Dec 182020
 

Follow all our Best of 2020 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

Typically, the world of cover songs does not change that much year-to-year. You can point to big shifts across decades, sure, but the difference between cover songs in 2018 and 2019, broadly speaking? Negligible. But 2020 was – in this as in everything else – very different.

As concerts ground to a sudden halt, musicians turned to live-from-quarantine home performances, first on their social media, then, once some kind of business model got built up, on various paid platforms. And cover songs were a big part of that. Some musicians did themed covers nights, like Ben Gibbard on YouTube early on or Lucinda Williams’ more produced Lu’s Jukebox series more recently. Others just felt the freedom in such an intimate environment to try things out, spontaneously covering influences, inspirations, or even songs they only half knew. We collected dozens of those early home covers in our Quarantine Covers series, and still only hit a small fraction.

Musicians eventually settled in, and productions got a little more elaborate than the staring-at-your-iPhone-camera look. Witness the heavy metal comedy series Two Minutes to Late Night, which transitioned from a long-running live show in New York City to a series of YouTube covers with dozens of metal-scene ringers covering songs from their couches, corpse paint and all. Witness Miley Cyrus’s endless series of killer cover locales, from a fire pit to an empty Whisky a Go Go. Or witness long-running radio covers series like BBC’s Live Lounge or Triple J’s Like a Version – often the source of a song or two on these lists. First they had musicians tape special covers from home, then, in the BBC’s case, they moved to a giant warehouse studio for suitable social distancing. (Triple J’s pretty much back to post-coronavirus business as usual – sure, Australia, rub it in.)

There’s one other major way covers reflected 2020, and it’s almost too painful to think about, so I’ll just list their names. John Prine. Adam Schlesinger. Hal Willner. Charley Pride. So many musicians taken by this virus, many reflected in some of these covers (Pride’s death happened after our list was finalized, but tributes are already rolling in). In a year filled with tragedies, covers offered one place for musicians and fans to find solace.

Many of the songs on our year-end list reflect this terrible year in one way or another. But you know what? Many don’t. Because covers can also offer a fun respite from all the stress. Doom metal Doobie Brothers? Post Malone on mandolin? A viral TikTok hit by a guy who calls himself Ritt Momney? Those have nothing to do with anything! But they’re what we live for.

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

NEXT PAGE →

Nov 302020
 
best cover songs november
Ashley McBryde – You’re Lookin’ at Country (Loretta Lynn cover)

The Country Music Hall of Fame recently presented a video series called Big Night at the Museum, getting modern country and Americana artists to cover Hall of Famers. Lucinda Williams did Johnny Cash, Miranda Lambert did John Prine, and a bunch more. Best by a blonde-streaked hair was Ashley McBryde, a performer who skirts the line between country, Americana, and brawny rock, proving her bona fides on Loretta Lynn’s “You’re Lookin’ at Country.” Continue reading »

Nov 092020
 
karen o willie nelson

With the stress of election day now behind us, everyone in the US and beyond is blowing a collective sigh of relief (well, not everyone). Until the result was announced, the tension seemed almost at boiling point. Karen O and Willie Nelson’s duet cover of Queen’s classic hit “Under Pressure,” released just recently, attempts to provide a cool salve to the psyche. Continue reading »

Feb 282019
 
best cover songs february
Andrew Leahey & the Homestead – Lips Like Sugar (Echo and the Bunnymen cover)


Nashville Americana musician Andrew Leahey first heard “Lips Like Sugar” a couple years ago while touring through Texas. Dozing in the van, he woke up to a bandmate blasting the Echo and the Bunnymen hit. “I remember thinking, ‘I hope we don’t crash right now, because I absolutely need to learn how to play this,'” he said. “We’ve been playing it ever since.” He recorded it for his new album Airwaves, out tomorrow.

Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan – You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra cover)


Guitar great Bill Frisell first recorded the classic James Bond theme a couple years ago for his album (one of our favorites of that year). He revisits it now for a live album with bassist Thomas Morgan. Like any jazz musician worth his martini, Frisell changes and expands the Bond song the second time through. It’s barely recognizable much of the time, but would still be worth a spot on our Best Bond Covers list. Continue reading »

Nov 022015
 
1035x690-20140116-yyy-x1800-1389908061

American cable television network Starz gave a peak into the opening title sequence of their upcoming ballet drama Flesh and Bone, and with it comes a striking and sultry cover of the Animotion classic “Obsession.”

The ’80s synthpop jam, originally a duet by Holly Knight and Michael De Barres before being launched to massive popularity with Animotion’s recording, takes on new life under Karen O. With stunning visuals alongside stellar music,  the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman assures the opening title sequence to the upcoming ballet series stimulates intrigue. Continue reading »

Dec 122011
 

In your head, you probably already have a video playing when you hear Trent Reznor and Karen O.’s “Immigrant Song”: the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trailer it first appeared on months ago. If images of Daniel Craig brooding have worn out their welcome though, perhaps you can replace them with the images in the song’s new music video. It’s apparently a collage David Fincher created for the film’s title sequence – so we assume it will later have words over it – which explains why we don’t know what is going on here. Continue reading »