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
While Phil Collins’s current Still Not Dead Yet tour has been a mostly a celebratory affair, it also bears a tinge of bittersweetness. A variety of physical ailments have impaired Phil’s ability to move around, requiring him to be seated for the majority of the shows. But despite these challenges, there is a particular song Phil makes a point of standing up to deliver most nights. It’s not one of the perky sing-alongs like “Sussudio” or “Invisible Touch,” but his eternally haunting, bitter and thunderous “In The Air Tonight.”
Anderson .Paak – Old Town Road (Lil Nas X cover)
Given how thoroughly “Old Town Road” dominated the summer – the longest-reigning Billboard #1 in history, for those under-a-rock-dwellers among you – it seems shocking that it took until now for the first truly great cover to emerge. Less shocking: that it came from rapper/singer/drummer extraordinaire Anderson .Paak. Back in May, he performed a more straightforward version with Lil Nas X himself, but for BBC’s Live Lounge he and his band The Free Nationals reinvented it into a soul groove with shades of D’Angelo.
Andrew Leahey & the Homestead – Lips Like Sugar (Echo and the Bunnymen cover)
Nashville Americana musician Andrew Leahey first heard “Lips Like Sugar” a couple years ago while touring through Texas. Dozing in the van, he woke up to a bandmate blasting the Echo and the Bunnymen hit. “I remember thinking, ‘I hope we don’t crash right now, because I absolutely need to learn how to play this,'” he said. “We’ve been playing it ever since.” He recorded it for his new album Airwaves, out tomorrow.
Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan – You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra cover)
Guitar great Bill Frisell first recorded the classic James Bond theme a couple years ago for his album (one of our favorites of that year). He revisits it now for a live album with bassist Thomas Morgan. Like any jazz musician worth his martini, Frisell changes and expands the Bond song the second time through. It’s barely recognizable much of the time, but would still be worth a spot on our Best Bond Covers list.
Our 50 Best Cover Songs of 2018 post goes up Monday and, as always, the cuts to get it down to size were brutal. I know it’s going to rough going when the painful cuts begin when the list is still pushing 100. The final and toughest cut of all – the 51st Best Cover of 2018, as it were – came last: singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers’ mesmerizing take on Tom Petty’s “It’ll All Work Out.” It still hurts that that one didn’t make it, so I’ll give it a little extra shine here (go listen to it here!).
Bridgers’ cover of The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” might have been a year-end contender too had it come out a month ago. Just as she did with the Petty deep cut, she strips all the production away, leaving only a spare keyboard and layers of ethereal harmonies. “Friday I’m in Love” gets covered far less than comparable Cure hits, sometimes derided as a less artful pop-radio play (it didn’t even rank in Rolling Stone’s fan-voted Best Cure Songs list). Bridgers redeems the song on her stunning cover, recorded for a new Spotify Single, and will hopefully inspire more closet “Friday I’m in Love” fans to cover the song.