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. Continue reading »

Nov 032023
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

kate bush covers

In June of 2022, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” was used to soundtrack the Netflix series Stranger Things. Upon exposure to the 37-year-old tune, a shockingly huge portion of the world’s teenage population, who seemingly hadn’t known of Bush’s existence prior to this, went absolutely, uncontrollably berserk. Their sudden, overwhelmingly intense lust for “RUTH” (let’s just call it) propelled the song to the top of the pop charts the whole world over and led to the track being streamed over a billion times (and counting). A billion! And just like that, Kate Bush, one of pop’s most popular cult artists, became a global phenomenon.

This was a mixed blessing for the hardcore Kate Bush fanbase. On the one hand, they were happy for their girl Kate (who herself was thrilled that teenagers were hyperventilating over “Running Up That Hill”). But at the same time, as evidenced by multitudes of posts on social media, they also felt a sense of proprietary “ownership” over the Bush legacy and didn’t care for this flaky, flighty fandom and how it came to be.

The “old fan vs new fan”/ “we were here first” argument is silly and petty…but with Kate Bush, it was also oddly understandable. Part of what made her special was that some people didn’t get it, that regular folk found her songs a little too eccentric and “out there” and thought her voice was weird. Those previously existing Kate fans didn’t quite know how to take this newfound popularity. Because to them, Kate Bush was not merely one song; she was a magnificently mad, beautiful, all-consuming pop religion. Trip-hop hero and unabashed Kate fan, Tricky, alluded to this feeling in an interview with MOJO magazine back in 2003:

“Some of the greatest singers in the world…you can spot their influences. But Kate Bush has no mother or father. I’d be an average musician, like everyone else if it wasn’t for her. I don’t believe in God, but if I did, her music would be my bible. Her music sounds religious to me. She should be treasured more than The Beatles”.

Kate Bush made adventurous, beautiful, funny, weird, and heartbreaking music that sounded like no one else’s, all while delivering a hard kick to the nuts of musical convention. She celebrated her most personal, idiosyncratic obsessions and shared them proudly and loudly with everyone. From shockingly illicit kisses to sensuous snowmen. From rain-making machines to being lost at sea. From washing machines to Joan of Arc. She didn’t chase airplay, she just followed her cast of muses wherever they led and surrounded their stories with a staggering sense of melody.

We have arrived at a point where a pretty fine “30 Best RUTH Covers Ever” feature could be assembled. The story of its unlikely, incredible ascent has become a truly iconic, modern-day pop tale and will be recounted for years to come. And as cynical as it seems, it’s clear that the “RUTH” phenomenon was a deciding factor when it came to Kate Bush’s induction this weekend into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But Kate Bush the artist was not born in June of 2022. Her career has spanned six decades during which she’s released ten studio albums that house multitudes of wondrous tunes. (By the way, if you wanna read a completely deranged breakdown of Kate’s LPs, I wrote one here.)

Within our list of “The Best Kate Covers Ever” you will not only discover several head-turning, heart-squeezing “Running Up That Hill” covers (of course), but a plethora of equally fabulous deep cuts, b-sides, and cult classics. “It’s in the trees! It’s coming!”

—Hope Silverman

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Oct 312023
 
Deer Tick – Dancing In The Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)

“For me, ‘Dancing in the Dark’ isn’t a song about romance, but instead a desperate plea to break out of some degraded, stagnant situation. The narrator is filled with angst, self doubt, and the only way out is to the sheer force of unwavering will power,” says Deer Tick guitarist/vocalist Ian O’Neil. “Bruce really shows us who he is on this one and it looks an awful lot like the rest of us.”

Die Sauerkrauts Polka Band — Now That’s What I Call Polka! (Weird Al cover)

There are a lot of Weird Al covers out there (okay, maybe not a lot, but more than you might think). This is new though. This band didn’t cover one of Weird Al’s parodies. They didn’t even cover a Weird Al original, like “Dare to Be Stupid.” They covered one of his polka medleys (a subject I interviewed Al about in Cover Me the book—excerpt at The AV Club). Meaning, they covered polka versions of hits by Miley Cyrus, One Direction, Gotye, and many more, all in a brisk medley. A very silly music video brings it home. Continue reading »

Oct 272023
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

Velvet Underground and Nico

On October 27, 2013, ten years ago today, Lou Reed died. I happened to be in New York City at the time, and his passing was a lead story on the 11 o’clock news. It was as though a part of the city itself had died. Which, inescapably, it had. Reed embodied NYC, from its seedy back rooms to its secret heart, in a way few other people, let alone musicians, ever did.

While Reed’s solo career is highly and deservingly accoladed, it still got overshadowed by the Velvet Underground. Reed’s first band featured Welsh musician John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison, and drummer Maureen Tucker, with Nico singing on the first album and Doug Yule replacing Cale in 1968. The band’s four studio albums started ripples that turned into tsunamis; they went from secret-handshake status to Hall of Fame giants, their influence right up there with the Beatles.

We’re honoring Lou and Company with this collection of covers. Some covers couldn’t hold a candle to the original (you’ll find no “Heroin” here), but many of the originals were receptive to another artist’s distinctive stamp. Whether you prefer the first or what followed, you’ll hear the sound of immortality as it opens yet another path of discovery.

–Patrick Robbins, Features Editor

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Sep 292023
 
best cover songs
Al Green — Perfect Day (Lou Reed cover)

It’s been 15 years since the last Al Green album. Does “Perfect Day” signal the beginning of his comeback? Unclear — I thought so after his last single, another cover, and that was five years ago. But we can hope. “I loved Lou’s original ‘Perfect Day’—the song immediately puts you in a good mood,” Green explained. “We wanted to preserve that spirit, while adding our own sauce and style.” Continue reading »

Sep 112023
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best covers of 2000s

Following the 1990s last week — and, before that, the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s — our series on covers of great One Hit Wonders concludes today with a look at the 2000s. Meaning, the first decade of the 2000s. At this point, it’d be premature to conclude that an artist who had their first hit in 2022 will be a one hit wonder! (And, again, it’s not us concluding it anyway — it’s Wikipedia). Continue reading »