Most of the world first heard Sam Smith via Smith’s vocal turn on English electronic duo Disclosure’s hit “Latch.” Smith has collaborated with them a couple times since, and now the partnership continues with Smith’s new cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” produced by Disclosure’s Guy Lawrence. The track doesn’t differ that much from the original, but Smith’s inimitable falsetto proves a perfect match for this disco classic.
As the only surviving member of the Temptations’ original lineup, Otis Williams has done his part to keep the group alive long past its expiration date. The latest incarnation of the famed vocal group recently released a cover of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” as the first single from their forthcoming album All The Time.
Just to be clear, this ain’t the Temptations of “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” or “My Girl” fame, since the group is going for a more contemporary vibe. Listening to Smith’s original alongside the Temptations’ cover is a bit like hearing Hall & Oates “She’s Gone” next to the Tavares’ version. Or comparing Mott the Hoople’s cut of “All the Young Dudes” to David Bowie’s own take. At first listen, it’s difficult to tell the two tracks apart. Yet, once you start breaking the songs down, there are enough subtle differences that make the cover stand on its own.
The vocals in the opening verses of each track are the most similar. The Temptations give it a slightly different feel by adding in syncopated percussion, unlike the straight time from the original. As they sing the chorus, the group interjects a bit of call and response, which one expects from the Temptations. With each subsequent verse/chorus, they include heavier drums, different voices alternating between lead and backing vocals and a fiery blues-guitar accompaniment. Like Smith’s original, the cover is also infused with gospel, but the quintet adds more bass to the vocals throughout.
The track is not destined to land on any greatest-hits compilations. However, if the Temptations add it to their setlist, kids whose grandparents drag them to the shows will appreciate the effort.
Click here to listen to more Sam Smith covers.
If you are a fan of Elton John and all of his many reinventions, this is the time of your life. It started in late 2017 when Elton along with Bernie Taupin sponsored a worldwide YouTube contest to reimage videos for three of Elton’s most popular songs, “Bennie and the Jets,” “Rocket Man,” and “Tiny Dancer,. It continued with his announcement that his upcoming three-year tour will be his last. Suffice to say, our eyes and ears will be treated to various projects with the volume turned up to “all Elton, all the time” for the foreseeable future.
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Last night, to the surprise of no one, that Academy Award for Best Documentary went to the Amy Winehouse movie Amy. The movie, as is typical for these things, is more about the personality than the music; producers seem to think public breakdowns make for better visuals than the nitty gritty of work in the studio (a premise with which we strongly disagree). But still, if it gets some young Adele fan who wasn’t around for Adele’s predecessor to give Back to Black a listen, another exhaustive look at Winehouse’s demons was perhaps worth it.
We, however, are all about the music, which we celebrate today with the latest in our series of Full Album cover sets. Though as is always the case the big hits have way more covers than the deep cuts, it’s a testament to how deep the album’s bench is that every song has been given at least one cover worthy of Amy’s talent.
At the beginning of the year, Sam Smith quietly settled a copyright dispute with Tom Petty over the striking similarities between Smith’s three-time Grammy-nominated “Stay With Me” and Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” co-written with ELO’s Jeff Lynne. Both parties have claimed that there are no hard feelings and have moved on since the incident, which wasn’t even supposed to be made public. In an odd way, it is fortunate for us, because we have been able to hear a myriad of mash-ups of the two songs, including this rerecording by love+war.
Follow all our Best of 2014 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.
A few months ago, I read an interesting interview with an artist named Nouela. You probably haven’t heard of her, but you may have heard her music. She’s become a specialist in a weird but growing niche: covers recorded for movie and television trailers. Whether doing a piano “Sound of Silence” to promote a new HBO show or a brooding “Black Hole Sun” to promote Liam Neeson punching people, she’s found a quickly-growing way of getting her covers out there.
It struck me as part of a growing trend we’ve seen. More and more great covers seem to come from unexpected places. Sure, you’ve got still your standby sources, your b-sides, tribute albums, and radio shows. But new avenues for covers have increasingly crept in. This year saw a Sam Smith cover that is only available to hear under Grey’s Anatomy dialog (thankfully he’s recorded a few live versions too) and a whole covers album recorded to plug a Canadian TV show. Brands have fully embraced covers too, most recently My Morning Jacket’s “This Land Is Your Land” recorded for North Face ads, or Charli XCX and Bleachers trading covers for Kia.
We don’t care where they originated when we make our year-end lists, though, and we would up with some of everything. In our top five alone, we’ve got a live radio session, a deluxe-edition bonus track, and a cover hiding in plain sight on one of the most acclaimed country records of the year. You have to keep an eye on more places than ever to spot the best covers these days. Wherever they come from, we’re glad to have ’em.
Click on over to page two to begin our countdown, and thanks for reading.
– Ray Padgett, Editor in Chief
(Illustration by Sarah Parkinson)