Brett Eldredge – Cold Heart (Elton John, Dua Lipa cover)
Against all odds for a rocker of his generation, Elton John had a genuine hit with a single he released just last year, at age 74: “Cold Heart.” It topped the chart in the UK – his first song to do so in 16 years. It did nearly as well in the States, reaching number 7 and topping a number of secondary charts. Having current pop hitmaker Dua Lipa on board no doubt helped, as did releasing it as a remix by Pnau (“Hot Dance/Electronic Songs” was one of those secondary U.S. charts). It also fairly shameless incorporates bits of earlier hit singles “Rocket Man” and “Sacrifice” as well as deeper Elton cuts “Kiss the Bride” and “Where’s the Shoorah?” In country star Brett Eldridge’s live cover, though, it all blends together seamlessly.Continue reading »
To come up with our year-end list, we listened to thousands of covers.
That’s not an exaggeration, or loosely throwing around “thousands” for effect. My iTunes tells me I personally listened to and rated 1,120 new covers in 2021. And I’m just one of a dozen people here. Many of those thousands of covers were very good! But “very good” isn’t good enough for our annual year-end Best Cover Songs list. So when we say these 50 are the cream of the crop, we mean it.
They, as usual, have little in common with each other. A few tie into current events: Artists we lost, social justice concerns, live music’s fitful return. Most don’t. But does a doom metal cover of Donna Summer really need a reason to exist? How about African blues Bob Dylan, New Orleans bounce Lady Gaga, or organ ballad Fleetwood Mac? Nah. We’re just glad they’re here.
So dive into our countdown below – and, if you want us to send you a couple hundred Honorable Mentions culled from those thousands, join the Cover Me Patreon.
As regular readers know, every year, at the end of the year, we do a big year-end covers list. This tradition started in 2007 and will continue in a couple months with the best covers of 2021.
But there are so many years before 2007 where we weren’t doing year-end covers lists (and, as far as I’m aware, no one else was either). So once a year, we do a big anniversary post tackling the best covers of a year before Cover Me was born. So far we’ve done 1969, 1978, 1987, 1996, and, last year, 2000.
And for 2021, we look back thirty years, to the heady days of 1991. The days of grunge and acid house, of parachute pants and ripped denim, of The Gulf War and Home Alone. Country music and hip-hop increased their cultural dominance (or really just making their existing dominance known; 1991 is also the year Soundscan made the Billboard charts more authoritative). In a single day, Nirvana released Nevermind, Red Hot Chili Peppers released Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and A Tribe Called Quest released The Low End Theory. Think that’s a fluke? The week before saw massive albums from Mariah Carey, Hole, and Guns ‘n’ Roses (two albums, no less). The week before that came Garth Brooks, Talk Talk, and Saint Etienne.
All of those trends are reflected in the list below. Many of these covers scream “1991!” LL Cool J raps Disney. Courtney Love shrieks Joni. Aretha Franklin tries to new jack swing. A spate of early tribute albums (in fact, last year I wrote a 33 1/3 book about a 1991 tribute album). Other covers are more timeless, from veteran artists doing great work several decades into their careers, or way-underground artists who never even approached the mainstream. The only criteria was quality. Thirty years later, these 50 covers Hole-d up the best.
Check out the list starting on Page 2, and stay tuned for the best covers of this year coming in December.
Most people known Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” by the famous cover by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Though Mitchell was connected to CSNY because she was dating Nash at the time, the two versions sound quite different; Mitchell’s is quiet and only features her vocals and a piano, whereas the CSNY version is bombastic and aggressive, featuring typically barbed playing from Neil Young and the band’s trademark harmonies on the chorus. It’s no surprise that many covers follow the CSNY version, as it’s far more well known.
Singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe is mostly known for her distinct fusion of folk music with more extreme forms of music such as industrial, doom metal and drone. These are not styles you think of when you think of the hippies or either version of “Woodstock,” but Wolfe has chosen Mitchell’s version as her inspiration on a new cover.Continue reading »
Brandi Carlile has added to her slew of Joni Mitchell covers with a live version of “Woodstock,” performed for SiriusXM’s Small Stage concert series. Previously, Carlile has performed Mitchell’s landmark album Blue in its entirety at Disney Hall in L.A. in 2019.
In the liner notes for Blue’s 50th anniversary release, she wrote; “Blue didn’t make me a better songwriter. Blue made me a better woman… No matter what we are dealing with in these times we can rejoice and know that of all the ages we could have lived through, we lived in the time of Joni Mitchell.”Continue reading »
When he’s not busy picking fights with next-gen rockers, David Crosby continues to make singular, beautiful music. The folk rock legend has had a prolific run of five solo album releases since 2014, many of them in collaboration with a cadre of younger, progressive, genre-roving musicians — among them, members of Snarky Puppy, Becca Stevens, Cory Henry and his own son, producer James Raymond. Crosby pushes forth with an open mind and spirit (and another cross-generational collaboration) on his latest release: a stirring cover of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free,” featuring singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz on duet vocals. Continue reading »