Sep 082023

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

1990s One Hit Wonders

This month, our ongoing series of One Hit Wonders covers comes to its end. We’ve done the 1950s (think “Earth Angel,” “Tequila”), the 1960s (“96 Tears,” “In A Gadda Da Vida”), the 1970s (“My Sharona,” “Black Betty”), and the 1980s (“You Spin Me Right Round,” “Turning Japanese”). Now we hit the 1990s today and the 2000s next week.

For millennial readers, these will be the songs you remember hearing on the radio and watching on MTV growing up. So many ubiquitous classics of the era like New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give” and 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up,” by artists who only had a brief moment in the sun (you might say someone stole their sunshine…). Also some fun flukes, where the artist’s cultural impact goes way beyond “one hit wonder” — but, according to the fickle US pop charts at the time, they qualify on a technicality: Robyn, Fiona Apple, etc. Plus Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” which has to be in the conversation for the most One Hit Wonder to have ever One Hit Wonder-ed. Continue reading »

Feb 012021
cover songs january 2021
Amanda Shires – That’s All (Genesis cover)

Our first song kicks off what will be a theme here. A lot of these came out at the very top of the year (or the very end of 2020) to kick a garbage year to the curb and hope for something better. Shires said: “’That’s All’ is a song that I have played a lot on tour. The song defines 2020 for me. It’s a true Covid anthem and I dare you to not dance to my version when you hear it!” Continue reading »

Jan 112021
Fleshgod Apocalypse

Eiffel 65’s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” was inescapable in 1999. Everywhere you went, there it was. I thought they were saying “If I was green I would die” (trying singing it instead of “dabadeedabadi”) and generally did everything I could to get away from this ubiquitous song. Now, over 20 years later, Eiffel 65’s fellow Italians Fleshgod Apocalypse have given me something to celebrate, a crazy symphonic death metal cover of the song. I didn’t know I wanted this, but I absolutely did. Continue reading »

Aug 042011

Back in January, we rounded up Yellow Ostrich’s terrific indie covers. We noted that we expected big things from him and, indeed, big things have arrived. In June, he signed to noted indie label Barsuk, which later this month re-releases his debut The Mistress. It comes with some goodies, including two new covers for everyone who pre-orders. They raise the bar even higher for the Wisconsinite, with one being a best-of-the-summer contender. Continue reading »

Jul 142009

Some songwriters should just stick to writing instrumentals. These lyrical duds are in turn hilarious, embarrassing, and painful in their inanity. Did no one proofread?

Mama Goose and Diamond Chest – The Thong Song (Sisqo)
Ok, obviously this is a stupid song. “I like it when the beat goes du-nuh, du-nuh / Baby, make your booty go du-nuh, du-nuh.” I don’t know what “du-nuh” is exactly, so it just sounds like ol’ Sisqo forgot to finish writing the lyrics. Here this San Francisco twosome performs a ukulele duet that sounds like it was as fun to record as it is to hear. They’ve got covers of other inane pop songs at their myspace. [Buy]

Kicksville – Invisible Sun (The Police)
Sting gets a lot of crap for his lyrics. Some of them I actually think are quite good (see “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”). This is not one of them. First of all, he never tells us why there “has to be” this invisible sun. That conclusion doesn’t seem obvious at all to me. And “it’s dark all day and it glows all night”? Dude, are you sure you’re not thinking of the moon? Plus, if it’s invisible, how is it glowing? [Buy]

Orba Squara – Poker Face (Lady GaGa)
I’m not exactly sure what “I’m bluffin’ with my muffin” means, but I think I should be grossed out. Daughtry and Weezer have both covered the tune, but the winner goes to the folk-thump of Orba Squara, complete with bells. Never heard them? I’ll bet you have… [Buy]

Mundy – Wherever Whenever (Shakira)
When a Shakira cover begins with harmonica, you know you’re into something good. This one includes my favorite line of the bunch in terms of sheer inanity. “Lucky that my breasts are small and humble / So you don’t confuse them with mountains.” A common problem for well-endowed women apparently. [Buy]

Gruppo Sportivo – Horse With No Name (America)
Another one truly shocking in its inanity. Amazingly, it combines the nonsensical (“The ocean is a desert with its life underground”) with the painfully obvious (“The heat was hot”). Gruppo gives it the Latin funk treatment. [Buy]

GOD – Undone (The Sweater Song) (Weezer)
True story: I can’t hear this song without thinking “Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with!” The reason for that bizarre association is a remix I heard of the two tunes long before I heard either original. Regardless, this song is self-consciously silly, a quality Weezer doesn’t get enough credit for (I wanted to include a cover of “Everybody Get Dangerous,” a truly horrendous piece of work, but artists have understandably steered clear of that disaster. Edit: Holy crap, an a cappella group did cover it! No way.). [Buy]

Max Raabe & Palast Orchester – Blue (Da Ba Dee) (Eiffel 65)
On Superhits, Raabe takes on a whole slew of bad pop songs, from “Oops…I Did It Again” to “Mambo No. 5.” Each gets his trademark big band treatment, and each works surprisingly well in its new guise. The German accent really sells it. [Buy]

Taylor Bacon – Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread (Bob Dylan)
Ironic choice given the post title, ain’t it? To Bob’s credit, this comes out of the basement tapes jam sessions. Meaning, he wasn’t trying to make sense (for more evidence, see “Million Dollar Bash.”) The funny thing is, Bob’s actually really good at writing nonsensical lines. Like, better than someone less talented would be. “Slap the drummer with a pie that smells”? Brilliant. [Buy]

Jump the Flight – E.I. (Nelly)
Nelly’s never been known for their insightful lyrics, but the bit where he compares himself to a grocery store is priceless. These guys’ don’t take themselves too seriously behind the punk rock bravado. The best part is the guy whose only job it is is apparently to yell “niggah!” [Buy]

Goober & the Peas – MacArthur Park (Richard Harris)
Years ago I read (and loved) Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs, and this tune took the top spot. It’s one of the few songs whose bad lyrics hit you every single time you hear it. They’re that bad. I mean, these are really bad. So bad I don’t even want to type them. If you don’t know them, listen close. [Buy]

Wordless Hooks

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Oct 162008

Words are overrated. From Little Richard to Rihanna, sometimes a song can say more with random sounds than any coherent content. So to celebrate the inanity of catchy hooks that don’t mean a thing

Queen – Tutti Frutti (Little Richard)
Rocking out one of the most famous phrases in rock and roll, Freddie Mercury “wop bop a lu bop, a wop bam boom”s his ass off with some crowd participation. And – big shock – Brian May is very good at guitar. [Buy]

Phish – Mmmbop (Hanson)
It says Hanson above, but Phish makes it clear that this is actually a James Brown cover. Listen up and hear what I mean. [Buy]

Los Chicros – Changes (David Bowie)
Much like “My Generation,” “Changes” wouldn’t be half as good without the “ch-ch-ch” stutter. [Buy]

The Vox Collective – Disturbia (Rihanna)
A modern classic for sure, and a song made for down-tempo acoustic covers (I already have three). Bum bum be dum… [Buy]

Chris Dunnett – Blue (Da Ba Dee Da Ba Di) (Eiffel 65)
Euro-dance music on flamenco guitar…now why didn’t I think of that? [Buy]

Elliott Smith – Jealous Guy (John Lennon)
Someone find me a song with a better whistling part. Come on, I dare you. The best part about this is how the Cambridge audience whistles along. [Buy]

Marmalade – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (The Beatles)
In 1969 this song was the first by a Scottish band to top the UK charts. Such a big hit, so quickly forgotten. [Buy]

Matt Weddle – Hey Ya (Outkast)
Yeah, I guess “hey” is technically a word, but what the hell does “hey ya” mean? A lot, apparently, in Weddle’s beautifully fragile acoustic take. [Buy]

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Trampled Rose (Tom Waits)
Tom had a nice low moan on the original, but Krauss brings a whole new eeriness to the tune by jumping like eight octaves without breaking a sweat. [Buy]

The Big Wu – Werewolves of London (Warren Zevon)
A perfect lead-in to my inevitable Halloween post here. This Minnesota jam band rocks Zevon’s biggest hit for seven minutes, with plenty of “ah-oooooo” excitement. [Buy]