Whatever you think about Kanye West and Drake – and there is a lot to think – both know how to put on a hell of a show. They did that last week, squashing their endless beef by performing a show together in Los Angeles as a benefit to free the incarcerated Larry Hoover (though, as Stereogum noted, neither said a word about him onstage). And as part of that show, Kanye’s first since 2016, they not only performed together; they covered each other’s songs while the other watched.
Adia Victoria – On and On (Erykah Badu cover)
Adia Victoria recorded this powerful Badu cover for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. She said of the time she discovered the song, “I was looking for something that was bigger and deeper and felt more warm than the idea of a Christian God. And I dove into my imagination. And the first time I heard ‘on and on’ it felt like Erykah Badu was waiting for me to be her there.”
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Jamie Cullum is a jazz artist with fluency in the crossover to pop. He has won and been nominated for jazz-specific and more general awards alike, collecting a Rising Star British Jazz Award and most recently a Radio Academy Award for his BBC Radio show. He also scored a nomination for a Best Original Song Golden Globe, for “Gran Torino.” Admittedly, 2005 was a bit of an awkward year when he won both the BBC Jazz Award for Artist of the Year and the Worst British Male award from the parody Naomi Awards. Showing perseverance, Cullum won the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Award for Best British Male two years later.
Many of Cullum’s covers come from two “Song Society” albums, where he challenges himself to create a new take on a song in an hour, allowing for a lot of creative improvisation to shape the end product. The songs chosen include new hits on the pop charts as well as some throwbacks and standards. Other covers are sprinkled throughout his original albums as well. Here we take a sonic journey through a handful of his covers that both show his range as an artist and span original genres and decades. This doesn’t even cover (ha) his whole jazz cover album Interlude, so if you are a jazz cat, check it out.
P.S. Fun fact: Cullum is married to Roald Dahl’s granddaughter. If you are a Matilda, BFG, Willy Wonka, or Witches fan, there is even more of a reason to read on.
Alt-J, Grouplove, more – Shelter from the Storm (Bob Dylan cover)
AURORA – Across the Universe (The Beatles cover)
The first of a couple Beatles covers this month, AURORA’s “Across the Universe” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it just removes a few spokes. The Norwegian singer-songwriter strips everything away but keys and a bunch of voices (there’s a guitarist too, though barely audible). It’s all the song needs.
Two of the albums on this year’s list have similar titles: This Is Not Our Music and These Are Not Mine. Clever titles for collections of cover songs, sure, but misleading. Not your music? Why not? Songs are anyone’s for the singing. Even if a song’s lyrics or chord sequence didn’t first spring from a certain performer’s brain, that doesn’t mean he or she has any less claim. The great cover performers make the songs theirs, no matter whose they were before.
The twenty records below each contain numerous examples of artists doing just that. The songs may not have started out as these artists’ – but they are theirs now.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
Start the countdown on the next page…