Lana Del Rey has been one of the most polarizing artists in the 21st century pop world. Questions of authenticity have dogged her for her entire career, from criticisms of her so called adopted persona to her supposed affections supporting it. Every move has been ripe for attack. Criticism has often come wrapped in a thin veil of sexism; the fact is, her career blueprint is not much different from that of David Bowie’s. He was as calculated and theatrical in regards to his persona and product as they come, but the credibility of the music he produced was never in question.
The latest Del Rey album, Norman Fucking Rockwell! is not the work of a persona or a character; it is an open, brazen modern day love letter to the classically cynical, gorgeous California pop of the ’70s. Gone are the echo laden, girl group, Blue Velvet vibes that personified her previous recordings, Del Rey instead meshes lyrically caustic, in your face vocals with memorable melodies resting somewhere between post Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys and early ’70’s Joni Mitchell and wears her passion for these sounds on her sleeve. Prince once said when it came to making music, he would look at what his contemporaries were doing and go the other way. Del Rey is going the other way.Continue reading »
This marks the fourth year I’ve done a big anniversary countdown (after 1996, 1987, and 1978). It also proved to be the most challenging. There were a lot of covers released in 1969. In fact, according to covers-and-samples database WhoSampled, there were more than in any of the other years we’ve done. Their database lists 3,110 covers, which is surely still a small fraction.
The reason for the cover song’s proliferation seems clear to me after going through them all: Popular bands released a lot more music back then. Aretha Franklin released two albums in 1969. So did The Byrds, Elvis Presley, Joe Cocker, Johnny Cash, Johnny Winter, and Nina Simone. Creedence Clearwater Revival and Merle Haggard released three albums apiece. James Brown topped them all with four. To get that kind of output, artists would pad their albums with covers. Every 1969 album by every artist I just mentioned includes at least one cover. Many include several. A few are all covers. It adds up.
Impressively, many of those covers reinterpreted songs that had come out within the previous year. This entire list could easily have been “Hey Jude” covers. “Wichita Lineman” and “Light My Fire” came up constantly too (the latter song slightly older, but it had hit the charts again in 1968). Even songs from 1968’s soundtrack to Hair got covered endlessly in 1969.
Even beyond “Hey Jude,” Beatles covers dominated the year. I’m not going to go back through the entire 3,110 covers and count, but if you told me Beatles covers made up a full half of those, I wouldn’t be shocked. Add Bob Dylan covers to that side of the scale and it’s probably true. Beatles songs got covered in every conceivable genre for every conceivable audience. Jazz and swing and folk and proto-metal Beatles covers everywhere the eye can see. Plenty of people cover the Beatles these days, sure, but trust me: It’s nothing like it was in 1969.
So wheedling all those down to the top 50 proved incredibly difficult. But it means this is maybe the top-to-bottom strongest set thus far, and it killed me to leave some off (that’s why our Patreon supporters will get a set of 69 bonus tracks – so join now).
One note: I left off Woodstock performances. For one, we counted down the 50 best covers performed there last month. But more importantly, most people did not actually hear those covers until the movie and soundtrack came out in 1970. Jimi Hendrix performed his iconic Star-Spangled Banner – pretty much everyone’s top cover of the weekend – to a nearly empty field. Most of the audience had left before he punched in at 9 AM that Monday morning. That said, several of the classic covers performed at Woodstock were released as singles or on albums the same year – including Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” – and those studio versions make this list.
Now, let the sunshine in with the 50 best covers of 1969.
You know the story – on August 15, 1969, an estimated 400,000 people coalesced on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in upstate Bethel, New York, for “3 days of Peace & Music” at a music and art fair that ultimately defined a generation. Today marks the golden fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock, and to celebrate the occasion, the staff at Cover Me are going “back to the garden” to wrap you in the Top 50 covers performed by the legendary artists who graced the stage during that long weekend.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Aretha Franklin’s name does not appear on the writing credits to “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” but as with so many songs she sang: It’s hers. No knock on the great songwriters (who also penned “Dark End of the Street”), but no singer goes in to “Do Right Woman” to cover Chips Moman and Dan Penn. They aim to pay homage to the Queen of Soul, dead today at 76.
As I often say with iconic singers, the best way to pay homage to Aretha’s music is not to try to sing like Aretha. You’re not going to out-belt her, and you won’t deliver any song with more soul, feeling, or passion. That’s not to say there aren’t talented soul singers who ably delivered this track; everyone from Etta James to Phoebe Snow has belted “Do Right Woman.” But if I want to hear the best singing in the world, I’m pulling out Aretha’s version every time.
None of my favorite “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” covers sound like Franklin. Few even fall in the genre of soul music. These artists below tried for something different.Continue reading »
In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
We first discovered Emel Mathlouthi at last year’s Northside Festival. But let me be clear: when I say “discovered,” I hardly mean she was unknown. In fact, we were very late on the bandwagon; the Tunisian singer-songwriter is an international star. A few years back she became known as the “Voice of the Arab Spring” after one of her song’s became an anthem for the revolution. She even performed it at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2015:
As you can see in that video, her original songs are stunning. Her most recent album, Ensen, was my personal favorite album of 2017, and today she releases a follow-up set of inventive remixes of those songs titled Ensenity. You can get a taste over at The Fader.
With a voice like that, you won’t be surprised to learn she can deliver some pretty stunning covers too. She can belt “Hallelujah” with the best of ‘em, and has equally beautiful takes on David Bowie and Björk under her belt. She was even kind enough to put together a pretty mind-blowing version of “All Along the Watchtower” for my book party. It’s the rare cover that owes next to nothing to Jimi Hendrix:Continue reading »
At the end of every year, we work for weeks curating our annual Best of the Year list (here’s last year’s). We’re monitoring what comes out all year though, so this month I thought: why wait? Here’s a more impulsive and spontaneous list, some songs we’ve written about already and others we didn’t get to. Just some great covers that stood out as the month comes to a close.Continue reading »