It’s been 15 years since the last Al Green album. Does “Perfect Day” signal the beginning of his comeback? Unclear — I thought so after his last single, another cover, and that was five years ago. But we can hope. “I loved Lou’s original ‘Perfect Day’—the song immediately puts you in a good mood,” Green explained. “We wanted to preserve that spirit, while adding our own sauce and style.”Continue reading »
At Cover Me, our goal is to share great covers, whether they comes from artists with ten fans or ten million. But I am always vaguely curious what cover songs break out, which among the thousands we hear each year become genuine hits.
I was reminded of this when a recent Country Now headline crossed my Google Alerts: “Luke Combs’ ‘Fast Car’ Cover Is A Streaming Giant.” After only a month, the country star’s fairly faithful take on Tracy Chapman’s 1988 classic has racked up 33 million streams in the U.S. alone. Covers by famous singers come and go, but this one clearly has staying power.
So I decided to try to figure out which other covers from the 21st century have reached this level of breakout success. I’m not privy to Billboard‘s deep-dive chart data, so I used an easy metric available to an amateur like myself: Seeing how many plays something has on Spotify. As good a measure for “a popular song” as you can probably get these days, albeit still imperfect.
I found twenty-four 21st-century covers with over 100 million U.S. streams as of this writing (April 2023). Some very popular covers didn’t quite make the 100m+ threshold: Weezer’s “Africa” (75 million), Iron & Wine’s “Such Great Heights” (76 million), Fall Out Boy and John Mayer’s “Beat It” (89 million). Ryan Adams’ “Wonderwall” only just crossed the 100 million streams mark in the past couple months. And while older covers obviously have an advantage in more time to rack up plays, number one — by a lot! — came out only a few years ago.
Here’s the list of 24. No commentary since, for once, we’re not unearthing buried treasures here. Let’s count down the 24 most-streamed covers on Spotify, with the year of release and number of streams as of this writing. (And it’s possible, even likely, I missed a few, so feel free to suggest additions in the comments — if they qualify, I’ll add ’em.) Continue reading »
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
In June of 2022, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” was used to soundtrack a climactic scene in the premiere episode of season four of the Netflix series Stranger Things. What happened next is already the stuff of pop music legend and a tale that will be remembered and recounted for years to come. As the 37-year-old pop song by the reclusive legend played, millions of kids and teens who had never known of Kate Bush’s existence completely lost their minds. Then came the real mayhem.
The next week saw “RUTH” (let’s just call it) ascend to the top of pop charts all over the world, going to number #1 in eight countries (England! New Zealand! Switzerland! Lithuania! More!). Okay, it only got to #4 in the U.S., but still, that’s Top 5 (upon the song’s original release in 1985 it only got as high as #30)! The song garnered millions of plays across all the streaming services (Apple! Spotify! YouTube!), inspired masses of TikTok videos, and most importantly introduced a whole new generation to the incomparable genius of Catherine “Kate” Bush.
But while the pop-chart-exploding Stranger Things-inspired introduction was a singular event unto itself, the experience of just plain hearing Kate Bush for the first time has never really changed. As existing Kate fans can confirm, the excitable reaction of the new listeners was perfectly normal. When Kate Bush enters your pop listening life for the first time, the natural human tendency has always been to go a little “oh my God” crazy.
But perhaps the most mind-blowing thing about all of this is that “RUTH” is not even the best song onthe album it actually hails from. That’s how great Hounds Of Love is.
A foundational fixture on every “Best Albums of All-Time” list from now until forever, Hounds Of Love is Kate Bush’s finest hour. Despite its unending sonic drama, Hounds was recorded in the comically peaceful and idyllic environs of a converted barn at Kate’s childhood home. Yes, this madly ambitious album, consisting of four gorgeously unhinged anthems of love, an eerie demon ballad, and a 26-minute oceanic fever dream, actually came to be in storybook surroundings full of greenery, birdsong, and sweet dogs (that’d be Kate’s front cover co-stars and forever icons, Bonnie and Clyde). Epic and anthemic enough to scream along to in the car, but brimming with enough empathy and intimacy for intensive solo headphone engagement, Hounds Of Loveis just plainmagic.
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.
When COVID-19 hit this spring, musician Emel Mathlouthi was visiting her family in Tunisia to celebrate her father’s 85th birthday. As everything shut down, she found herself trapped there as a short trip unexpectedly stretched to months. She wrote in the announcement:
I was separated from my husband, my band, my collaborators, and all my equipment. But I was immersed in a feeling of nostalgia and memory, surrounded by the blossoming wildflowers, tweeting birds, and blue skies of my hometown. Also, thankfully I was sheltered in with two of my favorite people in the world. Together we were three generations under the same roof – free from school, work, and from outside world distractions.Continue reading »
Way back in January, we polled our Patreon supporters to see which 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee they wanted to see get the “Best Covers Ever” treatment. Depeche Mode won, so we started planning our schedule to get it ready in advance of the big induction ceremony on March 24.