Say what you will about American Idol – lord knows we’ve said it before – but it’s hard to deny that first season winner Kelly Clarkson is talented. In a culture where pop stars are produced by the handful, and usually come with a large quantity of auto-tuned hits, it’s impressive to see how far Clarkson’s come in the 10 years since her Idol victory. Apparently she also has good taste. Currently on her Stronger tour, to promote her fifth studio album of the same name, Clarkson surprised her audience the other night with a cover of Florence and the Machine’s “Heavy in Your Arms.”
Last week we heard Tokyo Police Club launch their “10 Songs, 10 Days, 10 Hours, 10 Years” covers series with their take on Moby’s “Southside.” Well it’s been four more days since, and that means four more covers. Each song comes from a year from 2002 through 2005, with the series continuing through this weekend. Several also feature guests, including Passion Pit singer Michael Angelakos and Michael Jackson almost-guitarist Orianthi.
This Week on Bandcamp rounds up our favorite covers to hit the site in the past seven days.
This Week on Bandcamp took a week off last week, so we come back swinging with a double-header. Instead of five tracks…ten! Download the main set first, then scroll onwards for bonus covers of Stevie Wonder, Twin Peaks, XTC, Kurt Vile, and Angus and Julia Stone.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
Florence + the Machine songstress Florence Welch recently capped off a breakout year with performances at the Grammys and Oscars. Considering her affinity for covers, it’s appropriate that she took on Aretha Franklin’s “Think” at the Grammys and handled Dido’s part with Best Song nominee A.R. Rahman at the Oscars. Florence + the Machine’s debut, Lungs, arrived less than two years ago, but Welch has already performed more covers than some musicians do in decades. Here are a few highlights, from Florence solo and with the help of her band the Machine.
In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist, album, or trend and asks, “Is it really as bad as all that?”
Disclaimer: This won’t be a strong defense of any particular American Idol artist. Let’s face it, the show has produced some music that’s utterly indefensible. You won’t catch me rocking out to Clay Aiken in the car anytime soon, mostly because “Invisible” is the creepiest song ever written. But a lot of music fans are quick to dismiss Idol as the lower common denominator of pop culture (an award properly given to the truly meritless Bridalplasty), when the series possesses several redeeming qualities. Chief among them: the ability to surprise audiences with the appearance of a knockout cover bobbing in a sea of dreary copycat performances.
Whether you’re a pining romantic, fading dance pioneer or violent dictator (see below), everyone deserves a second chance at love. Listening to songs pleading for another try makes you want to know the addressee’s response. Some we know – Sandy and Danny reconciled their differences at the fair; America decided yes, it was ready to twist again – but the rest leave you wondering. Was Warren reconsidered? Did she give up on Solomon? The world may never know.
Steve Earle and Reckless Kelly – Reconsider Me (Warren Zevon)
When you live a life of alcoholism, drug abuse and divorce, lines like “I’ll never make you sad again ‘cause I swear that I’ve changed since then” take on a heartbreaking sincerity. He probably said them a good deal. [Buy]
Bob Dylan and George Harrison – Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance (Henry Thomas)
Dylan re-wrote much of this 1927 blues tune for inclusion on 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. He revisited it in an impromptu 1970 Studio B jam session with Harrison, coming up with some new lyrics on the spot about “looking for a woman with some chicken knees.” [Buy]
Joe Cocker – Don’t Give Up On Me (Solomon Burke)
The title track to Solomon Burke’s Grammy-winning 2002 comeback album, “Don’t Give Up On Me” keeps its soul power even when transferred to the notoriously mush-mouthed Cocker. [Buy]
Jamie McClure – Let’s Twist Again (Chubby Checker)
Chubby ruled the summer of 1960 with his dance craze “The Twist.” Apparently without any new ideas, he asked America to recreate the magic the following summer with “Let’s Twist Again.” The country was happy to oblige. [Buy]
Robins and the Highrollers – Change Your Mind (The Killers)
Hot Fuss had its share of hit singles with “Somebody Told Me,” “Mr. Brightside” and “All These Things That I’ve Done,” but this album cut (not even included on the British version) holds its own next to any of them. [Buy]
Noseriders – Could We Start Again Please (Jesus Christ Superstar)
If Robert Johnson, Conway Twitty, and Jake Shimabukuro got together for an instrumental jam sesh, they probably wouldn’t go anywhere near Andrew Lloyd Webber. But if they did… [Buy]
The Oakdales – I Want You Back (Jackson 5)
The genius of the Jackson 5 was how well an eleven-year old pipsqueak relayed the complexity of desire in a way people twice his age could relate to. [Free Download]
Violent Femmes – I Swear It (I Can Change) (South Park)
A homosexual appeal from a horny Saddam Hussein to an emotionally unstable Satan? Only on South Park. [Buy]
The Beautiful South – You’re the One That I Want (Grease)
What descriptors do justice to this duet? Goth-country? Brooding-romantic? How about: One of the best covers I’ve heard in a while. [Buy]