Remixes have a long history in the world of electronic music, the favored way there for and artist to reinterpret another’s work. As a result though, the abundance of EDM remixes leads to a dearth of EDM covers. That remix/cover divide is starting to break down though, most notable by superstar dance producer Avicii, who has recently recorded covers of Antony and the Johnsons and Nina Simone. And now we have another dance music cover we’re proud to premiere, by The Adversary.
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)
I can hear you now. “You dolt! How do you not know that Prince wrote ‘Nothing Compares 2 U?’ You write for a music blog, for crying out loud!”
The thing is, I know the history of the song. I know that he wrote the song for The Family’s 1985 debut album. (The “2 U” is a dead giveaway.) I guess I just believe in giving credit where credit is due. And while I do not mean to disrespect Prince in any way, let’s face it, the masses did not know of this song until Sinéad O’Connor recorded her platinum-selling single, which went to #1 in nearly every country in 1990. It was “The Bald One” – not “The Purple One” – that made the song the third biggest hit of that year, the 82nd biggest hit of the decade and, according to Rolling Stone magazine, #162 on the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
Weird Al Yankovic got a lot of attention this summer (and deservedly so) for releasing a new album that made it to number one on the charts, but he’s not the only novelty master from the ’80s to be doing well for himself lately. Big Daddy, the band that sprayed american graffiti all over the hits of the day back in the day, have a new album coming out next week – Smashin’ Songs of Stage & Screen, which Big-Daddifies songs from hit musicals ranging from Wizard of Oz to Saturday Night Fever. Earlier this year, they also put out a collection of their greatest hits of the ’80s and early ’90s, Cruisin’ Through the Rhino Years, that cherry-picks highlights from the four albums they released for the Rhino Records label. If you’ve already got The Best of Big Daddy, their 2000 compilation, you’ll have sixteen of these songs already – but you’ll want to spring for this to get five more.
Covers albums are commonly filled with songs that have special meaning to the band and often had an impact on the members. “Break-Up album” usually refers to a collection of songs dedicated to the end of a recent, often painful, relationship. Brooklyn band Quiet Loudly missed both of those memos. Their album is filled with songs chosen at the whim of a few fans who pledged a certain amount on the previous album’s Kickstarter, and the “Break Up” referred to is the band itself.
Holy Shits! I’ll hope you’ll pardon my French y’all, for this was just the name the Foo Fighters recently gave themselves when returning to the stage after a recent gig in Delaware. For their encore performance they thought they would do something different and perform as a bar band (and introduced themselves under the aforementioned name) bashing out some rock classics.