Covering Christmas songs is hard. Whether it’s a traditional carol or a modern standard, the song is often incredibly familiar to millions, so any changes will be noticed. With carols in particular, many people have been listening to them and singing them since they were kids. The listeners know these songs inside and out.
Two of the albums on this year’s list have similar titles: This Is Not Our Music and These Are Not Mine. Clever titles for collections of cover songs, sure, but misleading. Not your music? Why not? Songs are anyone’s for the singing. Even if a song’s lyrics or chord sequence didn’t first spring from a certain performer’s brain, that doesn’t mean he or she has any less claim. The great cover performers make the songs theirs, no matter whose they were before.
The twenty records below each contain numerous examples of artists doing just that. The songs may not have started out as these artists’ – but they are theirs now.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
Start the countdown on the next page…
Arctic Monkeys – Lipstick Vogue (Elvis Costello cover)
Arctic Monkeys got a lot of attention covering the Strokes last week (especially because on his new album, Alex Turner sings: “I just want to be one of the Strokes”). But I preferred their wonderfully sleazy “Lipstick Vogue” cover, played in honor of Costello as he recovered from cancer surgery. Turner’s a product of his influences; in addition to the Strokes and Elvis, he appears to have his Nick Cave snake slither down cold.
As an avant-garde jazz-influenced album, David Bowie’s final record Blackstar would seem damn-near uncoverable (unless you’re an avante-garde jazz band). But the songs keep getting covered, and by some surprising artists. Sting covered “Lazarus.” Nine Inch Nails covered “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” Amanda Palmber and Anna Calvi covered the title track. (So did Car Seat Headrest and Hiatus Kaiyote’s Nai Palm, blending it with Radiohead, no less).
The latest comes from indie-rock vets Spoon, who tackled “I Can’t Give Anything Away” on The Strombo Show, a radio program that is quickly become Canada’s answer to other international cover-shows BBC Live Lounge and Triple J “Like a Version.” Britt Daniel’s understated vocals deliver the quiet melody and bigger chorus perfectly, but the secret star of this stripped-down version might be pianist Alex Fischel. Needless to say, it sounds quite different than Nine Inch Nails’ take on the tune.
And, while we’re at it, here’s a bunch of other Strombo Show covers from recent episodes too.