Jan 042020
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Michael Stipe

Today Michael Stipe, lead singer of R.E.M., reaches a decade milestone, as he turns 60 years old. Stipe was born in Decatur, GA, but raised all over, as his father was in the military. He met Peter Buck, soon to be the lead guitarist in R.E.M., in 1980 at a record store near the University of Georgia in Athens while he was attending school. Not long after, they both dropped out of school to start R.E.M., along with Bill Berry and Mike Mills, and the rest is history.

Some of our readers wanted more covers by R.E.M. upon reading our list of covers of R.E.M. We have a couple points of reference, but celebrating Michael Stipe’s birthday gave us an opportunity to give you even more covers. Moral of the story: ask and you shall receive! This post provides covers by Michael Stipe and friends, paying tribute to his tributes and providing a history of his historical moments.

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Jan 012020
 

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.

U2 War

Happy 2020 to you!

U2’s “New Year’s Day” was the first international hit song for the band that would go on to become worldwide superstars, both musically and in the realm of socio-political activism. Perhaps a response, at least in part, to the turbulence and unrest of the early 1980s, “New Year’s Day” heralded the beginning of a more focused effort on the part of the band to use their platform to call attention to issues much larger than those typically addressed in popular music of the time. Though it was originally conceived as a love song, the lyrics take on a much deeper, starker meaning when you look at them through the lens of Bono’s inspiration: Solidarity, the labor union/social activism movement that was instrumental in ending Communist rule in Poland. It’s a popular song for bands to cover; secondhandsongs.com lists over 40 versions. From the three selected here…
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Aug 082019
 
david byrne cover songs

Talking Heads only ever recorded one cover, and when I talked to David Byrne about it for my book, he seemed to have mixed feelings on the subject. “There’s always a little bit of resistance to recording a cover like that because it’s kind of a crowd pleaser,” he told me. “I’d seen it happen before, where radio DJs who pick what they’re going to play will often pick a cover song… So then a band gets known for covering somebody else’s song as opposed to writing their own material. They have to go through a struggle for years to get identified with their own songs.”

Talking Heads recorded “Take Me to the River,” it became their biggest hit up to that point, and Byrne said: That’s it. No more covers. The band never followed it up with a second.

He’s relaxed the rules a bit more in his solo career, most recently covering Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout” on tour (he says he’s bringing the cover to Broadway, too). And clearly he’s been listening to covers. For his DB Radio show on his website, he just compiled a wonderfully eclectic mix of his favorite covers. The theme, he says, is artists doing the unexpected, from Sonic Youth covering The Carpenters to Miley Cyrus covering Nine Inch Nails. And when the song choice itself may not be surprising – Patti Smith covering the Rolling Stones, say – the arrangements are. Here’s what he wrote on his website: Continue reading »

Jul 312019
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best new cover songs july
Anais Mitchell & The Staves – Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow cover)

For a few years now, long-running French video company La Blogothèque has been filming a series they call “One to One” at Bon Iver’s various European festivals. They blindfold one audience member and bring them into a private room for a concert for one. Bon Iver did one, and Damien Rice’s is a must-watch. Personally, that experience sounds more awkward than enjoyable – especially with all the cameras in your face – so I’d rather just watch someone else’s personal concert on video. This one is a gem, feature The Staves with Anais Mitchell delivering a gorgeously-harmonized Sheryl Crow cover. Continue reading »

Jul 262018
 

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

rolling stones covers

Mick Jagger turns 75 today, three decades past his famous 1975 benchmark: “I’d rather be dead than sing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45.” Mick’s still singing “Satisfaction” today – and so are a lot of other people. So what better way to celebrate his birthday than with a countdown of the best covers of Rolling Stones songs of all time?

It’s not that we haven’t posted plenty before. They’re actually our fifth most-posted band, after Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young (a little surprised about that one, but as of this post, Neil’s only ahead by one). We’ve shared our favorite covers of “Ruby Tuesday,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Wild Horses,” “Paint It Black,” and “Back Street Girl.” We’ve posted covers of every track on Sticky Fingers, Beggars Banquet, and – in case those weren’t long enough – Exile on Main St. And it’s not just covers of the band we adore either; the Stones’ recent album of blues covers ascended to the very short list of albums we’ve awarded five stars.

But we’ve never pulled it all in one place until today. Just as we did for Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Beyoncé, and Talking Heads, we’re counting down the best covers of Rolling Stones songs ever. The length beats Floyd’s forty-song record; we’ve got fifty Stones covers, from A (Albert King) to Z (Zydeco, Buckwheat). The Stones have been covered in all eras, all genres, and by all sorts of people. By the time you read this, the next all-time-great Stones cover might well have landed.

You can’t always get what you want, as the man once said – but if you click on, you just might get what you need.

May 022018
 

In Pick Five, great artists tell us about five cover songs that matter to them.

geographer cover songs

We first came across Geographer in 2011 with his great cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent.” Seven years later, he’s blossomed into a killer electropop producer, singer, and songwriter. His new EP Alone Time finds him pushing his pop instincts to their limit, on five insanely catchy dance jams that would work equally well in a club or on headphones. Here’s a sample, new single “Read My Mind”:

Geographer main man Mike Deni told PopMatters “Musically, [the EP] represents an obsession with pop music that went to its furthest reaches and boomeranged back again into making not just lyrics, but sounds, that matter.” On the five covers he picked out for us, though, he dug beyond that pop music obsession into his songwriter roots, picking classic performances by the likes of Jeff Buckley and Harry Nilsson (though fans of his poppier side needn’t worry; by the end he gets to a “karaoke classic”). Continue reading »