The Pixels is a band from Thessaloniki, Greece that describes itself as “Pop/Alternative Rock with a taste of swing and jazz”. Well it’s more than “a taste” on their new cover. A few years ago, lead singer Giotis Dort became somewhat of a YouTube sensation with his cover songs. Since he formed the band in 2014, they have also done their fair share of covers, but their latest takes them to a whole new level: Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Michael Jackson released his Off the Wall album the month he turned 21, and nothing showed his artistic maturation like the opening track and lead single, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” Penned solely by Jackson, it marked the first time he used his falsetto and the squeals and yelps that soon became identified with him. It got him his first solo number one hit in seven years, succeeding 1972’s “Ben,” and it was a very long way from singing about a pet rat to the love and sensations of the Force (featured in arguably one of the most misheard lyrics in 20th century music). Most importantly, the revelation of his talent(s) prompted an instant reevaluation of his stature as an artist. Michael Jackson had arrived; the public couldn’t get enough, and he wasn’t stopping.
Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
“Our music is loud, fun, and it’s supposed to make you feel good.”
That’s straight from the mouth of Arleigh Kincheloe, the lead singer and Sister Sparrow to the collection of Dirty Birds that backs her up in this amazing rock/soul/funk band. Arleigh and her brother Jackson, who plays the prominently-featured harmonica for the ensemble, came from the Catskills to the band’s base of operations, Brooklyn. They formed in 2008, and by 2010 they had their self-titled debut album available. Since then, they’ve been road warriors, hitting venues and festivals all over the country. They’ve won listeners over the old-fashioned way: putting on the best damn shows they can and bringing to music to every pair of ears they can find.
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)
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).
Today’s question, from Cover Me staffer Raphael Camara: What’s a cover song you like by an artist you dislike?
Miguel Rivera is an online guitar teacher from the Zaragoza province of Spain. The first time I heard of him was a couple of years back when I did a YouTube search to find how to play “Layla”. Unfortunately, he only taught the “Unplugged” version, not the official Derek & The Dominos version I was searching for. Still, I have come back to his YouTube channel quite a few times to learn various songs or blues techniques. (The lessons are in Spanish, so you might want to take some Spanish lessons before visiting.)