Confidence Man – Heaven (Bryan Adams cover)
For their recent Like a Version performance, Confidence Man, a duo of Janet Planet and Sugar Bones, covered Bryan Adam’s “Heaven.” Well, sort of. They really took their cues from the hit club cover of “Heaven” by DJ Sammy. “We didn’t actually know [it was a cover],” said Planet. “Stu, our manager – who’s old – told us that. We listened to [the original], and it’s not that good.” Ouch! But their cover is a blast to watch, all charisma, choreography, and energy from the two of them in front of an ominously veiled band. As NME points out, Confidence Man are the third act a a cover of a cover on the show. In 2017, Alex Lahey covered Natalie Imbruglia’s hit cover of Ednaswap’s non-hit “Torn” (we wrote a feature explaining the backstory there). And in 2018, garage-rock septet West Thebarton covered Florence + The Machine‘s cover of The Source and Candi Staton’s “You’ve Got the Love.”
Hunting – Piano Fire (Sparklehorse cover)
“Piano Fighter” is a terrific song on Warren Zevon’s ‘90s live album Learning to Flinch. Someone should cover it! Canadian duo Hunting haven’t. They’ve tackled a similarly-named, but otherwise unrelated, Sparklehorse tune called “Piano Fire.” It comes accompanied by an extremely charming, occasionally alarming stop-motion music video.
Ibibio Sound Machine – Heroes (David Bowie cover)
“Heroes” is in that “Hallelujah” camp, where it’s almost impossible to come up with a fresh take. Yet, somehow, English electronic afro-funk band (that’s them in the photo up top) Ibibio Sound Machine have managed. In their hands, it’s a soul song and a dance song and a world-music song. There’s a dub version that’s worth checking out too.
Joe Policastro Trio – Take on Me (A-Ha cover)
Chicago jazz group The Joe Policastro Trio dig up a bunch of unreleased music on their new album Sounds Unheard 2012-2022. The album is largely jazz versions of unexpected tunes – “Walk On the Wild Side,” “Goldfinger,” “Fire” – with none more unexpected than A-Ha’s giant “Take On Me.” Would you even recognize the song if you didn’t know what it was?
Norah Jones – Steel Your Way (Leonard Cohen cover)
Our first taste of the upcoming Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen – that’s James Taylor’s “Coming Back to You” – was underwhelming. Our second taste – that’s Nathaniel Rateliff’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” – was more promising. And this third is a home run. True, the album’s coming out on Blue Note Records, so Norah Jones doing a jazzy take is sort of a shoe-in. But she scores by picking a track few others have covered, “Steer Your Way,” off Leonard’s final album You Want It Darker.
Phosphorescent – Storms (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Playing for Change – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2 cover)
Daniel Lanois, producer of the U2 original, is the celebrity here, but the stars of these videos are always the little-known (at least in America) musicians all over the world. And, secondarily, the settings they’re playing in. Boasting 40 musicians in 13 countries, this “Song Around The World” supports the Playing for Change foundation and the International Day of the Disappeared (I guess the more on-the-nose U2 song “Mothers of the Disappeared” was a little too obscure a choice).
Sampa The Great – DNA (Kendrick Lamar cover)
Kendrick Lamar brought out singer Sampha for his Saturday Night Live performance over the weekend, but here the similarly-named Sampa (no “h”) rhymes through a song he didn’t play there: “DNA.” Accompanied by a live band and some backing singers, she owns the stage. Or, in this case, radio studio.
Self Esteem – Radio Gaga (Queen cover)
Queen commissioned Self Esteem do record this cover, giving her the nerve-making task of playing her cover for the Roger Taylor himself. She says she wasn’t anxious about it though: “I was just excited. I’m a show-off, aren’t I?” You can see his reaction in this video. Spoiler (though not entirely given that this is sort of a Queen promo piece): He approves!