When Jack White and Brendan Benson’s band The Raconteurs announced their first album in 11 years, one track name immediately jumped out at us: 07. Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness) (Donovan Cover). It’s not only that White is a master of the cover song (he’s appeared on our year-end lists more than anyone else I believe), but also…Donovan?? Definitely a surprising choice, especially for a man who’s literally performed with Bob Dylan. Maybe he watched Don’t Look Back recently.
On his new 7″ single “Would You Fight For My Love?”, Jack White covers an obscure artist called Hello=Fire. In the ‘Seven Degrees of Jack White’ game though, they’re only a few steps away. Hello=Fire is a project from White’s bandmate in the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, Dean Fertita. They released one album in 2009, and the closing song “Parallel” was co-written with another Raconteurs bandmate: Brendan Benson.
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.
We first heard Fitz and the Tantrums’ live cover of “Steady, As She Goes” at Lollapalooza last month. Some low-quality videos of their take on the Raconteurs track have been circulating for a while, but this week Rolling Stone posted a version that improves on all the cell-phone recordings we’ve had to live with.
Festivals often entice artists to perform covers. What better way to convert the uninitiated than by drawing them in with a song they know and then (ideally) hooking them by transforming it into your sound? This past weekend’s Lollapalooza, though, seemed to offer even more cover performances than usual. Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune even christened Saturday “#80snight” to keep track of all the ‘80s covers performed.
Third Man Records, Jack White’s record label, has picked up some unexpected talent in its short existence. There was that choir of public transit employees. There was Carl Sagan. Now there’s Wanda Jackson. The “Queen of Rockabilly” first began recording in the ‘50s, but, as her upcoming album proclaims, The Party Ain’t Over. Jack White produced the album, and now we have our first taste. Surprise: It features crazy guitar from you-know-who!