Aug 052020
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

a cappella cover

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 a favorite a cappella cover?
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Apr 162020
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

We join a girl at a desperate point in her relationship with her ex(?)-boyfriend: “Set me free, why don’t cha babe? / Get out my life, why don’t cha babe?” She’s had enough and she’s pulling no punches on the subject of staying apart: “You don’t care a thing about me / You’re just usin’ me.” She’s doubtful, too, as to whether the two of them should have any contact at all: “How can we still be friends / When seein’ you only breaks my heart again? / And there ain’t nothin’ I can do about it.”

As signature tunes go, there aren’t many that deliver such a direct, stark, convincing demand for personal liberation as the Supremes’ huge 1966 hit, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” The songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland had originated a string of girl-group masterworks for Motown, including “Locking Up My Heart” (The Marvelettes), “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” (Martha and the Vandellas), and “Where Did Our Love Go” (The Supremes), by the time they came to write this one. With it, they unveiled a striking sense of realism. Adhering to a formulaic first-person narrative of a female protagonist having to deal with a no-good liar/cheat, they made a point of injecting the song with colloquial language and true-to-life expression, including a brief spoken-word section during the bridge. Lamont Dozier himself explained that they wanted to “make it believable, add some everyday talk, like the girl was really going through this predicament.”

Lead-singer Diana Ross sells the song with her typically cool and sassy vocal, which suggests a girl taking back control of her life as she faces up to the fact that her ex is, basically, a selfish asshole. She’s helped by the especially potent backing vocals of Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard (the latter of whom has a line all to herself!), as well as the reliably tight musicianship of the Funk Brothers, centering on Eddie Willis’ arresting Morse-code-style guitar part. She’s helped, also, by it being a simply massive tune that damns the torpedoes and goes full speed ahead. Little wonder that it was the Supremes’ eighth #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
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Feb 212020
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Much has been written about the rise and fall of the Dixie Chicks. They were riding high with hit after hit in the late ’90s and very early ’00s, but after one on-stage comment in 2003, everything changed. We almost take for granted how music and politics intertwine now without rocking the boat too much. When Taylor Swift took a stance on a Senate race in her home state, President Trump remarked: “Let’s say that I like Taylor’s music about 25% less now, OK?” and life went on. But twenty-ish years ago, when Natalie Maines said they were ashamed that then President George W. Bush was from Texas, the backlash was swift and severe.

However, it looks like the Dixie Chicks are finally ready for a comeback. After a European tour in 2016, a collaboration with Beyoncé in the same year, and a song with Taylor Swift on her latest album, the Dixie Chicks are focusing on their own new album, due this year. The album is being produced by Jack Antonoff of Bleachers, whose list of writing and producing credits include Taylor Swift’s album Lover, Lorde’s Melodrama, and St. Vincent’s Masseduction. I’m ready for some “Don’t Take the Money” energy on this album, and with a title like Gaslighter (teased here), I’m hoping for an explosive, patriarchy smashing, good time. #sorrynotsorry to all of the Earls out there.

I’m all for covers of the Dixie Chicks, but we’ll save that for another post (ok, here is one to tide you over). For now, let’s take a listen to the Dixie Chicks’ interpretation of classics from country and soul standards to modern hits.

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Jun 152018
 
best cover songs 1978

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: Continue reading »

May 312013
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Greg Dulli is back on top of his game. He’s sobered up, lost a lot of weight, and, after years of will-they-or-won’t-they speculation, his primary band the Afghan Whigs toured the better part of last year after a baker’s dozen years of absence. Dulli has never sat still for long, alternately fronting The Twilight Singers, The Gutter Twins, and going out solo from time to time. Through it all, he has focused his obsession with other people’s tunes, particularly black music across several genres, into a funnel cloud of cock rock fury, soulful loneliness, and unrequited lust.

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