The Best Cover Songs of 2014

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Dec 182014

Continued from…#20-11.

10. Come Pick Me Up (Ryan Adams cover)

Ryan Adams is a bit of a musical chameleon, going from soft country all the way to punk and metal. So, when deciding on a song of his to cover, it’s interesting that the punky Superchunk went for a song closer to the country end of the spectrum. Listening to it, though, it makes sense. The distorted guitars and forceful vocals echo the chorus’ demand to “steal my records, screw all my friends.” “Come Pick Me Up” may be a folk song in its original form, but Superchunk shows that it’s really a punk song at heart. -Alex Sobel

9. Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus cover)
Sweetwater and the Satisfaction

Though it came out in 2013, Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” still hit hard this year, being one of the most-covered songs we saw (honorable-mention takes include those by the aforementioned Ásgeir and Kyla La Grange). But the soul-revival version by Sweetwater and the Satisfaction stands above. With horns and the big-voiced Alana Sweetwater belting it out, it sounds like if Cyrus went Stax. -Ray Padgett

8. Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) (Nancy Sinatra cover)

Unmistakably the same song, but unmistakably different, even if retaining the skeletal core. Echoed vocals wail from a cellar of shimmers and beats, themselves as narrative as her doleful delivery. Nancy Sinatra never sounded this committed (and I do mean in the psychiatric sense.) Her dip into “that awful sound” at 3:40 leaves me still reeling. -Seuras Og

7. Team (Lorde cover)
Local H

Chicago-based Local H have been steadily rocking on since the ‘90s. If you need your favorite song quickly turned into a grunge anthem, you can count on these guys. With guitars amped to 11 and drums set to stun, Local H gives the lyrics of Lorde’s “Team” some real bite. -Mike Misch

6. A Little Lost (Arthur Russell cover)
Sufjan Stevens

When an artist as prolific as Sufjan Stevens does covers, it almost makes you wonder “Why?” And then you hear his cover of the beautiful and bare “A Little Lost” by Arthur Russell and you understand. Stevens could have easily done this as a quiet banjo piece, but he took it in a totally different direction with distorted drums and vocals drenched in reverb. It retains the simple pleasure of the original while being totally different. -Mike Misch

5. How Will I Know (Whitney Houston cover)
Sam Smith

Sam Smith has the uncanny power to turn the most upbeat songs into heart-wrenching ballads. Case in point? The cover he performed for SiriusXM back in June. The 21-year old R&B singer took the exuberant energy of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know,” and turned it into an introspective, pining croon. We dare you not to get goosebumps. -Maggie Clancy

4. Everybody Wants To Rule the World (Tears for Fears cover)

Lucius served up some pretty amazing ’80s covers this year. The Brooklyn-based band wowed everyone with their take on Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” at Governors Ball, tackled one of Dylan’s lesser-known ’80s cuts for a tribute album, and then stepped up their game even further with this gauzy cover. Lucius’s rendition of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” favors minimal synth and layered vocals from singers Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe. -Maggie Clancy

3. The Promise (When In Rome cover)
Sturgill Simpson

For those that worried that country music has driven its pickup truck too far down a sugar shaker-lined road to an endless keg party, Sturgill Simpson emerged as a hero this year, recording his second tradition-inspired album that, arguably, shows more depth and soul than anything on the country charts. Simpson took When In Rome’s synth-pop “The Promise” and transformed it into a heartfelt country ballad. He discovered emotion the original record never had to begin with. -Chet Thomas

2. Jenny From the Block (Jennifer Lopez cover)
Bill Patton

Sam Amidon isn’t on the list this year, but regular readers will remember he appeared in 2012 and 2013, covering R. Kelly and Tim McGraw. In both cases, he took a sincere approach to songs most would have written off, finding beauty rather than novelty. This year, Bill Patton takes that Amidon slot. He turns Jennifer Lopez’s goofy 2002 hit into something moving, a country shuffle with some hot soloing. No matter who did it, the phrase “country J-Lo cover” would probably entice us to listen – once. Patton’s you can listen to again and again. -Ray Padgett

1. Wonderful Everyday (Arthur theme song cover)
Chance the Rapper

Tackling the theme song to a well-known kids cartoon could easily fall into schmaltz or genre-switching irony. Chance the Rapper avoids all of this by completely deconstructing the Arthur theme. The actual melody of the original becomes secondary to the feel, with the song layering in overlapping vocals, piano, horns, synthesizer, and drums to create something reminiscent of the original song, but wholly different and, simply, wonderful. -Alex Sobel

Tell us what your favorite 2014 covers were in the comments. Oh, and here’s a Spotify playlist of some of our picks (fair warning: almost half the songs aren’t on the service, including our #1).

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  9 Responses to “The Best Cover Songs of 2014”

Comments (3) Pingbacks (6)
  1. Running Up That Hill NOT a classic? Jeezo Ray – your music collection must be soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cool, I imagine you keep it in a fridge, you supercilious tosser.

  2. Was ‘Always on my Mind’ written by Willie? I don’t think so. He sang it, but I’m sure he didn’t write it.

  3. Why is it that I don’t know ANY of your top ten this year? I have a weekly cover radio show and I get a LOT of my songs from your blog! Which leads me to this… you normally tell us where we can get the songs if you can’t provide a download link, but you didn’t do that this time. Where can I track down that Sam Smith track?

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