Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“Paper Planes” was the penultimate track on M.I.A.’s second album Kala; it took thirteen months from the album’s release for the song to peak at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Guaranteed no other paper planes have flown so high and so far for so long. Riding a sample from “Straight to Hell” by the Clash (who are rightfully credited) and a chorus borrowed from “Rump Shaker” by Wreckx-N-Effect (who aren’t), the song had as great an impact on 2008 as the gunfire in its chorus. Critics fell over themselves praising the record’s sound, somehow both chaotic and serene, and its message, a sort of “Money (That’s What I Want)” gone global for the 21st century.
Now that the dust “Paper Planes” stirred up has settled back down again, let’s take a look at some of the covers it inspired…
Common Rotation – Paper Planes (M.I.A. cover)
Common Rotation are an indie folk outfit from New York (you may know lead singer Adam Busch as Warren from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) who treat “Paper Planes” with quiet respect, matching the upheaval of the original with their own gentle pandemonium.
Jerry Joseph & Wally Ingram – Paper Planes (M.I.A. cover)
Jerry Joseph can rightly describe himself as a bona fide hustler making his name; he’s been a professional musician for a good thirty-five years, and he’s got close ties with Widespread Panic – they’ve covered many of his songs, and their bassist Dave Schools plays with Joseph in the band Stockholm Syndrome. Another S.S. member, drummer Wally Ingram (of Timbuk 3 fame), joins Joseph here on their very own “Paper Planes.”
Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox – Paper Planes (M.I.A. cover)
Pianist Scott Bradlee’s found his calling with Postmodern Jukebox, covering today’s hits in jazzy old-school ways and winning hundreds of millions of YouTube views in the process, without ever needing to leave the comfort of his own living room. A variety of vocalists have lent their pipes to the proceedings, including several American Idol finalists; here, Robyn Adele Anderson gives “Paper Planes” that ’40s feel.
The Possum Posse – Paper Planes (M.I.A. cover)
“We always liked interpreting songs from other genres,” Austin’s Possum Posse say on their web page, “mainly so we wouldn’t be compared directly against the originals and deemed sub-standard. By re-imagining songs, we don’t have to be as good as the original, just different. And we excel at being not good, but different.” Their cover of “Paper Planes” on their EP Rap Attack: Vol.1 shows they’re being far too modest.
Stone Cold Fox – Paper Planes (M.I.A. cover)
Straight outta Brooklyn, not far from where the original “Paper Planes” was recorded, Stone Cold Fox are an indie band that have been doing more than getting good buzz – they’ve been deserving it. Here, they pull the song from its turbulent origins into a whole other world – one with synths, without gunshots, capable of transforming “Paper Planes” and giving them a whole new atmosphere to soar through.
The original “Paper Planes” can be found on Amazon.