Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’ is one of those tracks that instantly elevates a dance floor with its pounding beat and pumping synths. Kele Okereke’s decision to turn the track into a dark and moody trip hop style song then, is an interesting choice indeed.
One of the stars of the bedroom-pop movement, girl in red, covered The Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears” early last week, only weeks after The Weeknd performed it at the 2021 Super Bowl halftimeshow. The Norwegian singer, known as Marie Ulven, covered the song after the release of her single “Serotonin” in the first week of March, ahead of her debut album if i could make it go quiet out April 30th. If she put half as much spunk and passion into her album as she did for this cover song, it is certainly a cause for excitement.
Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
“All that pressure got you down / Has your head been spinning all around?” How did Chic know?! “Le Freak” was the band’s first number one hit, and it became a best seller for Chic’s label. Since its release in 1978, the song’s significance has been solidified. In 2018 the Library of Congress preserved the track in the National Recording Registry. However, Chic is still waiting on the elusive Rock and Roll Hall of Fame spot; they’ve been nominated over ten times!
Prominent Chic member Nile Rodgers went on to play a key role in the music careers of many others. He wrote big hits for Sister Sledge (“We are Family” and “He’s the Greatest Dancer”) and Diana Ross (“I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down”), and he produced albums for David Bowie (Let’s Dance) and Madonna (Like a Virgin). More recently, he co-wrote and played guitar on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and you may have heard him on Keith Urban’s latest album. Chic as a whole even released a new album in 2018 featuring artists like Lady Gaga and Elton John.
But for now, let’s see who helps us throwback to the early days of Chic with covers of “Le Freak.”
‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
There is no Queen without Freddie Mercury. On a fundamental level, we all agree that is true. But, if you want to be literal about it, there is Queen without Freddie Mercury. Thirty years after Freddie’s death, the show must go on, and so the band still exists. Adam Lambert now sings Freddie’s parts on tour, just as Paul Rodgers did before him. The Bohemian Rhapsody movie included some new vocal recordings – not by star Rami Malek, but by Canadian singer Marc Martel. And then of course there are the many singers who fronted Queen at the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, broadcast to an audience of up to one billion people. (If you haven’t watched George Michael singing “Somebody to Love” or Annie Lennox joining David Bowie for “Under Pressure,” go do that now, then come back.)
Suffice to say, millions if not billions of people have heard Queen songs sung by singers other than Freddie Mercury. But none of those we just mentioned are covers, strictly speaking, since they feature most or all of the band’s three surviving members. Bassist John Deacon has since departed – and his joining Queen fifty years ago this month, solidifying the lineup, marks the anniversary we’re pegging this post to – but guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor have kept the Queen name alive. No doubt, when touring becomes a thing again, Queen will be back on the road once again.
The forty actual covers on our list do not feature any members of Queen. As such, they’re free to roam much further afield than Adam Lambert or George Michael, turning the band’s hits and the occasional deep cut into genres from polka to punk, a cappella to acoustic instrumental. Queen dabbled in so many different genres during their time – I mean, “Bohemian Rhapsody” alone! – I think they’d appreciate how malleable their songs can be. Even when they’re not the ones performing their songs, Queen will rock you.
Or, in one case, polka you.
The list begins on Page 2.
Even the hardcore connoisseurs of cover music may not know the name Billy Bud Frank. Some may know Frank’s stage and recording name, Buffalo Springsteen, whose dizzying run was cut short in 1980 just when BS was poised for stardom. If Frank has been left out of the musical conversation for decades now, it’s not just because his music was ahead of its time. It is more because Frank ended up on the wrong side of what we now call Cancel Culture. But the situation may be about to change, and Frank’s period of exile may be over.
First, the good news: Counter/Fit Records is re-issuing both of the Buffalo Springsteen studio albums, Fool Me Once and Fool Me Once II. The albums have long been out-of-print. Existing copies were literally confiscated from record stores and radio stations, and uploads on digital platforms get copyright takedown orders almost immediately. Each album has become that rarest of things: a rarity. With the re-issues, the censorship finally ends. (Full disclosure: the writer is an employee of Counter/Fit Records and/or one of its subsidiaries.)
But on to the better news, and the whole point of this post: the indie label has also releasing a star-studded tribute album, BS! A Tribute to Buffalo Springsteen. And that’s no BS!
Brandi Carlile – I Remember Everything (John Prine cover)
Millions saw Brandi Carlile cover John Prine’s final song “I Remember Everything” at the recent Grammy Awards. Turns out, it was a preview of a new album, a sequel to 2010’s Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, one of the best tribute albums ever. Not much more info out there yet – it’ll be out in the fall, apparently – but it has a high bar to live up to.