May 032019
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

joni mitchell covers

Joni Mitchell is 75 and won’t be with us forever. She suffered an aneurysm in 2015, and she’s coping with the little-understood Morgellons disease. She has difficulty walking, and has not spoken publicly in years. But if her place on earth is tenuous, her place in the heavens is secure; millions of people already look up to her every day.

Joni Mitchell’s songs are famous for being intensely personal, a deep expression of her self that people nevertheless relate to. Those who aspire to her voice become near-slavish devotees. There’s a great New Yorker piece about a small show of Joni’s that a drunken Chrissie Hynde gets overly caught up in (“That’s a REAL singer up there!”), and Hynde’s not alone. Mitchell isn’t just a real singer, though. She’s a real songwriter, a real painter, a real guitarist, a real follower of her muse – a real artist, one of the realest of the past hundred years. That authenticity is what continues to bring people into her circle on a daily basis.

In an excellent essay for NPR, Ann Powers wrote: “Like her prime compatriots Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and her favorite protégé Prince, no one can adequately echo her; even great singers, taking on her songbook, admit they can only hope to achieve proximity.” Indeed, a Joni Mitchell cover is never just a tribute – it’s an assertion, an artist coming forth to pick up a gauntlet she lay down decades ago.

We found 30 covers that show the artists doing an especially good job at matching their talents to Joni’s, creating new works of art that, no matter how novel or innovative they may be, never set out to eradicate the original artist’s signature. May her art continue to open eyes, whether through her own performances or those of others, for centuries to come.

Oct 192011
 

If you don’t have Everything But the Girl’s quasi-covers album Acoustic, get it. In their day, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt knew how to cut to the core of a cover song better than just about anyone. The pair parted ways in 2000, but have returned with a new cover of the xx’s “Night Time.” Continue reading »

Sep 142011
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Andy Warhol’s vision of the perfect rock band, The Velvet Underground wrote the book on cool. With Nico, their aloof European vocalist, and the dark lyrics of Lou Reed, they were fixtures in Warhol’s Factory scene. When Warhol suggested that Reed should write a song about fellow Factory scenestress Edie Sedgwick, youthquaker, socialite, and all-around trouble with a capital T, Reed asked what kind of song. Warhol said, “Oh, don’t you think she’s a femme fatale, Lou?” Of such conversations are deathless works of art made. Continue reading »

Sep 072011
 

Twelve years ago today, the Magnetic Fields released 69 Love Songs. Initially conceived as a theatrical revue performed by drag queens, 69 Love Songs took a different status entirely as a beloved pillar of indie pop. Though hardly a best-seller then or now, it retains a certain mystique as an album one could devote years to (witness this book or this project documenting each song in graphic form). Everything Stephin Merritt had been building with the Magnetic Fields over the previous six albums came to fruition here and then some.

Sprawling even by Merritt’s standards, 69 Love Songs covers a mind-boggling array of genres. So, in honor of its anniversary, we’ve selected a set of 12 covers that do the same. Some songs will make you dance; others will make you weep. It’s a barely-coherent smorgasbord of sounds, sources, and interpretations. Given the source material, that seems appropriate. Continue reading »

Jan 172011
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

There’s no denying that it takes a versatile artist to write songs about love in ways that are both consistently inventive and precise. It takes an artist like Stephin Merritt to create songs that not only are beautiful individual pieces, but also paint a broader picture of hope and despair, murder and joy, beauty and hideousness. Merritt somehow manages to create a comprehensive picture of love with his songs, all while bringing his distinctive indie-pop sensibility to it. This book of love is never boring. He turns forty-five today. Continue reading »

Dec 202010
 

Tracey Thorn, of Everything But the Girl fame, has had an up and down year in 2010. While she released a well-received solo album, Love And Its Opposite, she also had to endure the passing of her mother. Despite this, she soldiers on, releasing a special holiday album called Christmas Stocking for fans, available as a free download. Continue reading »