Nov 302023
best cover songs
boygenius ft. Ye Vagabonds — The Parting Glass (Trad. cover)

Every year, Phoebe Bridgers releases a surprise cover around the holidays to benefit charity. This year, she brought in her boygenius bandmates as well as vocal group Ye Vagabonds to cover “The Parting Glass.” It’s a traditional Irish tune, but their version pays specific homage to Sinead O’Connor, who covered it in 2002. Sales benefit the Aisling Project, an after-school project working with children and young people growing up in a disadvantaged area of Dublin. The beneficiary was chosen by the estate of O’Connor, who died in July.

Casii Stephan — A Song for You (Leon Russell cover)

Tulsa singer Casii Stephan took to the city’s recently renovated Church Studio, founded by local hero Leon Russell, to cover the man himself. She said she first learned the love song to play at a friend’s wedding, but now it’s part of the repertoire. It’s a simple one-take recording, just her and a piano, but she has the pipes and the chops to deliver it beautifully.

DORO ft. Rob Halford — Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler cover)

Metal singer DORO got an assist on her “Total Eclipse of the Heart” from a legend of the genre: Judas Priest’s Rob Halford. It’s as loud and souring as you’d expect, with a poppier sheen that Halford wears in his day job.

Duran Duran — Super Lonely Freak (Rick James half-cover)

At the end of last month, Duran Duran released their Halloween-themed album Danse Macabre. In addition to covers of spooky songs by Billie Eilish (“Bury a Friend”) and The Specials (“Ghost Town”), it features this inventive mashup of Rick James’ immortal “Super Freak” with the band’s own Rio single “Lonely In Your Nightmare.”

Jimmy Page — Rumble (Link Wray cover)

One of a couple tribute performances from this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, Jimmy Page appeared as an unannounced surprise guest to chug through Link Wray’s instrumental distortion-fest. He even brought the double-necked guitar, just to make it extra epic (given he only uses the one neck).

Noah Kahan — Lacy (Olivia Rodrigo cover)

Last month, Olivia Rodrigo covered Vermont’s breakout folk-rock star Noah Kahan’s viral “Stick Season” at the BBC Live Lounge. Now, for his own Live Lounge session, Kahan returns the favor. Boston trio Tiny Habits provide backing harmonies.

Sleaford Mods — West End Girls (Pet Shop Boys cover)

How’s this for a power move: Sleaford Mods got the actual Pet Shop Boys to remix their Pet Shop Boys charity cover. Singer Jason Williamson said, “I’ve been listening to the Pet Shop Boys’ albums Please and Actually a lot, the music still fits this landscape so well. When Andrew suggested we cover West End Girls, it was important to honour the track’s brilliance. So, when Neil and Chris gave the track their blessing our tiny minds were blown, and when we received their remix… it was almost too much.” The Boys, meanwhile, wrote “Sleaford Mods have brought East End boys back to the West End streets for a great cause and we love their new version.”

St. Vincent — Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush cover)

The other Rock Hall cover pays tribute to an artist who, while thankfully very much still alive, doesn’t travel, for award ceremonies or otherwise. St. Vincent doesn’t get quite as weird with “Running Up That Hill” as you might hope (well, except for the outfit), but she does a great job hitting the tricky notes. (Don’t miss our recent series on all the new Rock Hall inductees.)

Trevor Horn ft. Rick Astley — Owner of a Lonely Heart (Yes cover)

We’ve seen a number of advance tracks from Trevor Horn’s guest-packed forthcoming covers album Echoes – Ancient & Modern: “Love Is a Battlefield” with Marc Almond, “Steppin’ Out” with Seal, “Slave to the Rhythm” with Lady Blackbird. This latest reimagines a track Horn actually originally produced. He said, “I didn’t initially want to go back and do songs I’m known for, but you feel the pressure to do them. It’s an album under my name, so there is a certain expectation to do the big hits. Eventually I started to wonder if I could maybe think of another direction for my old productions. When ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ was mentioned, I thought of a nicely unlikely angle – a dance groove like one I’d heard on an unreleased 12″ mix with evergreen Rick Astley singing Yes an octave down. It made total sense. Rick has such natural flair. Sometimes just who you get to sing a particular song is enough, and everything takes off from there.”

The Best of the Rest

Augie March and Romy Vager — Henry Lee (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds cover)

Bombay Bicycle Club — Cruel Summer (Taylor Swift cover)

The Japanese House — Super Trouper (ABBA cover)

Midland — Wichita Lineman (Glen Campbell cover)

Sloppy Jane — Cancer (My Chemical Romance cover)

Toadies — Since U Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson cover)

Vashti Bunyan & Devendra Banhart – How Could You Let Me Go (Madelynn Von Ritz cover)

White Bike — Nothing Better (The Postal Service cover)

Check out previous months’ best covers lists.

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