30. Gigolo Aunts feat. Kid Lightning – I’m Not the One
“I’m Not the One” saw the Cars getting quiet, sincere, and genuinely moving, exploring unrequited love without disguising the message in an uptempo arrangement, a la “Lovefool” or “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” The Gigolo Aunts knew better than to mess with perfection. With Kid Lightning helping out on vocals, they took out the synth, dialed back their power-pop sound, and cut a track that sheds the Cars’ sleekness for a sound that matches the lyrics’ humanity. — Patrick Robbins
29. Letters to Cleo – Dangerous Type
First, for the ’90s rom-com fans: yes, this is the band featured in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. Letters to Cleo maintain the hallmarks of this song, the synth interludes, a deep bass, and a traditional electric guitar solo. They also bring a little more seduction to the song. Sometimes a whisper, sometimes a challenge, the chorus is a siren call for those who can’t resist the dangerous type. — Sara Stoudt
28. Fu Manchu – Moving in Stereo
In 2020, stoner-rock veterans Fu Manchu hit our year-end list with a heavy-as-hell cover of “Takin’ it the Streets.” Their “Moving in Stereo” comes further back though, on their 2007 album We Must Obey, but is just as epic. Never let it be said that stoners can’t swing, though, as even amidst the walls of distortion the track still has just a taste of Cars kick left in it. — Ray Padgett
27. Hayseed Dixie – My Best Friend’s Girl
Hayseed Dixie are the longtime (and maybe only) heroes of “Rockgrass,” the band’s self-proclaimed specialty genre–a combo of bluegrass and hard rock. Pivoting hundreds of rock classics into bluegrass hootenanny form takes serious chops, but the group knowingly lean into the satire side of nearly all of their bluegrass covers, hamming it up on full-album tributes to rock legends like AC/DC and Kiss. A crown jewel in the band’s repertoire, though no less subtle, is their one-off version The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Appearing on their most absurd, and best, compilation A Tribute To Hillbilly Love, Hayseed Dixie rev up “My Best Friend’s Girl” into a supercharged bluegrass reel. The band’s performance is so giddy and frenetic that it sounds like at least one of the band members could break a string at any moment–giving it their all, in wild four-part mountain harmony, on the tune’s titular hook. — Ben Easton
26. Abby Berman – You Might Think
Abby Berman turns an upbeat romp of a song into a simple piano ballad in this cover. Slowed way down, the song becomes less jeering and more sorrowful. Instead of the one-key-at-a-time piano punctuation, Berman’s piano accompaniment is rich and smooth. In between verses, when the piano picks up, we get a glimpse of a Broadway-style power ballad before the sound softens again, concluding in a pensive mood. — Sara Stoudt
25. Weezer – You Might Think
It seems just logical enough that The Cars’ music would eventually appear in Disney/Pixar’s Cars franchise. What might seem less plain is that Weezer would be the ones to bring The Cars to the Cars’ finish line. The pop-punk kings did so with great aplomb in 2011 for the soundtrack of Cars 2–offering a revved-up version of “You Might Think” that’s as toothsome as Lightning McQueen.
Perhaps more significantly, “You Might Think” also marks a jumping-off point for Weezer’s now-decade-long foray into the world of covers–which, arguably, came to pass in the wake of this Cars/Cars cut. Weezer’s 2019 self-titled Teal Album, which featured all covers, and was their most commercially successful release in years, might seem like an aberration or a gimmick. (To a great degree, it was both.) But the band’s pedal-to-the-metal commitment to making an album chockablock full of rock covers make a lot more sense when you line it up as a vector outward from “You Might Think.” Gleaming and gloriously tricked-out, “You Might Think” is a kind of urtext for Weezer’s entire journey through the ‘10s: a proto-indulgence of the band’s fantasy-rock impulses, and a rumbling of the many more epic covers to come. — Ben Easton
24. Situations – Good Times Roll
Like the apocryphal orchestra playing its set even as the Titanic went down, this is an example of a cheery song gone dark. The good times have rolled, and we’re left with only a painful memory. Part song, part moan, the vocals lament. A mournful guitar solo gently weeps, flowing from a sad and evocative sound to the occasional angsty needling. — Sara Stoudt
23. Bleachers – Drive
Jack Antonoff must feel at home in the Electric Lady studios. It’s here that he’s produced big-sellers for big-name artists, and here he returned with his band Bleachers to record a batch of live tracks in 2021. “Drive” is the lead-off track on the resulting EP, and it’s a very 2021 cover. The band avoids locking into any one mood or mode. In some sections they turn the melody on its side, only to set it straight again. They jump up a level or two in volume and energy for a brief passage, but then all is chill again in the next. A string section enters, and then a beautiful keyboard excursion, each one leaving no wake. And yet it all coheres. It is a collage of different ways to cover the song, and an interpretation that shows devotion to the original. — Tom McDonald
22. Charlie Hunter & Scott Amendola – Let’s Go
One thing you never have to say to a jazz artist is “Let’s go.” Letting go is not something they need yr permission or encouragement to do, and by the time you say “go” they’re already gone. What’s nice about Charlie Hunter’s instrumental is the simplicity, the spaciousness of the song’s first half. What’s even nicer is when Hunter (on bass here as well as guitar, both at the same time) swings into a walking bass line. The next thing you know you have a blues burner on your hands. But it’s all over in three-and-a half minutes, like a good pop single. — Tom McDonald
21. Susan Hyatt – The Dangerous Type
As we noted when Hyatt’s album Pin-Ups and Trumpets landed on our Best Covers Albums of 2016 list, she modeled it after David Bowie’s Pin-Ups, covering the songs of her youth. In her case, though, she sought out songs about life on the wrong side of the tracks: “Life in the Fast Lane,” “Breaking the Law,” and, here, The Cars’ “Dangerous Type.” Trumpet solos abound in this noir jazz piece, and when the prominent orchestral backing comes in, it almost sounds like a Bond theme. — Ray Padgett
Nothing about the Stokes and Jarvis Cocker? Relly?
This is awesome – one of the best. A heads-up. I think the video for No. 32. The Debutante Hour – Just What I Needed is actually a cover by Graham Verchere.
Fixed! Thanks for catching that.