Andrew VanWyngarden – Dance Monkey (Tones and I cover)
One of the biggest one-hit wonders of the last few years, pop singer Tones and I’s “Dance Monkey” emerged out of seeming nowhere to top charts across the world last year. In her home country of Australia, it is the longest chart-topper ever, breaking a record held by Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”! Despite its ubiquity, however, major covers have been sparse (perhaps because many people find the song, you know, annoying). Never one to shy away from putting off his audience, though, MGMT frontman Andrew VanWyngarden gave it a trippy psychedelic-folk cover as part of a radio station fundraising challenge.
Bedouine – Songbird (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Asked by Aquarium Drunkard why she closes her new album with a Fleetwood Mac cover, Syrian-American singer-songwriter Azniv Korkejian (aka Bedouine), explained: “That song kind of represents the pandemic to me in a different way. As soon as things shut down, I worked on a lot of different cover songs for charity compilations and things like that. I was getting in the habit of recording all these demos, which led to my little home studio rig. This was one of the songs I wanted to put down, and there’s a few different reasons. It was a really special song to me at the time that most of the songs were written, 10-15 years ago. I also really love how it is called “Songbird”, which kind of ties into my last record (Bird Songs of a Killjoy) in a way. And there is also something kind of meta about that, which is how I think about this record. Songs for the sake of songs, rather than some sweeping concept. It just made sense. So much of my stuff is mostly fingerpicking, it also felt really good to play the organ, the one other instrument in my room besides my guitar and a keyboard. Pretty early on I wanted the album to end with that.”
Coldplay – Nothingman (Pearl Jam cover)
“Maybe don’t upload it onto YouTube,” Chris Martin said of Coldplay’s recent Pearl Jam cover. Fat chance! “This is not Adele singing ‘Make You Feel My Love,'” he continued. “This is a 44-year old man remembering how much he fell in love with Pearl Jam in 1991. And if he told that kid he would be here singing this song, that kid would have said, ‘Are you sure that’s a good idea?'” That childlike love for the song shines, which sounds beautifully (and perfectly polished) despite Martin’s underselling it.
Hatchie – Crush (Jennifer Paige cover)
When I first saw that this cover existed – before I even had a chance to listen to it – I found “Crush” stuck in my head. The hit by one-hit-wonder Jennifer Paige was ubiquitous in the late ’90s, when Harriette Pilbeam aka Hatchie wasn’t even a teenager yet. She gives the song a modern indie-synth sheen, but the earwormy hooks remain.
James Vincent McMorrow – I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know (Donny Hathaway cover)
“I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” is actually a Blood, Sweat & Tears song originally, but Irish artist James Vincent McMorrow covered it in tribute to Donny Hathaway’s revelatory 1973 version. Joined by his band plus the RTE Concert Orchestra, McMorrow belts the hell out of the song, showing his deep love for R&B even though, on his early work, he was pegged as a folkie singer-songwriter.
Kelly Clarkson – Happier Than Ever (Billie Eilish cover)
The first Billie Eilish cover on our list, and not the last. Though it wasn’t as big a hit as some other songs, the title track of Eilish’s new album Happier Than Ever is become a covers favorite – perhaps because of the sudden explosion of sound halfway through. Shawn Mendes tried a stripped-down version last month, but Kelly Clarkson gives it the full theatrical belt it deserves. “The queen of breakup rock ballads. This song fits her like a glove,” a YouTube commenter writes. Indeed. Only wish they didn’t have to censor Billie’s well-placed curse words for TV.
MUNYA – Tonight Tonight (Smashing Pumpkins cover)
On her space-themed album Voyage to Mars, Québécois musician MUNYA (aka. Josie Boivin) eschewed all the obvious Bowie songs to cover Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight Tonight.” If you’re wondering what the space theme is there, re-watch the video. MUNYA wrote: “My sister shared the ‘Tonight, Tonight’ video with me at a very young age. I vividly remember feeling certain emotions for the first time: longing, sadness and a hopeful melancholy. In a weird way it was also my introduction to exploring space and the infinite possibilities that humans can achieve if they embrace the urgency of now. With everything going on, I felt like it was time to share my love for this song and hopefully inspire a new generation to realize life is a galaxy of endless possibilities, as long as we don’t hesitate and act now.”
Pistol Annies – If We Make It Through December (Merle Haggard cover)
We don’t spend a ton of time on Christmas music here; by the time it feels seasonally appropriate, we’re deep in year-end list mode, and then take it easy for the holidays. But “If We Make It Through December” feels too timeless to be a “Christmas song.” Nevertheless, country supergroup Pistol Annies include this beautiful version on their new album Hell of a Holiday (which the title alone makes me think it might be a Christmas album worth checking out…you know, when it’s not still October).
SOM – Everything I Wanted (Billie Eilish cover)
At this point, stand-alone single “Everything I Wanted” might have surpassed “Bad Guy” as other artists’ Billie Eilish song of choice to cover. One of the best versions so far is this loud, heavy squall by the New England post-rock quintet SOM. It’s like My Bloody Valentine noise with an emotive falsetto soaring overtop.
Susanna Hoffs ft. Aimee Mann – Name of the Game (Badfinger cover)
Bangles co-founder Susanna Hoffs frequently pops up in our features for her amazing Under The Covers series of albums with Matthew Sweet. And on November 12, she returns to the covers album fold (without Sweet) with Bright Lights. The first single tackles Badfinger with Aimee Mann, and she elsehwere covers Prince, Nick Drake, The Monkees, and more).