Dec 172018
 
best cover songs of 2018

Two things strike me as I scan through our list this year. This first is that many of the highest-ranking covers are tributes to recently-deceased icons. No surprise there, I suppose. But none actually pay tribute to artists that died in 2018. They honor those we’ve been honoring for two or three years now – your Pettys, your Princes, your Bowies. Hundreds of covers of each of these legends appeared in the first days after their deaths, but many of the best posthumous covers took longer to emerge.

Good covers take time. That principle – the cover-song equivalent of the slow food movement, perhaps – holds true throughout the list. Sure, a few here appear to have arisen from sudden moments of brilliance, flash-arranged for some concert or radio promo session. But many more reveal months or even years of painstaking work to nail every element. Making someone else’s song one’s own isn’t easy. These 50 covers took the time to get it right.

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

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Nov 282018
 
christine queens cover rihanna

We first encountered French pop superstar Christine and the Queens when she covered Kanye West’s “Heartless” with an unlikely twist: mixing in bits of 1973 French hit “Les Paradis Perdus.” Knowing that, it should be no surprise that the newly short-haired Christine doesn’t play her Rihanna cover for the BBC straight. Instead, throughout her powerful rendition of Rihanna’s “Kiss It Better,” she sprinkles in lines from Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights.” Continue reading »

Oct 012018
 
best cover songs september
Al Green – Before the Next Teardrop Falls (Freddy Fender cover)


Sorry, Beyoncé; the biggest surprise release of the year might be Al Green’s sudden return after a decade away. Well, not totally away; he still conducts weekly services at his Memphis church and, when I attended, was liberally sprinkling quotes from “Love and Happiness” and “Take Me to the River” into his sermons. Best of all: This Freddy Fender cover sounds like Al hasn’t lost a step. It’s apparently a one-off, but hopefully recording it will whet his appetite to do more. Continue reading »

May 192018
 
grace jones covers

Here’s a stumper: Is it more correct to ask who Grace Jones is, or what Grace Jones is? The model-actress-singer-diva-icon turns 70 today, and her appeal—which might once have appeared to be a particularly long-running flash in the pan—shows no signs of abating. The documentary Bloodlight and Bami, an intimate look at the performer, came out this year, and her memoir I’ll Never Write My Memoirs was a notable book of 2015.

Jones materialized onto the dancefloors and catwalks of mid-70s New York as if dropped from a passing spaceship. Single-handedly redefining “exotic”—back in the days when that questionable term meant “non-Caucasian”—Jones brought a fierce and, for the time, shockingly confrontational androgyny to the pages of fashion glossies. Simultaneously tribal, futurist, techno and primitive, Jones and her trademark glare fairly leapt off the page, daring you to look away. Many could not, and her modeling career, launched in 1966 when she was 18, has never truly ended. Continue reading »

Apr 262018
 

In Pick Five, great artists tell us about five cover songs that matter to them.

speedy ortiz cover songs

Speedy Ortiz’s third album Twerp Verse doesn’t come out until tomorrow, but it’s already making noise. NPR Music calls it “both musically expansive and [frontwoman Sadie] Dupuis’ most accessible work yet, a blend of catchy pop hooks and dexterous guitar playing,” while the New York Times praises the band’s “signature acerbic wit.” And it almost didn’t exist.

In late 2016, the band – that’s Dupuis plus guitarist Andy Molholt, bassist Darl Ferm, and drummer Mike Falcone – planned to record a new album full of peppy love songs. Then November 8th happened, and all of a sudden a bunch of chipper “lovey-dovey” tunes didn’t feel appropriate. That batch of songs “just didn’t mean anything to me anymore,” Dupuis wrote in the press release. “Social politics and protest have been a part of our music from day one, and I didn’t want to stop doing that on this album.” Continue reading »

Feb 282018
 
best cover songs february

Today we continue the tradition we started way back one month ago. Since we’re still new at this, I’ll reiterate that our picks are unranked and semi-impulsive. Even the un-blurbed “Honorable Mentions” at the bottom aren’t necessarily worse than the rest; in many cases, we’ve just already written about them at length and have little else to say.

Okay, disclaimers behind us, let’s dive in. Continue reading »