Adia Victoria – On and On (Erykah Badu cover)
Adia Victoria recorded this powerful Badu cover for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. She said of the time she discovered the song, “I was looking for something that was bigger and deeper and felt more warm than the idea of a Christian God. And I dove into my imagination. And the first time I heard ‘on and on’ it felt like Erykah Badu was waiting for me to be her there.”
Dave McMurray ft. Bettye LaVette – Loser (Grateful Dead cover)
Don Was, the president of veteran jazz label Blue Note, moonlights in Bob Weir’s side project Wolf Bros. Before Covid hit, Was invited the label’s jazz saxophonist Dave McMurray to sit in at a few shows. A kinship between McMurray and the Dead’s music was formed and, on July 16, he releases the tribute album Grateful Deadication. No surprise that Weir and Was both appear on it, but so does soul great Bettye LaVette, who takes vocal duties on this version of “Loser.”
Hot Mulligan – Bleed American (Jimmy Eat World cover)
Jimmy Eat World’s album Bleed American came out on July 24, 2001. A month and a half later, something titled “Bleed American” suddenly seemed insensitive, and it was re-released as a self-titled record. All these years later, it’s reclaimed its original title and the title track was recently covered by Michigan pop-punk band Hot Mulligan. It’s a pretty faithful rendition, and from the band’s energy in this live video no doubt it would be a killer in concert.
Laura Mvula – Africa (Toto cover)
The streaming platform Deezer just released an album (they’d probably prefer you call it a “playlist”) called InVersions 80s, where younger artists like Wolf Alice and Cautious Clay cover classics from that decade. Best of the bunch is Laura Mvula, who shows Weezer how “Africa” should be done.
Margo Price – Two-Headed Dog (Roky Erickson cover)
May The Circle Remain Unbroken: A Tribute To Roky Erickson comes out July 17 and – spoiler alert – it’s really damn good. One high point is Margo Price tackling Roky’s demonically catchy “Two-Headed Dog” (aka “Red Temple Prayer”). She dials down the garage-rock, substituting a bit of country choogle without losing the song’s edge.
Orville Peck – Born This Way (Lady Gaga cover)
We already shared Big Freedia’s “Judas” off Lady Gaga’s Born This Way special addition, and here’s another track from it. Masked country weirdo Orville Peck brings his twangy baritone and some steel guitar to the title track. It’s almost like Ally Maine covering a Gaga pop it. Missed opportunity not to call it A Star Is Born This Way.
Prom Queen – Baby One More Time (Britney Spears cover)
Previewing Prom Queen’s Britney covers EP Lucky, “Baby One More Time” brings a ’50s pop ballad feel. The vibe (and video) is more “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease than it is early Spears, but, as we saw with The Mariás’ spooky surf-soul version a couple years ago, “Baby One More Time” can contain multitudes.
Ray BLK – What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye cover)
Marvin Gaye’s seminal What’s Going On came out at the end of May and, in one of the best covers that dropped too late to make our Best of May list, Nigerian-British singer Ray BLK tackled it with piano, some cool vocal samples, and, most importantly, some truly knockout singing. She even works a surprise Twista song into the coda.
Trapper Schoepp – I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You (Bob Dylan cover)
Despite its insanely wordy title, “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You” is becoming the go-to cover choice from Dylan’s 2020 album Rough and Rowdy Ways. Cowboy Junkies tackled it for his birthday, and now Milwaukee singer-songwriter Trapper Schoepp takes a stab at it. Apparently hearing Dylan’s “Hurricane” in the 1999 movie of the same name inspired him to become a musician in the first place, and in “I’ve Made Up My Mind…” he comes full circle.
Whaale – Sister Christian (Night Ranger cover)
The lyrics in this “Sister Christian” are the same, but that’s about where the similarities to this cover and the classic power-ballad original. Dark and moody, Whaale brings in a host of creepy atmospherics while they sing the words like echoes from the great beyond.