Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
Do supergroups still exist these days? Definitely! Fans of these folks might not think they are quite under the radar, but these groups are either generally framed less as supergroups or their prior musical experiences may have been under the radar themselves. There are many more supergroups under the radar to explore. Tell us about your favorites in the comments!
boygenius – Cowboy Take Me Away (The Chicks cover)
Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus had both opened for Julien Baker, and in 2018 the three of them planned a co-headlining tour. They wanted to have some material to play together, and the creative energy expanded to a formal supergroup and an EP. Despite initially bristling about being constantly compared to one another, there’s no one-up-woman-ship in this group. Here they step outside their usual genre while also paying their respects to another trio of powerhouse women, The Chicks. This acoustic cover is light yet full of feeling. Each of the members of boygenius take turns on primary vocals and trading supporting roles. Dacus gets my favorite lines though: “I wanna be the only one for miles and miles / Except for maybe you and your simple smile.”
boygenius – Read My Mind (The Killers cover)
I can’t even pinpoint the moment when I leveled up from “Mr. Brightside” (still a classic, no hate here) to “Read My Mind,” but I’m glad that I’m in good company with boygenius. Their version is a little slower and softer than the original; the trio isn’t in a rush. The harmonies assert themselves, rising above the barely-there instruments. Those moments when they are all singing together are the real “rebel diamonds.”
fun. – Somebody That I Used to Know (Gotye and Kimbra cover)
fun. may be the first time Jack Antonoff hit your radar unless you are a Steel Train fan (1969 cover EP, anyone?). Now you’ve heard him as writer and producer on albums like Lorde’s Melodrama, Taylor Swift’s Reputation and Folklore, The Chicks’ Gaslighter, and St. Vincent’s Masseduction. Perhaps, like me, you’re jamming to the Red Hearse album while anxiously awaiting the upcoming Bleachers album release. Other fun. members also have previous indie musical ties; Nate Ruess is formerly of The Format and Andrew Dost is formerly of Anathallo. Here they pull in another “super” for their supergroup: Hayley Williams. The supergroup web thickens; boygenius members featured on a Petals for Armor song.
fun.’s version keeps it simple instrumentally: an ever-present, punctuating acoustic guitar strum and the key piano line, almost toy-like sounding here. This sparsity leaves room for the emotion in the lyrics to really shine through. Ruess is even straining a bit as he really tries to evoke the sadness and even bitterness at times. Not everyone can take on the lines at the pinnacle of emotion, “You said that you could let it go / And I wouldn’t catch, you hung up on / Somebody that you used to know,” but Williams fearlessly delivers.
fun. – Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen cover)
Are you prepared for this throwback? Clear some head space for this song to be stuck there for the next week. Antonoff went on to contribute writer and producer credits on Jepsen’s Dedicated album, and the B-side of the album features a Bleachers collaboration. Did it all start with this cover? Mystery! A more stripped back cover removes the bubblegum pop elements of the original. I’m impressed by Ruess’s enunciation on “where do you think you’re going baby;” it doesn’t sacrifice any syllables yet somehow manages to maintain the pre-established rhythm.
The Dead Weather – Forever My Queen (Pentagram cover)
The Dead Weather is made up of Dean Fertita (formerly of Queens of the Stone Age), Jack Lawrence (currently with The Raconteurs and formerly of The Greenhornes and City and Colour), Alison Mosshart (currently with The Kills and formerly of Discount), and Jack White (currently with The Raconteurs and formerly of The White Stripes). One of the connections here is that Mosshart filled in for White on a tour for The Raconteurs when White lost his voice. White also really wanted to play drums in this group as a break from his other musical work (apparently he got the drum urge after playing on Alicia Keys’s “Another Way to Die”). He certainly gets some drum time in this heavy-metal cover. Watch him go!
The Dead Weather – New Pony (Bob Dylan cover)
Here’s another Dylan homage from a supergroup. If you need a deep dive on the origins of this song, this one made me briefly wonder if Ginuwine’s “Pony” is somehow very tangentially related based on horse-related sexual innuendos alone. The Dead Weather definitely amplify this song, but both this cover and the original have spunk. The background vocals of “how much longer?” are shouted rather than choir sung, and the guitar breaks have more edge via electric guitar.