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)
We may not get to see much of her face, but we have been hearing a ton from Sia. We have heard snippets of her The Mamas & the Papas cover during the trailer of the upcoming San Andreas film (starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), but the Internet, being the Internet, has produced the full rendition.
Sia’s powerhouse vocals are at an all time high, backed by haunting orchestration. Sia has the uncanny power to transform anything, even a folksy, nostalgic sort of ditty, into an evocative anthem that demands to be listened to on repeat.
Listen to more Sia on her official website.
Last week, Pitchfork posted their People’s List poll results and, not surprisingly, Radiohead’s OK Computer took the top slot (Kid A came in second). Though the poll has generated some controversy-in-the-form-of-thinkpieces since then, few take issue with the winner.
Following our similar collections of Kid A and In Rainbows covers, we celebrate the victor with covers of every song on the classic album. As the Pitchfork poll yet again attests, no one does Radiohead like Radiohead and the best way to cover is to not compete. From big brass bands to bluegrass jams, these twelve artists find ways to do it different.