Hot on the heels of her much-acclaimed boygenius trio last year, buzzy singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers has teamed up with Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst for yet another supergroup. Calling themselves Better Oblivion Community Center, the pair just kicked off a tour supporting their self-titled album. They debuted a couple killer (no pun intended) covers at their first shows, tackling the Replacement’s “Can’t Hardly Wait” and the Killers’ “Human.”
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…
Our 50 Best Cover Songs of 2018 post goes up Monday and, as always, the cuts to get it down to size were brutal. I know it’s going to rough going when the painful cuts begin when the list is still pushing 100. The final and toughest cut of all – the 51st Best Cover of 2018, as it were – came last: singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers’ mesmerizing take on Tom Petty’s “It’ll All Work Out.” It still hurts that that one didn’t make it, so I’ll give it a little extra shine here (go listen to it here!).
Bridgers’ cover of The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” might have been a year-end contender too had it come out a month ago. Just as she did with the Petty deep cut, she strips all the production away, leaving only a spare keyboard and layers of ethereal harmonies. “Friday I’m in Love” gets covered far less than comparable Cure hits, sometimes derided as a less artful pop-radio play (it didn’t even rank in Rolling Stone’s fan-voted Best Cure Songs list). Bridgers redeems the song on her stunning cover, recorded for a new Spotify Single, and will hopefully inspire more closet “Friday I’m in Love” fans to cover the song.
Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.
Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).
Today’s question: What’s your favorite cover of your favorite song?
This past weekend’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony featured great performances by Bon Jovi, The Cars, and The Moody Blues. Equally worthy were the phenomenal covers highlighting both musical greats taken from us too soon – Tom Petty and Chris Cornell – and tributes to the two artists inducted posthumously, Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe (inducted as an “Early Influence”).
We rank the three best covers below. That’s judging from the circulation YouTube footage at least; Lauryn Hill’s Nina Simone tribute may come off better when the HBO version airs next month, but the current videos are hard to watch.
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.