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30. Juliana Hatfield – Hole In My Life (The Police cover)

Juliana Hatfield’s ongoing project covering the artists who have inspired her continued in 2019 with the release of Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police. The fact is, The Police never made a bad album, and while there was a touch of filler within the five studio releases (talking to you, mighty brontosaurus), they generally maintained a ridiculously high bar for quality. Hatfield accentuates this point by shining a light on some of the less obvious but undeniably wondrous deep cuts, the pinnacle of which is her complete reinvention of “Hole in My Life” off The Police’s debut Outlandos d’Amour. Slower, sadder, devoid of the yelping “yeah”s of the original, Hatfield serves up a spectacularly soul-baring vocal of the sort she has rarely offered before, right down to the beauteous, improvised wordless vocalizations in the song’s coda. She describes her version as “more tortured and aggressive, like a head-banging waltz.” It is all of that, and a brutally fine reinvention. – Hope Silverman

29. Carl Broemel & Eric Hopper – The Way It Will Be (Gillian Welch cover)

Gillian Welch’s “The Way It Will Be” is a song of failure and frustration. The original version is simple and sad, and supports the weighty lyrics with virtually nothing but acoustic guitar. Carl Broemel of My Morning Jacket, along with his sometime collaborator Eric Hopper, have taken this already powerful song and doubled down on it, giving it an extended electric, full-band treatment that contrasts beautifully with the soft vocals, retaining the melancholy mood while increasing the emotion. At over nine minutes long (almost double the length of the original), this version gives the song room to build and the listener time to think. It’s a masterful cover of a masterful song by a masterful artist. – Bob Potemski

28. The Highwomen – The Chain (Fleetwood Mac cover)

The Highwomen tackled the Fleetwood Mac darling “The Chain” as a cover for the gritty drama The Kitchen and then live on Howard Stern. Much like the movie, the cover is bold, beautiful, and intense, significantly darker than the original. Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires have similar voice types, which works wonderfully in a harmony-heavy song. Instrumentation is well thought out, with gorgeous violin solos by Shires. Jason Isbell and brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth provide the accompaniment with guitars and drums. – Angela Hughey

27. Okay Kaya – Believe (Cher cover)

The song that famously popularized Auto-Tune is reimagined by Okay Kaya with her raw vocals on full display. There’s nothing robotic here; Kaya’s voice is almost uncomfortably high in the mix, and the vulnerability of Cher’s lyrics is revealed. The instrumentation here is minimal and allows you to focus on Kaya’s beautiful interpretation. – Mike Misch

26. The Staves ft. Anais Mitchell – Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow cover)

This Sheryl Crow song comes from her debut album. She later re-invented it, performing it with the Dixie Chicks for her live album. Beyoncé even covered it on tour, ironically on the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour (is Jay-Z strong enough to be her man?). Here the Stave sisters take it on with help from Anais Mitchell, bringing the song back into the spotlight when we can all empathize with lines like “the tears of rage I cannot lie.” They keep the rendition faithful to the original, stacking harmonies to add richness to the heartbreaking lyrics. – Sara Stoudt

25. Bastille – Bad Guy (Billie Eilish cover)

With hand claps, lush harmonies, dramatic tempo changes, and a guitar line borrowed from Pulp Fiction, Bastille deftly weaves Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga into one femme fatale masterpiece. Throw in a bit of Bastille’s own “Bad Decisions” and you have a crazy intricate and well thought-out medley. All of the songs are just discernible enough due to the brilliance of the melodies, but Bastille puts their stamp on each one. If we were giving out awards, this would win for best many-song mashup of the year. – Angela Hughey

24. Jennifer Hudson – Movin’ On Up (The Jeffersons theme cover)

Back in May, Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear hosted Live in Front of a Studio Audience, a recreation of classic episodes of All in the Family and The Jeffersons. An all-star cast deserved all the praise they got, but for many the greatest performance of the night came from Jennifer Hudson. The Oscar and Grammy winner took on “Movin’ On Up” and knocked it out of the park, delivering a vocal full of soul, sass, and strut straight from the ’70s. And there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. Nothin’ at all. – Patrick Robbins

23. Redd Kross – When Do I Get to Sing “My Way” (Sparks cover)

Although Sparks’ original version of “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’” found success as a dance music single (reaching the #9 spot on the Billboard US Hot Dance Club Play chart), it’s really a plaintive song about toiling in the sub-stratosphere of the music industry, wondering if that elusive break will ever come. As such, it’s a perfect fit for Redd Kross, who have been playing together in various configurations for over forty years, solidly, but never reaching arena-headliner status. In this outstanding cover version, they manage to put more of an edge on the music while retaining all of the pathos. Where the sound of the original echoes the Pet Shop Boys, this cover is guitar-driven and maybe even a little more desperate, making it a bit more impactful. – Bob Potemski

22. The Regrettes – Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen cover)

In the year following Queen’s resurgence thanks to the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, let the Queen covers rule. This one by The Regrettes, a band from Los Angeles, really shines. It starts out with strong vocals and only the barest of guitar accompaniment, escalating with “‘cause I’m having a good time, having a good time.” The punk rock instrumental elements back the assertive vocals that are less dramatic than the original, the lyrics coming off as less of a request and more of an order. – Sara Stoudt

21. Valerie June – Cosmic Dancer (T. Rex cover)

It takes a special artist to take a song that the songwriter has identified as autobiographical and do it justice. The original “Cosmic Dancer” is the second track on T. Rex’s 1971’s pioneering glam-rock album Electric Warrior, and Marc Bolan is on record as saying that he is, indeed, the cosmic dancer. The song is markedly different from the two biggest tracks from that album, “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” and “Jeepster,” which may be another reason it hasn’t been covered all that often. (Morrisey and Shakespears Sister have also recorded notable versions.) Valerie June’s version is more keyboard-forward than the original, and replaces the orchestrated strings with synths, giving her version a more ethereal, otherworldly quality. You can actually experience seeing her as the Cosmic Dancer of today. – Bob Potemski


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  One Response to “The Best Cover Songs of 2019”

Comments (1)
  1. What about Steve Earle & Los Refugios Tiernos – Señor (from Mayans MC), Bob Dylan cover

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