Apr 262024
 

Run up that hill back to the beginning.

20. Ami Alex — It’s a Sin

Ami Alex is a pop/alt/indie-pop singer from England who is best known for her TikTok content. As Alex casually sits, drinking out of a mug and sporting a skull and cat-ears hat for this Pet Shop Boys cover, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I certainly didn’t anticipate this crisp of a sound. “Effortless” is the first word that comes to mind. Her musical backdrop is a simple synth-wave backup, with a heartbeat like a bass drum. Ami Alex’s locked-in harmonies a-la-vocalizer are gentle and heartrending. This cover is the perfect combination of electropop and synth wave with clean and modern vocal technique. No need to reinvent the wheel; just polish it up a bit! – Aleah Fitzwater

19. TR/ST ft. Jake Shears — Being Boring

Created at the height of the AIDS epidemic, this song captures the pain of just trying to live your life in the face of an ongoing disaster. It is War Poetry from the front line. A whole generation of friends and compatriots will not reach the quiet, less adventurous phases of their lives. Survivors’ guilt pervades the piece. TR/ST and Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears are from a different generation, but marked with battles of their own. They capture the beauty of art in the face of challenge. – Mike Tobyn

18. Molodetz! — What Have I Done to Deserve This?


This reimagining is jaunty in its own way. I can definitely hear the ska band yearning that appears in Moldodetz!’s Bandcamp bio. There is a healthy balance of vocals and spunky guitar riffs, but both get their time in the spotlight, with a more rock-style vocal that almost drowns out the guitar as it goes daintier in the middle of the song. The vocal range also widens as the song goes on; we hear a mix of falsetto and deep bass-delivered lines back and forth. This cover contains multitudes and gives me that same boppy energy I associate with the Pet Shop Boys. – Sara Stoudt

17. Randy Jones — New York City Boy

PSB have always acknowledged the role that previous generations of artists, particularly from the LGBTQ community, had played in shaping their music and world. Having celebrated The Village People by themselves covering “Go West,” there is a beautiful circularity in this piece. Village Person Randy Jones (the cowboy) brings trademark high-NRG disco to a tale from his own life, as an adoptive New Yorker. – Mike Tobyn

16. Tracey Thorn — King’s Cross

Tracey Thorn’s cover of “King’s Cross,” like many Pet Shop Boys covers, is stripped down to reveal its structure and the strength within. But instead of stripping it to its skeletal structure, or its muscular structure, Thorn works to find the song’s circulatory structure. The instrumentation – accordion? concertina? – brings air to the arrangement, and Thorn’s vocal floats with it, making the song that much more of a dream without making it dreamy. – Patrick Robbins

15. Sky High — Can You Forgive Her

I never knew why this one wasn’t as big a banger as some of their earlier songs; it has all the favored tropes that underline classic PSB shtick. Maybe that is why Sky High get away with this brassy blues rock explosion, rendering the song near unrecognizable, as root note bass, swirling keys and squalls of guitar parry with the horns. Sky High, or Clas Yngström and Sky High, as they became, are a Swedish band out of Gothenburg. You can smell the sweat, and if the singer doesn’t have an extravagant mane of hair and spandex pants, I want my money back. – Seuras Og

14. Field Music — Heart

Inspired by the sticky-of-chorus and forever hot 1985 dance hit “I Like You” by diva Phyllis Nelson (“you can be a girl, you can be a guy, I don’t need no reason why, I just like you!”), “Heart” is as straight-up a pop song as the PSBs have ever done. The classic history nugget is that Tennant and Lowe considered giving it to Madonna (!) to record, but assumed she would reject it and just recorded it themselves. In 2012, brothers David and Peter Brewis, better known as Field Music, recorded two PSB tracks for a Record Store Day 7″ and released them under the title Actually, Nearly (very clever). It featured a nice cover of “Rent,” but its star attraction was this sweetly wanting and quietly handsome version of “Heart.” A one-finger piano note plays the role of the “Heart” (beat) in the Field Music version and the whole thing just low-key burns with desire and longing. We may not have a Madonna version, but this gorgeous thing will more than suffice. – Hope Silverman

13. Sally Shapiro — Rent

In many ways, Swedish duo Sally Shapiro, consisting of female singer “Sally Shapiro” and musician Johan Agebjörn, couldn’t have failed to make a modern-day success of Pet Shop Boys’ 1987 classic “Rent.” That’s because they emerged from “retirement” with the brilliant Sad Cities album in 2022, proving that they were still masters of Italo disco and, ergo, masters of synth-led melodies indebted to the 1980s and destined for the dancefloor. That’s also because they still had a way with a melancholy chorus, in large part down to the undiminished power of their icy vocals and ethereal harmonies.

So it is that Shapiro is remarkable as the narrator of the downbeat Actually track, which lyricist Neil Tennant fittingly envisaged as female. She ups the song’s ominous atmosphere as the kept woman trying to convince herself she’s happy, as she gets taken to restaurants off Broadway, eats caviar and, of course, gets her rent paid. She’s a detached and dreamy presence on a beautifully crafted song that was oft recognized as a critique of Thatcherite mercantilism in British culture. She’s also perfectly offset by beguiling and wonderful synth lines and textures, as well as beats big enough to keep the track rooted in clubland. – Adam Mason

12. Haberdashery — This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave

Synth-pop singer Haberdashery covered some real deep cuts on his 2013 EP A Tribute To The Pet Shop Boys. “Liberation,” from the Boys’ 1993 album Very. “King of Rome,” off the 2009 album Yes. “So Hard,” off the 1990 album Behaviour. Clearly this guy’s fandom goes deep. That must be how he knows their rejected James Bond theme “This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave,” reworked for Behaviour when a-ha ended up doing the Living Daylights theme. The whole EP is worth listening to, but you can start here. – Ray Padgett

11. Jeanne Newhall ft. Kazunori Koga — West End Girls

To address the elephant first: Singer-pianist Jeanne Newhall sounds a lot like the wondrous Rickie Lee Jones. Like, a lot. And between this cover’s piano-led arrangement, Newhall’s stunning vocal, and the breezy sweet late ’70s West-Coast style guitar solo, it would be easy and understandable if one mistook it for an RLJ tune. All that said, it is absolutely, freakin’ gorgeous. Kazunori Koga rips the guitar solo. – Hope Silverman

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  7 Responses to “The 30 Best Pet Shop Boys Covers Ever”

Comments (7)
  1. Good list but disappointed that Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine’s version of Rent didn’t make the cut. As much as I love original, Carter bring the griminess in relationship and with them using both members’ vocals to great effect I genuinely think it’s a better version. https://youtu.be/deEXgD15ABc?si=xHhyg667qa_O_PyH

  2. Technically I’m Not Scared was a cover when PSB recorded it, given that they wrote it for Patsy Kensit who released it under her band’s name, Eighth Wonder. I’m being picky though; it was a PSB single in all but name and vocal.

  3. Nice list, however I do miss some tracks. For instance the Robbie Wiliams cover “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing”, one of the b-sides to Let Me Entertain You. Liza Minnelli covered two Pet Shop Boys tracks for her 1989 Results album: “Tonight Is Forever” and “Rent”. Also very nice, but hard to find, is the Thirteen Senses cover of “Rent”. British boy band East 17 did a very decent cover of “West End Girls”. A very funky take on this song was done by Da Lukas, especially in the Mark Picchiotti remix version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taioUWorvGs

    • Absolutely. Robbie’s governor that is excellent but the best one is Do I Have To by Swedish singer Inga and it hasn’t even made the list. Tracey Thorn’s Kings Cross should be higher up the list as well as it’s excellent

  4. Oh, and I forgot this great take on “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk” by German band Element of Crime: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So343ZObqlY

  5. Olly Alexander from Years and Years appeared in the AIDS TV drama It’s a Sin and then covered PSB song of the same name before duetting with Elton John on it. Worth a look – https://youtu.be/Hk4eMIswunQ?si=1HLO1CN_l13KLgsf

  6. This is a good list, was surprised to find that Rent by Carter USM was left out.
    https://youtu.be/sdvpk48RRI8?feature=shared

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