Brandi Carlile – If It Makes You Happy (Sheryl Crow cover)
This month, Austin City Limits held its eighth annual ACL Hall of Fame ceremony. The inductees were Joe Ely and Sheryl Crow. The latter was covered by, among others, Brandi Carlile, who also delivered Crow’s induction speech. It will surprise no one who’s ever seen Carlile perform on an award show before that she crushes it. (Find another Crow cover from the ceremony, by Jason Isbell, in the Best of the Rest below.)
Daughtry ft Lzzy Hale – Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) (Journey cover)
Whaddya know, a Stranger Things-inspired cover that’s not “Running Up That Hill.” Chris Daughtry, one of the few genuine stars to come out of American Idol, said of this new Journey cover: “I’ve always loved the song and I was wanting to do a classic cover and my wife and I were watching the Stranger Things season finale and there’s this incredibly intense scene and ‘Separate Ways’ was a big part of this scene. It was so moving just the way it was used, it felt so cool and epic and I was immediately like ‘THIS is the one!’” Daughtry and Journey have a lot in common – critically maligned, immensely popular. And Daughtry and guest Lzzy Hale have the pipes to blast this through the ceiling.
Green Day – Alison (Elvis Costello cover)
I’d love a fully Green Day-ed “Alison.” This, sadly, isn’t that. As the subtitle in “Alison (Demo)” might imply, it’s scaled-back. Way back. It’s essentially a Billie Joe Armstrong solo performance, but the other guys (I assume that’s them) join in on the chorus. Still, for what it is, he delivers it well. Maybe next time we’ll get a fully pop-punk “Shipbuilding.”
Henry Jamison – Our House (CSNY cover)
Henry Jamison’s Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young cover actually came out January 7th, before David Crosby died. Maybe that’s not a surprise; “Our House” is a Graham Nash song after all. Then again, Umphrey’s McGee covered the Stills tune “Helplessly Hoping” for their tribute, so it’s blurry. Jamison layers on his own beautiful harmonies, with an indie-folk sheen backing him.
Joey Bada$$ – UMI Says (Mos Def cover)
“It’s one of my favorite songs of all time,” Joey Bada$$ told told Like a Version about why he chose to cover this 1999 Mos Def cut. “It’s such a spiritual connection I have to this song. As an artist, I can tell this is a song that wasn’t written – this is a song that was truly just felt… and I think that’s probably what I admire about it the most.” He is joined by Zimbabwean-born, Melbourne-based singer KYE.
Kimbra – Break My Soul (Beyoncé cover)
In her early solo days, and certainly in the Destiny’s Child era, Beyoncé covers came fast and furious. But they’ve slowed in recent years, even as her cultural capital has never been higher. A few guesses why: a) She’s become such an icon that she seems untouchable, b) Artists worry that anything they try will seem not-as-good to her legions of superfans, and c) Many of her latter-day songs address topics specific to Black people and women, so artists who aren’t both don’t want to look insensitive. But Kimbra, huge in Australia but probably best known elsewhere as Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know” duet partner, took a crack at “Break My Soul.” She shows why more musicians should be bold and cover current Beyoncé.
Razor Braids – Buddy Holly (Weezer cover)
None other that Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo himself described this cover as “totally fire.” He’s not wrong!
Romy – FIREBABE (Stormzy cover)
For her recent Live Lounge appearance, Romy Madley Croft, best known as the singer of the xx, covered British grime superstar Stormzy. As if that wasn’t ambitious enough, she layered in some of Harry Styles’ smash hit “As It Was.” And, on top of that, she added a touch of Alice Deejay’s trance classic “Better Off Alone.” She rang all three through her minimalist electro-croon filter that will sound very familiar to xx fans.
Sam Gendel ft. Meshell Ndegeocello – Anywhere (112 cover)
On his forthcoming album, indie-beloved sax player Sam Gendel, the first jazzman on call for artists like Vampire Weekend and Animal Collective, is covering R&B and soul hits from the ‘90s and early ‘00s. Aaliyah? Check. Mario? Check. Ginuwine? Check twice (and neither one is “Pony”). The first single, though, pays tribute to Bad Boy Records R&B group 112, with help from another ‘90s soul icon, Meshell Ndegeocello.
Taylor Swift – The City (The 1975 cover)
When you see headlines like “Taylor Swift covers 1975 at 1975 concert,” that’s usually a blogger using the term cover very loosely to just mean someone sitting in with a band (it’s not really a cover if like five of the six people playing it are just the original group!). But, against all odds, Taylor did a proper 1975 cover at a 1975 show. The band themselves actual left the stage to let Taylor sing one of their songs all by herself to their crowd. That was a cool move I don’t think I’ve seen before. Hope it starts a trend.
The Best of the Rest
Alvvays — Rush Hour (Jane Wiedlin cover)
Aoife O’Donovan – Drover (Bill Callahan cover)
B. Miles – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head (Kylie Minogue cover)
Blinker the Star – Little Lies (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Colin Meloy – Laughing (David Crosby cover)
[Listen at his Substack Colin Meloy’s Machine Shop]
Into It. Over It. – Heather Lane (Tyler Daniel Bean cover)
Jason Isbell – Run Baby Run (Sheryl Crow cover)
The Libertines – The Windmills of Your Mind (Noel Harrison cover)
Maple Glider – You’re Still the One I Want (Shania Twain cover)
Sean Rowe & Alisa Amador – Hold On (Tom Waits cover)
Storefront Church – Pure Imagination (Willy Wonka cover)
Up Around The Sun – History Lesson Part II (Minutemen cover)
Check out previous months’ best covers lists.