In what will undoubtedly be the first of many astounding collaborations in the recently launched In The Room series, alt-R&B artist Gallant – artist behind our 13th favorite cover of 2015 – and indie legend Sufjan Stevens – no stranger to our year-end lists himself – team up and take on one of Stevens’ own – “Blue Bucket of Gold.”
Follow all our Best of 2015 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.
I didn’t realize it until I began laying out our post, but this year’s Best Cover Songs list shares quite a few artists with last year’s. And some that showed up here the year before that. Jack White’s on his fourth appearance. And Jason Isbell and Hot Chip not only both reappear from last year, but have moved up in the rankings.
Though we’re always on the lookout for the new (and to be sure, there are plenty of first-timers here too), the number of repeat honorees illustrates how covering a song is a skill just like any other. The relative few artists who have mastered it can probably deliver worthy covers again and again.
How a great cover happens is something I’ve been thinking a lot about this year as I’ve been writing a series of articles diving deep into the creation of iconic cover songs through history (I posted two of them online, and the rest are being turned into a book). In every case the artist had just the right amount of reverence for the original song: honoring its intention without simply aping it. It’s a fine line, and one even otherwise able musicians can’t always walk. Plenty of iconic people don’t make good cover artists (I’d nominate U2 as an example: some revelatory covers of the band, but not a lot by them). Given the skill involved, perhaps it’s no surprise that someone who can do a good cover once can do it again.
So, to longtime readers, you will see some familiar names below. But you’ll also see a lot of new names, and they’re names you should remember. If the past is any guide, you may well see them again next year, and the year after that.
Click on over to page two to begin our countdown, and thanks for reading.
– Ray Padgett, Editor in Chief
(Illustration by Sarah Parkinson)
Dave Grohl broke his leg last week and had to cancel a bunch of shows. Given the spate of recent great Foo Fighters covers though, maybe he should have just turned those dates into tribute concerts. Tessa Rose Jackson’s amazing version of the “The Pretender” might work for a quieter midpoint, but a tribute show should definitely kick off with Los Angeles R&B singer Gallant performing his storming new cover of “Learn to Fly.”