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

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Oct 262020
 
miley cyrus covers

In 2020, Miley Cyrus has spent lockdown reinventing herself, unleashing new old-school rockstar personal on her recent performances on MTV Unplugged and the Save our Stages Festival on Youtube. She covered a whopping seven songs over both performances – five in Unplugged and two in the SOS performance, her choices signaling her current touchstones. Continue reading »

Sep 302020
 
cover songs september 2020
Amigo the Devil – Before He Cheats (Carrie Underwood cover)

When we last heard Amigo the Devil, he was stripping down a Tom Jones song to create a haunting murder ballad. Now he does the same to another highly polished pop song – but a much more recent one. “[The original is] this very confidence-boosting, really good-feeling, power-infusing song,” Amigo’s Danny Kiranos told Rolling Stone. “I was curious what it would sound like if you took away the positive nature of it and kept the lyrics, essentially the emotions they are portraying.” Continue reading »

Sep 092020
 
miley cyrus

Miley Cyrus covered Billie Eilish’s “My Future” kicking off BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge Month starting this September. The Live Lounge is closed because of the pandemic. So Cyrus created a set full of tiny glowing candles and a backing band. The band all following social distancing precautions and covering their faces with masks. The overall spacious warm stage area and red-carpet recall images of old-time starlets in jazz lounges.

Cyrus’s captivating performance includes her belting out the lyrics from the start, while Eilish sounds like she is holding back something in the first verse. There is a grittiness to the way Cyrus sings. This turns the song from a slow cool, crisp, beautiful ballad, into something reminiscent of a lively pop-tune. The overall feeling is a faster and brighter song.

The original, as well as the cover, begin with only a piano accompaniment. Halfway through, drums, guitar, and the rest of the band jump in changing the direction of the song. The piano in the beginning of the cover is already bright sounding. It blends smoothly when the rest of the instrumental voices kick in, after a stark dramatic pause between the sections.

Overall, the performance is a lot of fun and Cyrus clearly got into the show. She finishes with a flourish after the last line “see you in a couple of years,” adding a spoken line “but probably not” and sticking her tongue out, making the last line a whole lot less ambiguous.

See covers of Miley Cyrus here and more covers of Billie Eilish here.

Jul 312020
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best cover songs july 2020
The Band Of Heathens ft. Margo Price – Joy (Lucinda Williams cover)

Promoting her new album That’s How Rumors Get Started, Margo Price has been on a great covers kick. She recently tackled a political country classic at the Grand Ole Opry, Bob Dylan on CBS, and John Lennon from her house. Now she’s teamed up with Band of Heathens to cover a Lucinda Williams classic. To quote Lucinda on Instagram, “Get to Slidell, girl!!” Continue reading »