Dec 152017
 

Follow all our Best of 2017 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

best covers 2017

Year-end lists are a time to look back. That’s something we’ve been doing a lot of this year.

See, we turned ten years old in 2017 – practically ancient in internet-blog terms – so we’ve indulged in what we feel is well-earned nostalgia. At the beginning of the year, each of our writers picked the ten most important covers in their life (see them here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). We even listed the ten most important covers in Cover Me‘s life, from the song that inspired the site to our very first Best of the Year winner.

Then, to cap things off, in October we commissioned a 25-track tribute to the cover song itself – which you can still download for free. We love the covers everyone contributed so much, incidentally, that we didn’t consider them for this list. It’d be like picking favorite children – if you had 25 of ’em.

Oh, and have I mentioned I wrote a book? … What’s that you say? I mentioned that constantly? Well, I’m quite proud of it. It’s called Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time and it makes a great Christmas gift and – ok, ok, I’ll stop. You can find plenty more about it elsewhere.

Suffice to say, there’s been a lot of looking back this year. And we hope you’ll indulge us this one last glance rearward before we leap into 2018. Because if it’s been a hell of a year for us, it’s certainly also been a hell of a year for the cover song in general. Some of this year’s list ranks among the best covers we’ve ever heard, period. So dig in, and thanks for your support this past decade.

– Ray Padgett
Editor-in-Chief

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Dec 132013
 

Fifty years ago, a covers album wasn’t called a “covers album.” It was called an album. Full stop.

Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Billie Holiday – most albums anyone bought were “covers albums” as we’d think of them today, but that’s not how folks thought of them then. Once the public began putting a premium on singers writing their own songs in the ’60s the concept of course shifted, so that an artist doing a covers album has to be like Michael Jordan playing baseball – an okay diversion but let’s get back to the main event please.

More so this year than ever before though, that pendulum seems to be swinging back in small but meaningful ways to what an album originally meant. More and more artists are releasing LPs saying, this is not my new quote-on-quote “covers album,” this is my new album (that happens to consist of covers). The attitude showcases a confidence and surety of purpose that shows they take performing other peoples songs every bit as seriously as they do their own.

That holds true for both of our top two covers albums this year, and plenty more sprinkled throughout. Which isn’t to knock anyone doing a covers album as a lark, novelty, tribute, or side project – you’ll see plenty of those here as well – but any blurred lines that put a “covers album” on the same level as a “normal” album have to be a good thing.

Start our countdown on Page 2…

Dec 062013
 

Nina Simone was a bold and original artist. She drew on jazz, gospel and popular music influences, developing a distinctive style and singing voice. Beginning in the late 1950s, Simone released a series of successful albums, but stayed indifferent to the music industry. Her songs were often political, addressing civil rights and feminist issues. Continue reading »

Apr 092012
 

Record Store Day is approaching on April 21st. If you’re unfamiliar with the event, it’s a day when independent record stores celebrate music, which seems like what they do any day they are open for business, but on this special day, record stores will promote exclusive events, like djs spinning, parades, giveaways (Amoeba in Los Angeles is hosting a contest for a free turntable and a box of vinyl), and limited releases. In the spirit of Record Store Day, Xiu Xiu, and tourmate Dirty Beaches, have recorded a split 7” on Polyvinyl, featuring Xiu Xiu playing Erasure’s “Always” and Dirty Beaches covering Françoise Hardy’s “Tu Ne Dis Rien.”

If you’re familiar with English synthpop bands, perhaps Erasure rings a bell. Their 1994 hit, or at least moderate hit in America within dance clubs, “Always,” is about wanting to always be with someone in harmony, set to a generic snythpop beat and occasional robot sounds. Xiu Xiu doesn’t mess too much with that besides adding some of their signature indecipherable sounds and frantic vocal cadence.

On the other side of the 7” is Dirty Beaches, a one-man band, run by Alex Zhang. The original “Tu Ne Dis Rien,” released in 1964, is delicate and demure, like Hardy. She almost whispers the lyrics, and with the simple beat, and dreamlike vocals of background singers, the song is light and playful. As a cover, Dirty Beaches sings in French, but his version is much more menacing. The beat is still simple, but the electronics make it sound more like a march, and anything but playful. (via Pitchfork)

Listen to more Dirty Beaches here and more Xiu Xiu here.

Dec 162011
 

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.