30. TAUK ft. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong – Space Jam (Quad City DJs cover)
The soundtrack to the 1996 Michael Jordan/Bugs Bunny blockbuster Space Jam plays like a pop-cultural oddity these days. It features an inspiring song by the disgraced singer R. Kelly and a downright bizarre cover of “That’s the Way (I Like It)” by the Spin Doctors and Biz Markie. It also contains the theme song “Space Jam” by the Quad City DJ’s, a dance number specially formulated to implant the film’s title into listeners’ brains. The song was the launch pad for a different kind of jam in 2022, when TAUK and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong teamed up for a live cover. The bands open the track by belting out a spirited rendition of the lyrics, reminding you that it is indeed a “Space Jam.” They then settle in for an extended groove session, which features funky guitar riffs, jazzy drum solos and multiple tempo changes. In the end, they return for one final rousing singalong. Who needs to watch Jordan slam dunk when you have jams like these? – Curtis Zimmermann
29. Eva Snyder – Gives You Hell (All-American Rejects cover)
With a mix of “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” and “Gone Going” sound, acoustic guitar plucks and finger snaps open up this get-even anthem. The delivery is not as in-your-face as the occasionally frat-boy energy of the original, but the words still pack a punch. Background “ah”s in the bridges give Eva’s voice a glow of moral superiority, even while there is a “forgive but not forget” mentality advocated for by the lyrics. – Sara Stoudt
28. Mavis Staples & Levon Helm – You Got to Serve Somebody (Bob Dylan cover)
Performed 11 years ago but just released this year, this “Gotta Serve Somebody” is timeless, a wonderful evocation of the hard vein of root American musics tapped into so instinctively by Levon’s old band, The Band. Is is soul, is it country, is it blues, is it gospel? It is all those and more, with Mavis out front, strutting her mighty stuff, with no imagination at all required to catch the beam of a smile across the drummer’s face, as the tightasthis backing play ragged and loose with this high-water mark of Dylan’s born-again phase. Masterful and mighty. You don’t need quirky if you can play it this good. – Seuras Og
27. Soraia – Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) (Rolling Stones cover)
“Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” is as kick-ass as the Stones get, with a driving horn arrangement that makes me wish they’d done more songs like that. Soraia, a hard-rock band out of Philadelphia, doesn’t make any attempt to replicate those horns or Billy Preston’s clavinet, but they prove they don’t need to with a performance that goes just as hard and just as exciting. – Patrick Robbins
26. Sudan Archives – Heart (Neneh Cherry cover)
If this song hasn’t been used on an episode of Yellowstone (or any other Western-themed media) yet, it probably will be. Sudan Archives’ signature string instruments considerably soften and enhance the harsh New Jack Swing tones of the original, with dampened drums that sound almost like distorted hand/body claps. The vocal is light and breezy, giving the sad lyrics a more sorrowful feel rather than that of anger or annoyance. – Brendan Shanahan
25. Moncrieff – I’m With You (Avril Lavigne cover)
This year marked the twenty-year anniversary of Avril Lavigne’s debut album Let Go, home to fan favorites like “Sk8er Boi” and “Complicated.” “I’m With You,” the third single from the album, took a more serious tone. This cover starts with a dream pop background and an added syncopation to the opening guitar riff. Layered vocals drift in and out. We hear the buildup to launch into the first chorus, but instead of belting out “it’s a damn cold night” like so many Avril fans before him, he takes the opposite approach, reeling it in at first. Don’t worry, the payoff comes the second time around. This same approach is used with the “yeah yeah”s: no immediate release, saving the catharsis for the ending “I’m with you”s where that final pain is unleashed. – Sara Stoudt
24. Bite Me Bambi – Want You Bad (The Offspring cover)
Good covers don’t always change genres, but hearing an old song work in a new style is one of the joys of finding new covers. There’s no room for snobbiness on selecting the genres, or the songs for that matter. One of the only musical staples from the late ‘90s/early aughts to get a worse rap than ska is The Offspring. But Bite Me Bambi prove that having preconceived notions about a ska cover of The Offspring is a good way to miss out on a great cover. “Want You Bad” wasn’t as big a hit as some others in The Offspring’s catalog, but it translates very nicely to ska in Bite Me Bambi’s capable hands. Lead singer Tahlena Chikami sounds great and is bolstered by the classic chunky, syncopated guitar and blasting horns of the genre. The pacing of her vocals often slows down while the rest of the band keeps ripping along at breakneck speed. It all works great together and maybe hints at ska coming back into the mainstream. – Mike Misch
23. Dr. John ft. Aaron Neville – End of the Line (Traveling Wilburys cover)
The late Dr. John’s Things Happen That Way, released earlier this year, features some traditional country covers of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash — but the Doctor just couldn’t resist going full-on New Orleans with his version of Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line.” Features the legendary Aaron Neville and singer-songwriter Katie Pruitt as fellow Wilburys, Dr. John’s “End of the Line” is lowdown and easygoing, rolling the song’s mantra-hook—“It’s aawwwwwwlriiiight”—around in the mouth atop a slow-simmering shuffle groove. The cover is the opening track of his final posthumous album, making for an ideal manifesto of the NOLA outlook and some kind of inadvertent, perfect celebratory sendoff to Dr. John himself. – Ben Easton
22. Tropical Fuck Storm – Ann (The Stooges cover)
A deep cut from their debut album, The Stooges’ “Ann” is a raw ballad about falling head over heels in love that explodes into noise for its climax. It’s actually two separate songs pieced together when their label demanded more material, but it works so well nobody really noticed or cared. Tropical Fuck Storm up the ante and just lean into it. The ballad part is a bit funkier and a lot more psychedelic than the original, with a distinct bass part and their trademark guitar shimmering guitars. Then, for the climax, everything is turned up to 11: the drums are massive, the bass is extremely loud, the guitars super fuzzy. And to top it off there is a coda full of feedback. This is one where you want to make sure to watch the video. – Riley Haas
21. Rod Gator – Everytime (Britney Spears cover)
On the same album of Britney’s bombastic “Toxic” comes this earnest song. The original has a classical piano, music box flourishes, and almost choral delivery. Here the piano remains with an acoustic guitar adding the strumming tones that are more harp-like in the original. Before the end comes an homage to the dance club songs Britney is a master of. A beat drops, an electric guitar struts into the spotlight, and electronic elements kick in. As this short interlude winds down, the song closes as it opens: back to the raw emotion. – Sara Stoudt
Not exactly what you’d call a banner year for covers . . .
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.
Yeah, people might argue about your rankings of #2-50, but “Lose Yourself” was #1 by far.