We already counted down the 50 Best Cover Songs of 2018 but, inevitably, many of our staff’s personal favorites get left off. So, before we begin scouting for what might become the best cover of 2019, we share the best of the rest, an unranked hodgepodge of worthy covers that only just missed our year-end countdown.
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
Start the countdown on the next page…
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
The world of rock lost a uniquely talented songwriter on December 6th, when Pete Shelley died of a heart attack, aged 63. He was best known as the lead singer, guitarist and principal songwriter of Buzzcocks, a late-’70s Manchester band that brought the fierceness of punk to catchy guitar pop, or possibly the other way around.
Andrew Combs – Reptila (The Strokes cover)
The Strokes’ Is This It songs have been covered to death, so musicians are digging deeper. We heard a killer Angles cover in April from Billie Eilish (more on her in a minute), and now singer-songwriter Andrew Combs takes on this Room on Fire track. His own music leans Nashville Americana, but from the crazy horns here, sounds like he’s been spending time in New Orleans.
Welcome to the third installment in our Best Cover Songs of Yesteryear countdown, where we act like we were compiling our usual year-end list from a year before we – or the internet – existed. Compared to the first two, this one has significantly less grunge than 1996 and less post-punk than 1987. It’s hard to have post-punk, after all, before you have punk, a new genre starting to hit its peak in 1978. And don’t forget the other big late-’70s sound: disco. Both genres were relatively new, and super divisive among music fans. Lucky for us, both genres were also big on covers.
Disco, in particular, generated some hilariously ill-advised cover songs. We won’t list them all here – this is the Best 1978 covers, not the Most 1978 covers. If you want a taste (and think carefully about whether you really do), this bonkers take on a Yardbirds classic serves as a perfect example of what a good portion of the year’s cover songs looked and sounded like:
In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
Beloved power-pop stalwarts The Posies turn 30 this year, and are celebrating with an ambitious round of reissues of their first three major-label albums: 1990’s Dear 23 (out this Friday), 1993’s Frosting on the Beater (out August 3), and 1996’s Amazing Disgrace (out October 28). All feature new remasters from the original tapes and unheard bonus tracks. While we wait, relive the original version of one of their biggest hits, “Dream All Day.”
The band is currently on a lengthy 30th anniversary tour (upcoming dates at the bottom, and also here), but founding members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer took some downtime in the van to tell us about their favorite cover songs. As will not surprise anyone who’s heard their music, they really like Elvis Costello! Also not surprising: These two guys know their stuff, digging deep into the crates of soul, college-rock, and beyond.
And now, join Ken and Jon as they lead you on a guided tour through their cover-song collections…