As a part of the DoReMeToo campaign, which involved female artists covering traditionally sexist songs, Kiwi musician Reb Fountain and Dresden Doll frontwoman Amanda Palmer contributed an outstanding and thought provoking mashup. The combination of Robin Thicke’s controversial hit “Blurred Lines” with Nirvana’s grunge anti-ballad “Rape Me” is a stroke of genius.
Amigo the Devil – Before He Cheats (Carrie Underwood cover)
When we last heard Amigo the Devil, he was stripping down a Tom Jones song to create a haunting murder ballad. Now he does the same to another highly polished pop song – but a much more recent one. “[The original is] this very confidence-boosting, really good-feeling, power-infusing song,” Amigo’s Danny Kiranos told Rolling Stone. “I was curious what it would sound like if you took away the positive nature of it and kept the lyrics, essentially the emotions they are portraying.”
I do enjoy when covers elevate a song out of it’s original environment and strengthens the power of the song itself. Indeed, this is what the Dresden Dolls (made up of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione) have achieved with their cover of “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday,” originally from The Muppet Movie.
Currently residing in New Zealand, Palmer said in a tweet “this song’s about being homesick for something you don’t understand.” The cover doesn’t change much from the original – the slow ballad structure and sense of yearning is retained, but Palmer’s piano sounds more poignant and powerful considering the context in which it is now being sung. This is what good covers should do – take songs from one context, and make them perfectly describe another.
Separated by distance and by quarantine, the Dresden Dolls were meant to be collaborating for an album this year, but managed to record this cover and put it on Bandcamp to raise money for the Boston Resiliency Fund.
‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
All week we’ve been running features on every artist inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s unusually strong 2019 class. But the biggest tribute goes to the band least excited about the honor. And that’s maybe as it should be.
Their unenthusiastic reaction – as I write this, it’s not even clear if any of them will show up – reminds me of when Bob Dylan first played Obama’s White House. Bob didn’t come to his own rehearsal, or to the customary photo op with the president. He turned up at the last minute, played his songs, shook the President’s hand, and immediately left the building. And as Obama told Rolling Stone: “That’s how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don’t want him to be all cheesin’ and grinnin’ with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise.”
Two things strike me as I scan through our list this year. This first is that many of the highest-ranking covers are tributes to recently-deceased icons. No surprise there, I suppose. But none actually pay tribute to artists that died in 2018. They honor those we’ve been honoring for two or three years now – your Pettys, your Princes, your Bowies. Hundreds of covers of each of these legends appeared in the first days after their deaths, but many of the best posthumous covers took longer to emerge.
Good covers take time. That principle – the cover-song equivalent of the slow food movement, perhaps – holds true throughout the list. Sure, a few here appear to have arisen from sudden moments of brilliance, flash-arranged for some concert or radio promo session. But many more reveal months or even years of painstaking work to nail every element. Making someone else’s song one’s own isn’t easy. These 50 covers took the time to get it right.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
Start the countdown on the next page…
Andrew Combs – Reptila (The Strokes cover)
The Strokes’ Is This It songs have been covered to death, so musicians are digging deeper. We heard a killer Angles cover in April from Billie Eilish (more on her in a minute), and now singer-songwriter Andrew Combs takes on this Room on Fire track. His own music leans Nashville Americana, but from the crazy horns here, sounds like he’s been spending time in New Orleans.