George Perris is a Greek-French singer-songwriter who speaks (and sings) fluently in many languages including English, French, Spanish, and Greek. His latest cover of a Billie Eilish song, “My Future” feels jazzy in almost a Michael Buble or Josh Groban sort of way. And while we’re not sure that many alt-pop fans can get behind it, if you like modern jazz-pop ballads, you’re in for a luscious tune.
Whether formed in the first, second or third wave, ska bands throughout the ages have been renowned for their ability to perform cross-genre covers. In the ‘90s, I remember it being a badge of honor for ska bands to take an ‘80s pop hit and shove it into the punk ska mold.
Building on this tradition in 2022 is Young Costello. The Texas-based, seven-piece ska band recently released a cover of Eddie Murphy’s hit “Party All the Time.” The track was included on a multi-band compilation by Ska Punk International entitled Songs For Moms Vol. 2, from which we’ve also featured unlikely takes on Bob Dylan and Imagine Dragons. The cover is a fun listen for all parents old enough to remember Murphy’s heyday, or perhaps kids who’ve never heard of him at all – at least in his musical guise.
Murphy first unleashed “Party All the Time” at the height of his fame in 1985, shortly after Beverly Hills Cop catapulted him to superstardom. The synth-heavy R&B flavored single went to number two on the Billboard charts. The song has remained popular well into the streaming era, with 46 million listens on Spotify and 75 million views on YouTube.
Young Costello’s lead singer and guitarist John Mike told Cover Me the band was inspired to first perform the cover when they played a reggae festival headlined by the Wailers. “Our music has a tendency to be a bit on the heavier side so we thought it would be a nice way to sort of punctuate the heaviness of our set with something fun and familiar,” he said in an email.
Originally, the band had no intention of recording it but had a change of heart after getting a strong reaction from live audiences. “The more we played it, the more of a demand there was for it,” John Mike said. “The reaction is normally a bit puzzled until the crowd realizes what song we’re covering and then they start to lose it.”
The band revamped the track into a horn-powered jilted lovers’ lament, emphasizing the bluesy elements of the verse. “Girl, I can’t understand it/Why you want to hurt me/After all the things I’ve done for you.” John Mike said the hardest part about developing the cover was revamping the synth part from the original, since they don’t have a keyboard player. “Our sax player, Leo (Téllez), is a real badass with arrangements and he managed to put together a horn arrangement of the synth parts that worked perfectly with the traditional ska style.” When done right, ska covers still work phenomenally well.
Ska Punk International is, you’ll be shocked to learn, a music label which promotes ska and punk music from around the world. They recently released their second Songs for Moms compilation for charity. One of the artists on the comp, Lumpy, is that rare thing: a (nearly) one-man ska band. Though he works with guests, Lumpy is primarily the work of multi-instrumentalist Bryan Highhill. For his cover of Bob Dylan‘s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” for Songs for Moms, Lumpy goes full third wave with a heavy dose of ’90s irony.
Now that Elvis is in theatres, we are making our way through the covers that litter the soundtrack. One of the highlights is American country singer Kacey Musgraves’ version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
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!
Happy birthday to Debbie Harry, who turns 77 today with all the tough beauty and street cool that she’s had for decades upon decades. While best known as the vocalist and focal point for Blondie, Harry has had a much fuller career, ranging from go-go dancer and Playboy Bunny to author, actor, and philanthropist. Rock and roll is lucky to have her as one of its elder stateswomen.
Blondie knew their way around covers–two of their biggest hits, “Denis” and “The Tide Is High,” were written and performed by others first–so it should come as no surprise that their own songs are strong enough to take on all comers of all genres. You’ll find no new wave in what follows; instead, get ready for rockabilly, Americana, folk, and even a little bit of rap.