Riding high on the success of catchy single “Cough Syrup,” California indie act Young the Giant recently recorded an episode of MTV Unplugged. They shuffled a cover of Gorillaz‘s “Empire Ants” into their set, which airs tonight. Though they stay true to the structure of the track, the acoustic atmosphere gives it a newly introspective feel.
As you’ve surely heard by now, R.E.M. broke up yesterday via an understated note on their website. Just as it began, the entire enterprise ended not with a bang, but with a murmur. The quartet-turned-trio performed together for 31 years, 15 albums, and countless “R.E.M. changed my life” exclamations in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Over the course of their career, the band performed countless covers. From the very beginning, they seemingly relished every opportunity to pay tribute to their influences, tacking covers onto singles, compilations, and their annual Christmas fan club records. In the whole lot, there are few duds. Through a combination of smart selections (no novelty rap covers here) and a rare ability to extract the essence of a lyric or melody, they made just about every song they tackled sound like an R.E.M. original. To remember the beloved band, we look back chronologically at some of their most important and best-known covers.
Three years ago, 30 Seconds to Mars stunned their many detractors with a slow, foreboding cover of Kanye West’s “Stronger.” It turned unlikely source material into something at odds with the boastful original. Their latest cover doesn’t reach the same transformative heights, but that’s because it takes on a much more easily-digested song: U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name.”
The phrase “MTV Unplugged” may evoke classic stripped-down sets from Nirvana and Eric Clapton, but the new, revamped version of Unplugged discards all that. The latest performer, Lil Wayne, offers nothing remotely “unplugged.” That doesn’t mean it wasn’t special though. Amidst a career-spanning look at his classic tracks, Weezy paid tribute to a hero: Tupac Shakur, covering part of the latter’s “Hail Mary.”
“I knew because this is my ‘Unplugged,’ I said, ‘I want to do some kind of tribute to one of those great artists,'” Wayne told MTV. “It’s just something about ‘Pac and I.”