For the latest edition of the ‘Kellyoke” segment as a part of her daytime talk show, Kelly Clarkson covered one of the early ’00s biggest hits, “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World. While the cover itself is relatively straight forward (as it probably should be, The Kelly Clarkson Show does go out in the middle of the day, we can’t have moms completely losing their minds), Clarkson’s version does highlight the lyricism of the original song.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
You’re world weary. One too many people have hurt you, let you down, robbed you of your earnestness (it’s an important trait, after all). But then, as if to snap you out of your downward spiral…. Hey! Don’t write yourself off yet. “The Middle” is a collection of affirmations that everyone needs to hear at some point in their life. Do I sometimes worry that I’ll dim the song’s magic by overplaying it? Yes, but hey, when you need it, you need it.
If you can believe it, Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American, renamed Jimmy Eat World after the September 11th attacks made the album title a little too real, turns twenty this month. For every hater of the album, there is a love letter written in defense. After all… It’s only in your head, you feel left out or looked down on.
Yes, you can jump right to track three, but I recommend the following self-care routine: start at the beginning, rock out your angst to the title track (head banging optional) and then get in the introspective mood with “A Praise Chorus” (cover-esque in its borrowing of other songs’ lines to make up the chorus) before hearing the blood-pressure reducing opening lines of “The Middle.” After that, continue on for more balms to the soul. (For example, just ask any 2003 NHL video game player and they’ll likely reminisce how “Sweetness” provided the perfect soundtrack to their virtual victories.)
For twenty years, “The Middle” has been by our side, coaching us through life’s ups and downs. We’ve blasted it through our headphones when drowning out the world’s nonsense. We’ve belted it out in front of strangers at a karaoke bar. And we’ve crossed our fingers every time we spot a cover artist with a track called “The Middle,” hoping for this gem and not the Maren Morris song by the same name. (Maybe that last one is just me.) And no offense to Morris, but I just want my anthem of the downtrodden please! I can guarantee the covers that follow are of just that.
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.”
Daniel Romano’s Outfit – Sweetheart Like You (Bob Dylan cover)
This one’s for all the Dylan superfans. In 1984, Bob Dylan played three songs on Letterman with L.A. punk band The Plugz. They were gritty and garagey and raw. It boded well for his new sound. And then he never played with them again. The album he was ostensibly promoting, Infidels, was much smoother, helmed by Mark Knopfler. For those who still wonder what could have been, Daniel Romano covered the entire album as if he’d recorded it with The Plugz.
Every week the names doing these covers from home just get bigger. This past week got a boost from Global Citizen’s all-star charity event, from which several of today’s set come, as well as one major appearance in last night’s Jersey for Jersey fundraiser (Fountains of Wayne’s heartbreaking “Hackensack” from that is worth watching too, though, except for guest bassist Sharon Van Etten, it’s not a cover).
But, amidst the all-stars, musicians at every level continue to take to the internet to perform covers. We’ve got some of the best we’ve seen below. As always, we make no claims to being comprehensive, so share any other favorites in the comments.
Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
I am converted; ska punk is rad. You might think this is a wacky genre that could only be found in the depths of Every Noise at Once, but the genre has roots in the ’70s UK rock scene and has made its way into mainstream music with bands like No Doubt (think “Spiderwebs”). Ska punk is apparently on the verge of a revival this year, with The Interrupters opening the joint tour of Green Day, Weezer, and Fall Out Boy this summer.
The Holophonics are a sextet from Texas who both make original ska punk music and bring spa punk flair to covers. Since the band formed in 2018, they have released a whopping 14 cover albums, cleverly labeled “maskarades,” including one just released at the end of February, amongst their original work. I did a deep dive into their expansive discography and now will gladly take you on a sonic tour. You are going to hear a lot of opinionated horns and a lot of assertive vocals, and it is going to be glorious.