They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Norah Jones is only just beginning her fifth decade on the planet, but for two of those decades she’s been restlessly touring and recording at the most elevated level. And she’s been collaborating, cross-pollinating, all that time. The long list of luminaries that she’s worked with, in so many musical genres and contexts, is all the evidence you need of her unique talent.
Ah “Patience”. Duff gently counts us in, thereby triggering the most tolerable and endearing bit of whistling in the history of rock, courtesy of Axl Rose. Yes, if there is one Guns N’ Roses song can help provide a salve during tough times, slow things down if your brain is racing and set you to imagining you are sitting in a hotel with your pet snake watching Axl undulate during better times, it’s “Patience”. While the video is a total timepiece that verges on self-parody (yet remains completely, utterly awesome) it never overshadows the innate sweetness of the acoustic ballad from 1988’s eternal and infamous G N’ R Lies EP.
Many musicians, unable to go on the road, have taken to performing concerts in their home in the past week. Personally, I have spent a huge amount of time watching various these live streams. The performances have been moving and powerful, an unusually intimate way to see some of your favorite musicians.
Many such shows have included covers, songs that feel right to sing right now, like John Lennon’s “Isolation” or Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” So I decided to round up some of my favorites below.
Unfortunately, many live stream platforms don’t archive the content, so if you miss it live, it’s gone (another reason to watch these streams!). But plenty of great covers have remained online. Check ’em out below, and let us know in the comments what others we shouldn’t miss.
That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.
Norah Jones’s musical rise was swift after the release of her debut album, Come Away With Me. The album won two Grammys, one for Album of the Year and one for Best Pop Vocal Album. Jones was nominated for eight Grammys in 2003 and won five, tying Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill for the most awards received by a female artist in one year. Since its release and its Diamond certification, Come Away With Me has sold over 20 million copies, surpassing Carole King’s Tapestry, Britney Spears’ … Baby One More Time, and Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, among others.
As Valentine’s Day swiftly approaches, you might want to revisit this album. Its songs have permeated rom-coms, most notably Love, Actually, where Jones’s sultry voice provides the subtle soundtrack to (no spoilers) a turning point for Laura Linney’s character. The acoustic pop album has heavy jazz and blues influences, making it the perfect backdrop for a rainy afternoon or a laid-back dinner party.
Beyond hits like “Come Away With Me,” the album also features covers of Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You” (covered by other greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong) and Hank Williams’s “Cold, Cold Heart.” But did you know that the album’s first single, “Don’t Know Why,” is a cover as well? Jones’s guitarist, Jesse Harris, wrote “Don’t Know Why” and recorded it three years earlier on his album Jesse Harris & The Ferdinandos.
In 2019, Cover Me wrote about more new covers than in any year in our 12-year history. I know; I checked the numbers. Our News team wrote amazing stand-alone stories on sometimes tight deadlines, adding context and research beyond “here’s a new cover” quickie. Plus, we rounded the best of the best into monthly 30+ lists, and added even more for supporters of our new Patreon. Even our Features team, who ostensibly couldn’t care less whether a cover came out last month or last century, seemed to be constantly finding new things to slip into their deep dives.
The point here is not to toot our own horn… well, that’s not entirely the point. What I want to do is emphasize just how high the bar to appear on this list has been set. Calling these covers great almost does them a disservice. There were way more than 50 great covers in 2019. In fact, we’ve already got 150 more bonus tracks lined up for Patreon supporters (which, I know I mention it a lot, but it’s how we keep this site afloat, so please consider supporting us if you like what we do). Honestly, we could throw all of the above in the trash and still come up with a pretty impressive batch of 2019 covers. But these 50 below – these are the cream of the crop, the belles of the ball, the toppermost of the poppermost.
You won’t agree. I guarantee it. As you go through this list, there will be at least one cover you hate. Maybe more than one. And if you followed cover news yourself this year, you’ll probably be outraged when a personal favorite placed too low, or didn’t make it at all. Great! That’s the beauty of these lists: It’s all opinion. Extremely educated opinions in our cases – I can pretty much guarantee that we collectively listened to more 2019 covers than any other site out there – but opinions nevertheless. So dive in and discover something new. Then help us discover something new by adding your own favorites in the comments.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief