Dec 162022

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50. Japanese Breakfast – Skinny Love (Bon Iver cover)

Originally released on Bon Iver’s 2007 debut album For Emma, Forever Ago, “Skinny Love” is the band’s most-covered tune, and for good reason. It’s a quiet acoustic folk song that would be equally at home on a ‘70s singer/songwriter album or a 2022 Americana record. The latest to tackle the jaded love song is Japanese Breakfast, the band fronted by Korean-American singer-songwriter Michelle Zauner. In the opening verse, the band keeps the song acoustic and then slowly adds in layers, most notably a drum track and then orchestral horns. Zauner’s voice and style is ideally suited to capture the quiet chaos of the song’s lyrics, most notably the refrain “And I told you to be patient/And I told you to be fine.” It captures the timeless feel of the original, but with a spirit that’s fresh and new. – Curtis Zimmermann

49. Sister Ray – Up To My Neck In You (AC/DC cover)

Slowing down AC/DC songs isn’t necessarily a new idea. Many covers play on the clash between the brash lyrics and the new, slower sound. Some of those originals do have lyrics that, upon stripping away the accompanying heavy guitar and shouted vocals, are actually kind of insightful. Sister Ray has crafted the rare AC/DC cover that will give you goosebumps. The guitar is sparse but still loud and shimmering, providing a steady rhythm throughout. The focal point, though, is Ella Coyes’ emotive, plaintive voice. The 2nd verse is when Coyes really kicks it into gear and never slows down. The vocals rise and fall, stretch and break, and by the end you’ll forget you’re listening to an AC/DC cover. – Mike Misch

48. Loveless – Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush cover)

One illustration of the changes in media since Kate Bush’s great song “Running Up That Hill” was released in 1985 on vinyl, is that this cover from 2022 was inspired by a Netflix show and first became popular on TikTok in 2022. Bush’s original was highlighted by her beautiful voice with its four-octave range, the propulsive analog and digital percussion, and the unusual lyrics, about a man and woman making a deal with God to switch places to better understand one another. The song was a success when it was released in 1985, and again in 2012, when a remix was used in the Summer Olympics closing ceremony. In 2022, it was featured heavily in the plot and soundtrack to Stranger Things (which the notoriously private Bush allowed because she was a fan), and again hit the charts. Loveless, an emo/pop/punk duo from Los Angeles, which made its name through TikTok covers of songs by artists such as Lizzo and Billie Eilish, posted a rough cover of “Running Up The Hill,” before releasing a full-length cover in July. Where Bush’s version is atmospheric art/progressive pop, the cover rocks and features singer Julian Comeau’s emo yelp. – Jordan Becker

47. The Butterfly Effect – abcdefu (GAYLE cover)

An eerie acapella opening acts as a warning for this pop hit that relies on a coy alphabet song turned vindictive. The haunted house ambiance continues as a tinkling piano joins in. Barely-there strings round out the background tone, never overstepping the vocals. The lyrics are delivered straight, no drama. Nothing like calmly telling everyone off in turn. – Sara Stoudt

46. Billy Strings ft. Post Malone – Cocaine Blues (Trad. cover)

Bluegrass guitar powerhouse Billy Strings continued to enhance his stature in the jam band universe in 2022 by performing alongside such stalwarts as Trey Anastasio, Bob Weir and Willie Nelson. He also took a bit of a detour when he invited pop star Post Malone to join him on stage in April. Malone shifted into the country-bluegrass world almost seamlessly as he sang lead vocals on the country standard “Cocaine Blues.” Mostly associated with Johnny Cash, the song has folk origins dating back more than 100 years. Malone handles the vocals brilliantly, capturing the grit and humor of the otherwise dark song, as Strings and his band fingerpick away. In that brief moment, two seemingly different musical universes came smashing together. – Curtis Zimmermann

45. Phosphorescent – Bad News from Home (Randy Newman cover)

“Bad News From Home,” from Randy Newman’s eighth album Land of Dreams, is a brief but gripping drama about a man plotting to murder his ex and her new lover. Phosphorescent basically stick to the economical arrangement, but Matthew Houck imbues the lyrics with more emotion and sadness than Newman. Whereas in the original there is a real sense of revenge, Houck suggests a far greater ambivalence; there’s less anger and more grief. In the original, we’re pretty sure he’s planning on murdering them. In Phosphorescent’s version, we’re a lot less sure of what he’ll do to them, or to himself. – Riley Haas

44. Wet Leg – Smoko (The Chats cover)

Lead singer Rhian Teasdale’s John Cale-esque approach cuts through the harsh Australian accent from the original, but having a jagged keyboard delivering the main riff still gives the track an aggressive feel. The steady beat is driven by the guitars and solid drumming, but still far softer than the original. This is the version to listen to when you want to drop in and chill out, not when you want to be pissed off about the injustices of life and the world in general. – Brendan Shanahan

43. Boyfriend & Big Freedia – Deceptacon (Le Tigre cover)

For us cover lovers, Big Freedia’s biggest surprise appearance this past June was not as the opening voice on Beyoncé’s new single “Break My Soul.” Nah, the real news is her joyful hollering all over this insanely high-energy hyperpop cover of Le Tigre’s riot grrrl anthem “Deceptacon.” Has Kathleen Hanna weighed in on this yet? – Ray Padgett

42. The Cactus Blossoms – If Not For You (Bob Dylan cover)

The Cactus Blossoms are a class act, offering a sharply-dressed blend of early rock & roll and country. Their version of Bob Dylan’s “If Not For You,” initially one of the more ragged numbers from 1970’s New Morning, feels far more polished than the original, with crisp snare work, precise Everly Brothers harmonies and impassioned twangs of steel guitar. It all amounts to a new, lustrous shine for the tune, more Music Row countrypolitan than backwoods folk. But The Cactus Blossoms don’t drop Dylan’s candor in the process. They keep things jaunty and limber with the new arrangement, but stay as earnest, even as sweet, in the delivery. It’s a perfect way to set the scene for the group’s all-Dylan covers EP, also called If Not For You and released earlier this fall. Based on its “Volume 1” subtitle, it’s hopefully the first of numerous batches of finely-tuned Dylan covers to come. – Ben Easton

41. Norah Jones – Steer Your Way (Leonard Cohen cover)

In this late-period Leonard Cohen meditation, each of its five verses circle back to these mantra-like lines “year by year / month by month / day by day / thought by thought.” Norah Jones greets those lines differently each time she encounters them. A shift of tone, the emphasis placed here instead of there. She drops in a quiet harmony vocal line now and then, but in each instance it is unique. Jones gives us renewal instead of dull repetition as she steers her way through an enigmatic musical atmosphere. The music has an aura of danger, but a soft and alluring presence also. It’s a setting conjured up by the light-touch of Bill Frisell and several other jazz-world luminaries. The ensemble infuses other tracks on Here It Is, the Leonard Cohen tribute album this song comes from. – Tom McDonald


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  4 Responses to “The 50 Best Cover Songs of 2022”

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  1. Not exactly what you’d call a banner year for covers . . .

  2. Thanks for this, as always.
    A few that really hit me were compelling were Chis Thiles and Punch Brothers version of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” ,
    As mentioned in the post, the YouTube live version is really something.
    Also loved hearing the cover of “If you’re gonna be dumb…”
    But … your #1 was also mine: Lose Yourself. I was awestruck.
    I learned of it from a CM post, and sent it around to a lot of folks, some of whom were as blown away as me.
    Thanks for what you do.
    Regards, Dave.

  3. Yeah, people might argue about your rankings of #2-50, but “Lose Yourself” was #1 by far.

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