Apr 222016

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.


“Paper Planes” was the penultimate track on M.I.A.’s second album Kala; it took thirteen months from the album’s release for the song to peak at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Guaranteed no other paper planes have flown so high and so far for so long. Riding a sample from “Straight to Hell” by the Clash (who are rightfully credited) and a chorus borrowed from “Rump Shaker” by Wreckx-N-Effect (who aren’t), the song had as great an impact on 2008 as the gunfire in its chorus. Critics fell over themselves praising the record’s sound, somehow both chaotic and serene, and its message, a sort of “Money (That’s What I Want)” gone global for the 21st century.

Now that the dust “Paper Planes” stirred up has settled back down again, let’s take a look at some of the covers it inspired…
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Jul 182011

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Artist, activist and new media pioneer Maya Arulpragasam, better known to the world as M.I.A., turns 36 today. A Briton of Tamil descent, she started as a visual artist, attending London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. While there, she met Elastica’s Justine Frischmann and designed the cover art for their final single. Urged on by Frischmann and Peaches, whom she met while filming a video document of Elastica’s last tour, she began recording music in her bedroom. Continue reading »

Apr 262011

Red Band (also known as The Puppet Folk Revival) is indisputably the best Israeli puppet cover band on the Internet. To be fair, there isn’t much dispute over Israeli puppet cover bands. If there was any substantial amount of arguing going on, though, it’s likely that Red Band would win. Continue reading »

Feb 162011

It’s a bit difficult at times to see the distinctions between all of Richie Follin’s projects. While Guards is not a solo project, per se, Follin is the only regular member. He is a part of Cults and the Willowz and has recorded solo under his full name, Richie James Follin. Loren Shane Humphrey, another member of the Willowz, occasionally joins him in Guards, as does his sister and co-Cults rocker Madeline Follin. The man has done a remarkable job of managing his Internet presence, and very little information can be gathered about him or his projects. His music, on the other hand, is far more expressive. Continue reading »

Oct 072010

After having performed it live for a few years, Street Sweeper Social Club finally released their cover of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” back in July. With the addition of some crunchy guitar from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, the song took on a heavier sound more in tune with the lyrics. Now MTV has premiered the video, which restores some of the levity—literally and figuratively.

The fact that the band spends the entire video riding on a paper airplane seems a touch, um, literal. But the paper city they colorize shows more inspiration. Plus, Morello and MC Boots Riley hog the camera enough that their charisma carries it. Notice how Morello hits that high guitar note (the cash register noise in the original) by slamming his guitar above the fret board. Pretty cool. Now can they please release a video for “Mama Said Knock You Out”? Continue reading »

Jul 072010

Rage Against the Machine guitar hero Tom Morello formed Street Sweeper Social Club in 2006 and it seemed they covered “Paper Planes” almost immediately (though it wasn’t yet released then, so my memory may be a bit off). So while it’s tempting to give them grief for releasing a cover that is so 2008 (maybe even 2000-and-late), they hit the ground running back in the day, before M.I.A. was all, “I’ll have the truffle fries.”

The single comes from The Ghetto Blaster EP, out August 10. It loses a little something without Morello’s machine-gun guitar miming, but that’s what YouTube is for. The EP also features a cover of L.L. Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” which in the hands of Street Sweeper’s Boots Riley should be explode-your-face dynamite.

Listen to it over at RollingStone.com. Preorder The Ghetto Blaster EP here.