Jun 142017
 
sade covers

There’s something about Sade that’s hard to put your finger on. Her voice is beautiful, but always feels understated. Her music is soft, smooth R&B, but appeals to a population of listeners well outside the genre. With a career that has spanned over three decades, she’s made music that has influenced a wide range of artists. For proof, look no further than two recent covers by very different artists.

The first is by Rare Futures, a band started by Matthew Fazzi, the ex-guitarist of pop-punk group Taking Back Sunday. Rare Futures walk a line between rock and R&B in their cover of Sade’s 1992 hit “No Ordinary Love.” Their version is not revolutionary, but does add a little grit to the original. The song is heavy on bass and high hat and includes some callouts to the original: the hard stops following the heavy sighs and the spot-on harmonies are nice touches. The band throws in a heavier pre-chorus and nice dual guitar breakdown at the end, keeping the cover interesting. Continue reading »

Dec 172015
 

Follow all our Best of 2015 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

CoverMeBestSongs2015

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)

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Apr 282015
 

You know how during summer blockbuster season trailers for awesome movies being released in December are shown? Turns out Iron & Wine‘s Sam Beam and Band of Horses‘ Ben Bridwell decided to take a similar approach when teasing their upcoming covers album. Sing Into My Mouth, a joint effort in covers, is not being released until July 17th, but the two singer songwriters figured they would give us a taste three months early with two covers of Sade and Unicorn. Continue reading »

Dec 172012
 

This year’s cover albums offered ambition on a scale we’ve never seen before. Moving beyond the normal “cover a bunch of random songs we like” tossoff, 2012 offered deeply thought-out conceptual collections. One updated kiddie folk songs for raved-out rockers, others reworked complete albums to their own ends. Even the all-star tributes that pop up every year aimed higher – one of the year’s most high-profile had 70+ tracks! So today we count down the best of the bunch, the ones that swung for the fences and got there. With every passing year there seems to be less sigma attached to the phrase “cover album,” and these sets move that needle even farther forward. Continue reading »

Dec 162011
 

When people look back in 2011 in music a decade from now, one name will come to mind: Adele. In our little world of cover songs, she dominated. Everyone covered Adele this year. It’s not just that we saw more covers of “Rolling in the Deep” than any other song; they beat out second place (probably “Pumped Up Kicks”) by like a factor of five! We generally try to look for larger cover trends in these annual wrap-ups, but it’s hard to remember anything else from this year except the year-long onslaught of Adele covers hitting our mailbox.

There’s only one “Rolling in the Deep” cover in this year’s list though. The rest are all over the place. Some of the artists listed built their covers with lush soundscapes, thick beats, and intricate string work. Others just took guitars or pianos and bowled us over with the emotion in their voices. There may not be much of an overarching “Year in Covers” narrative, but that means there’s a cover or two for everyone. From feel-good takes on rap songs to kill-yourself versions of pop songs, this year’s list features flips, flops, and genre switcheroos of all sorts. A good cover should be informed by the source material but stand on its own, and we’ll be unrolling the 50 finest examples of songs doing just that all week. Start with #50-41 on the next page and check back daily as we count down to the best cover of 2011.

Jul 152011
 

When you have a dance track that is as ubiquitous as Daft Punk’s “Around The World,” it can be difficult to cover. Fortunately for us, the Washington D.C.-based duo Benoit & Sergio divert the tune from its original upbeat feel to a sexy electrofunk jam. It’s barely recognizable, and all the better for it. Watch a city-scene music video for it below.

Talking with Dazed Digital, the band said, “we would never try to redo or ‘compete’ with a track like ‘Around the World.’ Our cover is so far away. This is a fragile electrofunk take on a really happy dance track.” Played along with a stop-motion video that quite literally takes you around the world, its casual, almost groggy feel is reminiscent of the morning after the night you spent dancing too hard to the original song. Continue reading »