As everyone from Rolling Stone to their hometown Philadelphia Inquirer have noted, Low Cut Connie’s Adam Weiner has been putting some of the best – strike that, the best – live streams of our quarantined era. In twice-weekly shows he calls “Tough Cookies,” Weiner, sometimes accompanied by guitarist Will Donnelly, strips down to his skivvies and plays a high-energy set with a whole lot of crowd participation – doubly impressive without an actual crowd. He also invites friends ranging from Dion to Big Freedia to join him (when’s he going to get his most famous fan in on the action?) If you haven’t watched one, you should; it’s at a whole different energy level than any other artist’s stream.
The mysterious new singer Orville Peck refuses to tell anyone his real name or show his face. He is never seen without a cowboy hat and black-leather Lone Ranger mask covered in fringe, a look that’s old-school country mixed with a hint of S&M. Like Lil Nas X, he identifies as a gay man and is rewriting the rules of country music. So, to celebrate Pride, he picked the perfect song to cover for his entry in the Spotify Singles series: Bronski Beat’s eternal gay anthem “Smalltown Boy.”
“Pigs” is one of the three epic-length tracks from Pink Floyd’s mammoth Animals, an unauthorized reinterpretation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm as three prog suites (book-ended by two unrelated love song fragments for reasons only Roger Waters knows). Instead of Floyd’s animals representing archetypes in the USSR, the animals in this version represent archetypes in western capitalism. Animals is one of those Pink Floyd albums you discover later in your fandom, because there are basically no short songs – it’s an album that hardcore Floyd fans end up insisting is a favourite, but it usually takes time to get there.
There are few songs more quintessentially ‘80s than A-Ha’s “Take On Me.” From the iconic synth-driven keyboard riff to the then-groundbreaking animated video, everything about it is reminiscent of that decade. In the years since it was an MTV staple, it has been covered by ska bands, punk bands, bluegrass outfits, folkies and even the likes of Weezer and Metallica. The song rejoined the animated world when it was included in the recent release of the video game The Last of Us Part II, the sequel to one of the most beloved games of the 2010s about a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by disease and zombies.
“Creep” is the song that made Radiohead. It didn’t happen overnight, as it went only to #78 in the UK when it was originally released. But it soon became a hit in other countries – including the US, where it is still their biggest hit – and was re-released in the UK, this time going to #7. There are still people out there who think Radiohead are the “Creep” band.
There have been a lot of acoustic covers of “Creep,” especially lately. In June 2020 alone there have been at least three prominent covers. Whether it’s the pandemic, or whether it’s because “Creep” is really a ballad, it’s become a staple.
Hildegard von Blingin’ seeks to change that. A “bardcore” artist who has sprung up on YouTube just recently, she covers pop hits of the last few decades as Medieval music. (The name is a reference to Saint Hildegard of Bingen, often recognized as the first major composer of European music.)
Barrett Strong‘s “Money” was Motown’s first serious hit (though it was released it when the label was still known as Tamla). Though many prefer Strong’s original version, the song’s fame increased with a fairly straightforward version by The Beatles and the cheeky New Wave one-hit wonder by The Flying Lizards (a fave of Barack Obama’s in his college years). In the Strong and Beatles versions, the lyrics are a celebration of greed and avarice. Only the Flying Lizards’ interpretation really hints at the likely tongue-in-cheek nature of the words.
Nick D’Virgilio is the drummer for American prog rock band Spock’s Beard and English prog rock band Big Big Train. For his upcoming second solo album Invisible, due out June 26th, he assembled a bunch of famous prog rock musicians to take on this classic track, with a pretty different approach from the most famous versions.