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.
Last week, R.E.M. released a 25th anniversary expanded reissue of their 1994 album Monster. Unlike many of their albums, Monster was not an obvious candidate for a splashy box set. Practically every new review has noted that Monster was, as Salon succinctly put it, “a notorious staple of dollar bins everywhere.” But, as tends to happen with such reissues, the celebrated albums get celebrated again and the less-loved albums get a critical reappraisal. Sure enough, everyone loves Monster all of a sudden.
So perhaps an avalanche of Monster covers is forthcoming – because there certainly aren’t many now. Despite that being the ostensible news peg for this list, no songs from that album appear on it. But, in a band with as rich a discography as R.E.M.’s, there was a lot of competition. Sure, the obvious hits get covered as much as you think, but many artists delve deeper. The song at the very top of the list, for instance, originally appeared on 1998’s Up, an album that might have an even worse reputation than Monster.
Luckily we don’t need to wait four more years for the reappraisal of that, or of any of the other songs on our list. These 25 covers reappraise R.E.M. deep cuts you didn’t know and reimagine the hits you’ve heard a million times.
Since January, Kanye West has been exploring the spiritual side of popular songs at invite-only concerts on the West Coast he’s dubbed “Sunday Service.”
The concept is elaborately simple: take a song that everyone knows, fly in an entire choir (known as The Samples) to a new location each week, and have the choir perform the song with new lyrics and a decidedly gospel feel. Bands such as Nirvana and No Doubt as well as artists Sia, Tracy Chapman, and Chance the Rapper among many others have all had their songs gospelized by West and his amazing choir. “Don’t Speak” becomes “Lord Speaks,” “Fast Car” becomes “Great God,” etc. West has gospelized a few of his own songs, and the entire project is rumored to be a preview of West’s upcoming album Yandhi (release date still unknown).Continue reading »
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Kelly Clarkson is a genuine pop idol – idol is the key word there. She found fame as the original winner of American Idol back in 2002, mostly on the strength of her amazing voice. Not content to simply rest on those laurels, she quickly put her TV show winner past behind her and sought out a bigger, different sound. Her second album, Breakaway, accomplished that; she netted the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album and sold over fifteen million copies. That’s not bad for an album used as a statement piece about taking control of her own career.
Clarkson has continued refining her sound. At times she’s flirted with rock, as she did with the My December album. She’s indulged in country music as well, duetting with Reba McEntire on several occasions, finally leading to their co-headlining 2 Worlds 2 Voices tour in 2008. No matter what she chooses to sing, Kelly brings that amazing voice. Rolling Stone‘s Arion Berger said that “her high notes are sweet and pillowy, her growl is bone-shaking and sexy, and her midrange is amazingly confident.” With that kind of instrument at her command, any song she chooses to sing is worth listening to. Continue reading »
The names Tommy Miller and Justine Dorsey may not be familiar to most people outside of the YouTube music community. The two are a part of a collaborative musical effort on YouTube called “Steamy in the City,” comprised of some very talented musicians and filmmakers looking to make a diverse music channel on the Internet. It has been just over a year since the inception of the channel, and the aforementioned duo have just come out with what can only be described as one of the most adorable and happy renditions of one of No Doubt’s newest singles, “Settle Down.”Continue reading »
The first post of the month features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
London Calling entered into the world in December 1979, but didn’t make its stateside debut for another month. That makes 2010 the album’s 30th anniversary on this side of the pond. It’s aged well. While many classic albums sound very much of their time — that’s not to say dated — London Calling sounds like something that could have been made yesterday. With the cover image and the cover songs, the politics and the pop, the ambitious two-disc package set a bar that no double album has since matched. So, all together now: “And I…live by the river!”
Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl and Little Steven Van Zandt – London Calling
Many artists cross genres with “London Calling,” ranging from bossa nova (Bruce Lash) to surf instrumental (The Pyronauts). Somehow though, kicking this set off with anything besides a balls-to-the-wall rocker seemed wrong. This all-star performance comes from a Grammy tribute to Joe Strummer. [Buy]
The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Brand New Cadillac (Vince Taylor)
The Clash wasted no time getting to the rockabilly, turning Vince Taylor’s 1958 twelve-bar b-side into a full throttled rave-up. Setzer and his orchestra jump, jive and wail through their unique brand of big band punk, adding in a touch of the Theme from Peter Gunn. [Buy]
Skarabazoo – Jimmy Jazz
You may never have noticed the subdued whistle in the intro to this one, but Skarabazoo pushes it front and center. The Italian accent adds a suitably sinister touch. [Buy]
No Doubt – Hateful
Before all the B-A-N-A-N-A-S nonsense, Gwen Stefani could pull off some real punk swagger. [Buy]
The Cocktail Preachers – Rudie Can’t Fail
The Charlie Does Surf tribute album settles comfortably into the über-niche genre of instrumental surf-rock. The Cocktail Preachers buck the trend though, shouting out “Rudie can’t fail” one whole time! Such rebels. [Buy]
Brady Harris – Spanish Bombs
Brady’s fantastic Cover Charge album polishes everyone from Motörhead to the Killers with a country-folk gloss. Check out the “Heart of Glass” cover he recorded for Cover Me back in February. [Buy]
Southern Arts Society – The Right Profile
In 1956, screen star Montgomery Clift was driving home from a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s. Having had one too many, he smashed his car into a tree, destroying his famous good looks with one crunch of glass and metal. His next ten years have been described as the “longest suicide in Hollywood history.” The Clash wrote this song about it. [Buy]
Petty Booka – Lost in the Supermarket
Joe Strummer wrote this song imagining the childhood of guitarist Mick Jones (who sang lead on the track). Japanese ukulele player Booka adds a dose of cute without losing the sad. [Buy]
The National – Clampdown
In music history, 2010 may be remembered as the Year of the National. Everyone from Rolling Stone to NPR is stumbling over themselves praising High Violet, the most anticipated album of the spring. The stream over at the New York Times indicates it might live up to the hype. [Buy]
Calexico – The Guns of Brixton
Fun trivia fact: Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong named his son Brixton after this song. Must be cheery growing up as an homage to police repression. [Buy]
Buck-O-Nine – Wrong ‘Em Boyo (The Rulers)
The classic death-ballad tale of Stagger Lee, a southern pimp convicting of murdering William “Billy” Lyons on Christmas Eve 1885, gets twisted around. In the Rulers’ version, Stagger Lee is the hero of the tale. St. Louis’ Riverfront Times hosts a telling. [Buy]
Social Distortion – Death or Glory
Following a few years behind the Clash, Social Distortion gave punk anger a West coast spin. They didn’t get around to covering the Clash until 2005 though, on the soundtrack to the skateboard film Lord of Dogtown. [Buy]<
La Furia – Koka Kola
La Furia are a Clash cover band with a twist: every song gets translated into Spanish. [Buy]
James Dean Bradfield – The Card Cheat
The Manic Street Preachers singer busted out this relative obscurity at a 2006 festival appearance. This underrated narrative describes the rise and fall (mostly fall) of a dishonest gambler. [Buy]
Mauri – Lover’s Rock
If one had to name London Calling’s Achilles heel, this song might be it. It aims for insight into the tension between love and sex, but quickly devolves into blowjob puns. [Buy]
Creation Rockers – Four Horsemen
The Clash roiled punk purists by incorporating outside styles like reggae. Shatter the Hotel: A Dub Inspired Tribute to Joe Strummer pays it back. [Buy]
Thea Gilmore – I’m Not Down
Gilmore popped up here last week, beautifying Dylan’s “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.” Now she’s back with an anthem for society’s trampled on. [Buy]
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – Revolution Rock (Jackie Edwards & Danny Ray)
And we’re back to Spanish, on a track from these prolific Argentineans’ 1994 album Vasoc Vacíos (Empty Glasses). [Buy]
Dwight Yoakam – Train in Vain
Johnny Cash once called Yoakam his favorite country singer, which is about as much endorsement as anyone should need. [Buy]