views. ‘Nuff said.] Holine will let you in to the privacy of her room to get caught up in the emotion of her covers.
Holine bares her heart and soul on covers of folks like The Beatles, Bon Iver, and Wilco. “If a song hits me hard emotionally and melodically, I have to try to play it,” she tells Cover Me. “Every song I’ve chosen has meant quite a bit to me.” Her favorite cover to play is Feist’s “The Park,” and while watching her play it you can’t help but notice her connection to it.
So it begins: Listomania 2010. Like every music blog worth its proverbial salt, Cover Me will be going list-crazy this month. The difference is, our lists will specialize in – you guessed it – cover songs. Take the typical year-end list and insert the word “Cover” between “Best” and “Albums/Songs/etc” and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. First up: The Best Cover Videos of 2010.
Cover songs hit the web faster than ever these days, but well-crafted cover videos remain relatively rare. Sure, YouTube is bursting with webcam performances and DIY concert footage, but bedroom confessions soon grow tiresome. Well-crafted cover music videos (remember those?) come along far less often. A great video can be art on its own, playing with – or against – the audio recording to create a viewer/listener experience greater than the sum of its parts.
Below, we present our top ten cover videos of 2010. In some cases the song’s origins play an essential role in the music video; in others it makes no difference. Each brings new imagery, insight, or, in some cases, lolz to the song it accompanies. A Rastafarian astronaut shoots lasers. Apples float around a Twilight Zone apartment. Pig people fight mummy surgeons in the basement.
Check out our ten favs below, then tell us which you liked best.
If you ever needed an example of an artist making a song their own, look no further than James Blake’s cover of “The Limit to Your Love.” Feist‘s original is a nice little indie pop tune with some lounge-like jazz mixed in. James Blake’s version still has the moody piano and soulful vocals, but it only stays there for a short time before taking off into a pounding section of pure bass that could only be found in dubstep and grime.
The video goes right along with it. It starts out fairly simply in what appears to be a dark apartment. The camera spins around to focus on Blake’s face as he sings the song before shifting to an apple that has suddenly started moving on its own. The apple heads towards a cluster of spinning fruit. This is where things suddenly become surreal. As the bass hits, spoons with mysterious liquids and plants growing in cups of water start shaking, various household objects end up in a giant pile then disappear down a strange hole, and lights pulse from seemingly nowhere.
2009 will disappear into the ether in a few hours, but before it does there’s time for one last retrospective to do: The Top Covers of 2009. The Artists-to-Cover this year seemed to be Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson, though somewhat surprisingly no particularly definitive tribute to the latter has surfaced.
25. Imogen Heap – Thriller (Michael Jackson)
Any cover of this song loses something without the Vincent Price voice-over. Imogen Heap may not be the Godfather of Horror, but she’s just quirky enough to pull it off. [Buy]
24. Jason Bajada – You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son (Wolf Parade)
There’s nothing harder to pull off than an acoustic-guitar and voice cover. Anyone can try – just strum the chords – but few stand out from the pack of YouTube wannabes. Bajada is one. [Buy]
23. Thom Yorke – All for the Best (Miracle Legion)
How a semi-obscure songwriter got so many A-listers for his tribute album (Yorke, Michael Stipe, Frank Black) is a bit of a mystery, but the “Idioteque”-esq blips Yorke warbles over somehow makes perfect sense. [Buy]
22. Atlas Sound – Walk a Thin Line (Fleetwood Mac)
Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox’s other band put up this tempered falsetto cover on his blog with little fanfare earlier this year. As with most things he gets his hands on, it exploded. [Buy]
21. Florence and the Machine – Addicted to Live (Robert Palmer)
Largely known for the robo-models who jerk about in the video, “Addicted to Love” gets a much-needed upgrade from blog darling Florence and the Machine whose Lungs was one of the best albums of the year. [Buy]
20. The Dead Weather – You Just Can’t Win (Them)
This list easily could have been the twenty-five best Jack White covers of the year. On the b-side to the “Treat Me Like Your Mother” single (vinyl only, naturally), White hollers like an in-the-gutter bluesman which the band emits musical sludge around him. [Buy]
17. Joensuu 1685 – I’m On Fire (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen covered Suicide in 2005 and this one sounds like Suicide fighting back. The feedback frenzy of an opening lasts almost three minutes until the singing begins. And this is the short version! [Buy]
16. Anya Marina – Whatever You Like (T.I.)
I despise this song with a passion, so it’s ironic that not one but two brilliant covers were some of my most-played (the other being by Joan As Police Woman). The lyrics are as profound as ever. Shorty, you the hottest. Love the way you drop it. Brain so good, could have sworn you went to college. [Buy]
14. Feist and Ben Gibbard – Train Song (Vashti Bunyan)
Indie-tastic charity comp Dark Was the Night had more new covers than many tribute albums, but was excluded for consideration from our list ‘cause it had just as many originals. However, the harmony on this semi-obscure song form 1966 cannot be ignored. [Buy]
13. John Frusciante – Song to the Siren (Tim Buckley)
Frusciante recently quit the Chili Peppers. If that enables him to make more experimental psychedelic covers like this one, thank goodness. He should have brought Flea with him. [Buy]
12. Coldplay – Fight for Your Right (Beastie Boys)
The Beastie Boys canceled a summer of high-profile festival appearance when MCA announced he had cancer. Jay-Z subbed in at All Points West, paying predictable tribute (“No Sleep Til Brooklyn”). More unexpected was Chris Martin’s brilliant minor-key piano ballad two days later. And the crowd goes wild . [Buy]
11. Town Bike – Radio Nowhere (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce Springsteen closed his four-hour appearance on Elvis Costello’s Spectacle with a mashup of this and “Radio Radio.” Slamming it into “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio” works too. [Buy]
10. Ben’s Brother – Poker Face (Lady Gaga)
Everyone from Weezer to Daughtry covered “Poker Face” this year, its catchy hook a natural for ironic sing-alongs. The indie-acoustic covers seemed to work best and “beta male” Jamie Hartman sings it so enthusiastically you almost don’t hear the tongue in cheek. [Buy]
9. Chromeo – I Can’t Tell You Why (The Eagles)
Electro-funk duo Chromeo seems an unlikely duo to cover the Eagles. Their effects-laden delivery beats the odds though, taking the 1979 single straight into the twenty-first century. [Buy]
8. Dex Romweber Duo ft. Jack White – Last Kind Word Blues (Geechie Wiley)
Definitely the best Geechie Wiley cover this year. Jack White produced this one for his Third Man Records label and was nice enough to add his enviable yelp to this blues stomp. [Burn]
7. My Gold Mask – Bette Davis Eyes (Jackie DeShannon/Kim Carnes)
My Gold Mask sent this one our way a couple months ago, which just goes to show you artists out there, submissions are never ignored. [Buy]
5. The BPA ft. Iggy Pop – He’s Frank (Slight Return) (The Monochrome Set)
Fatboy Slim (Norman Cook to his mom) created the Brighten Port Authority apparently solely to produce some killer club-funk tracks with his favorite vocalists. Iggy Pop, who these days seems to have made a career out of guest appearances, sneers his way through this unearthed gem. Biggest shock of all: he managed to keep his shirt on during live performances! [Buy]
4. The Gaslight Anthem – I Do Not Hook Up (Kelly Clarkson)
The Gaslight Anthem tend to cover Bruce Springsteen, The Band, and Johnny Cash. Did the heart-on-sleeve rock revivals finally succumb to the temptation of the ironic pop cover? Not a chance. Against all odds Brian Fallon gives a Kelly Clarkson song the emotional heft of “The River.” [Buy]
2. Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers – I Only Have Eyes For You (The Flamingos)
Nick Cave recently called this his new favorite band, which is all the recommendation one needs. Their garage-punk racket turns this innocent love song into the best stalker rocker since “Every Breath You Take.” [Buy]