Sep 302021
best cover songs of september
Beyoncé – Moon River (Mancini/Mercer cover

Any month with a new cover by Beyoncé is a big month. Admittedly, her piano-crooning “Moon River” like so many others have piano-crooned “Moon River” – and for a Tiffany’s ad no less – is slightly underwhelming. But we’ll take what we can get, and, even if the approach is hardly novel, Beyoncé’s got the pipes to deliver.

Death from Above 1979 – Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey cover)

Fuzz guitar and drum machine power this stomping take on Journey’s most beloved (and hated) song. Play it loud.

Deborah Bond & the Compellers – Cure for Pain (Morphine cover)

The Washington Post alerted us to this DC band tribute to the great Morphine. Label head Lee Durham first heard Morphine on, of all places, Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour. “I just loved the way [“Cure for Pain”] flows as one piece of art … set apart from time,” he told the Post. “It just could exist at any time and music history.” So he recruited local bands to cover every track on it. The title track, by Deborah Bond & the Compellers, is a particular winner.

girl in red – Stay (The Kid Laroi cover)

Speaking on her cover song choice, girl in red’s Marie Ulven says, “I’m about to leave someone that I don’t want to leave so I’m listening to my own cover of ‘Stay’ because I want to stay.” I guess that’s as good a reason as any to sit around listening to your own music.

Gov’t Mule – Make It Rain (Tom Waits cover)

At a show this month, Gov’t Mule debuted a Tom Waits cover. Surprisingly, they didn’t pick a track off Mule Variations (sorry). “Make It Rain” comes from Waits’ 2004 album Real Gone and, less surprisingly, Warren Haynes and co. knock this dark blues number out of the park. A studio version will appear on their upcoming album Heavy Load Blues.

H.E.R. – Love’s In Need of Love Today (Stevie Wonder cover)

For CNN’s 9/11 tribute show, H.E.R. covered the most clichéd song one can pick for such an occasion: Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Come on now. But she redeemed herself by tackling Stevie Wonder’s brilliant Songs in the Key of Life opener. Maybe we can swap out “Hallelujah” for Stevie as the go-to song choice for somber occasions?

Hether Fortune – Bitter Taste (Billy Idol cover)

Billy Idol covers arrive all the time – but who covers a new Billy Idol song? Hether Fortune of Wax Idols, that’s who. A few years ago Hether clued us into her five favorite covers. She didn’t pick Idol’s famous cover of Tommy James’ “Mony Mony,” but she did wax (heh) poetic on This Mortal Coil doing Big Star.

Jason Isbell – Driver 8 (R.E.M. cover)

In November 2020, as election votes were still being counted (as you may recall, it took a while), Jason Isbell tweeted, “If Biden wins Georgia I’m gonna make a charity covers album of my favorite Georgia songs- REM, Gladys Knight, Vic Chesnutt, Allmans, Cat Power, Precious Bryant, Now It’s Overhead, etc… And damn is that gonna be fun,” he tweeted. Spoiler alert: Biden did win Georgia, and now Isbell’s making good on his word. Georgia Blue comes out October 15, and “Driver 8” is the first taste. Former Civil Wars man John Paul White guests.

Margo Price – Dead Flowers (The Rolling Stones cover)

Now that live music has returned, with it has come back the old tradition of bunch of bands playing someone’s songs onstage in the nights after he or she passes. Charlie Watts is a prime example – practically any touring band has a Stones cover in their repertoire. Margo Price made a perfect song selection with the Stones’ country song “Dead Flowers.”

Phoebe Bridgers – That Funny Feeling (Bo Burnham cover)

The most unexpected cover of the month has to be indie star Phoebe Bridgers returning to the road with, of all things, a novelty song from comedian Bo Burnham’s recent comedy special Inside. Burnham gets compared to Weird Al and The Lonely Island fairly often, and you can hear why. This song is funny, sure, but also well crafted and catchy.

Something to Do – Levitating (Dua Lipa cover)

The Milwaukee ska band explained their surprising song choice well: “There’s a portion of our band that in general is just always very excited about dance pop and there’s always a lot of talk about folks like Robyn, Carli Rae Jepsen, Jessie Ware, etc. (We talk about this stuff AT LEAST as much as we talk about ska bands.) When Dua Lipa put out Future Nostalgia, let’s just say there was a LOT of chatter in the group text – this album is a stone cold classic. It felt like Dua Lipa really did what we’re always trying to do, which is put together a group of songs where every part of every song works as a hook – it’s just so well done. I think you could do “Levitating” in literally any kind of style and it’d work very well and it was pretty easy to work up a banger ska version because of how great the original is – minimal part changes, mostly contextual stuff. We’ve dinked around with other covers of dance pop stuff (still trying to do a good job with Beyonce) but this one works particularly well. This was sort of the ‘last quarantine’ thing for us that we recorded before starting to get back together and I love it.”

Shawn Mendes – Happier Than Ever (Billie Eilish cover)

On Billie Eilish’s mostly quiet album Happier Than Ever, one of the few places where she really lets it rip is on the second half of the title track. But how to approximate that when covering the song solo on guitar? Shawn Mendes manages by swapping guitars halfway through, dumping the acoustic in favor of a highly distorted electric. It still doesn’t achieve the volume Billie does, but it makes the point.

Tip-Top – Aline (Christophe cover)

Back in 2012, Iggy Pop released an album largely of covers sung in French, and now Jarvis Cocker is following suit. Under the name Tip-Top, he’s releasing Chansons D’Ennui Tip-Top on October 22. It’s a tie-in to a new Wes Anderson movie, naturally.

Vengaboys – 1999 (Charli XCX and Troye Sivan cover)

Yes, it’s the Vengaboys, the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, some of the song titles will: “We Like to Party,” “Boom Boom Boom Boom!” and “We’re Going to Ibiza.” They said of this new song, “The whole idea came from Charli XCX. She spoke about us in interviews a couple of years ago then there was a headline saying, ‘Can Charli XCX bring Vengaboys back?’ ” Even if the Vengaboys are not your thing, the music video is extremely clever.

The Best of the Rest

Ana B Savage – A Girl Like You (Edwyn Collins cover)

Annie – She’s Like the Wind (Patrick Swayze cover)

Bartees Strange – Lady Luck (Richard Swift cover)

Camila Cabello – Good 4 U (Olivia Rodrigo cover)

Joy Oladokun – Who Are You (The Who cover)

Lizzo – Butter (BTS cover)

Lorde – Break the Ice (Britney Spears cover)

Mountain Man – Kid Like You (Arthur Russell cover)

The Queers – Valeri (The Monkees cover)

She & Him – Holiday (Madonna cover)

Tasha & Gregory Uhlmann – Lullaby (The Chicks cover)

Touche Amore – Game of Pricks (Guided By Voices cover)

Yuna & Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra – Bella Ciao (Traditional)

Check out previous months’ best covers lists.

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