“No One Knows” is perhaps the Queens of the Stone Age‘s signature song. Their biggest hit and Grammy-nominated, it’s famous for its staccato riff and lead-singer Josh Homme’s clashing smooth vocal delivery. The song captures both the band’s commitment to loud rock music and its facility for pop hooks.
UK indie rockers The Vaccines have gone a very different direction with their version. The famous guitar riff is replaced by a mellow electric piano that sounds like it could be in a video game. Dave Grohl’s frantic drumming is replaced by minimalist percussion that could be a click track. Lead singer Justin Young delivers the vocal almost in a hush, with one track where he is sort of singing and another track where he is just about whispering.Continue reading »
Cover Me began in 2007 and we did our first year-end list in 2008, so 2000 isn’t that long before we were following this stuff in real time. But, in music eras, 2007 and 2000 seem eons apart. 2000 was nü-metal and Napster, Smash Mouth and the ska revival. Beyoncé was in the quartet Destiny’s Child; Justin Timberlake only had a one-in-five chance of being your favorite member of N’Sync (or maybe one-in-four…sorry Joey). By the time this site started seven years later, all this seemed like ancient history.
There were a lot of extremely prominent covers in 2000. “Prominent,” of course, doesn’t necessarily meaning “good.” This was the year that Madonna covered “American Pie” (not to be outdone, Britney Spears then took a stab at “Satisfaction”). It was the year a Jim Carrey movie soundtrack inexplicably asked bands like Smash Mouth and Brian Setzer Orchestra to cover Steely Dan. It was the year of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Bet you didn’t even know that one was a cover (unless you’re a faithful Cover Me reader).
None of those are on this list (though, if you want more dated trainwrecks like those, stay tuned Monday for a bonus list I’m calling the “The Most Extremely ‘2000’ Covers of the Year 2000”). But 2000 offered a wealth of wonderful covers, often flying just under the mainstream radar. Some of them still seem of the time – anything ska, basically – but most could have come out decades earlier. Or yesterday.
YouTube was still a few years away, as was streaming more generally, so covers still mostly came out through “traditional” avenues: on albums, as the b-sides to singles, etc. As I wrote in my new book, tribute albums were big business by this time too, which means that many 2000 covers emerged through that format. Even narrowing this list down to 50 was hard, which is why Cover Me’s Patreon supporters will get a batch of 150 Honorable Mentions.
Check out the list starting on Page 2, and stay tuned for the best covers of this year coming in December.
If something feels vaguely familiar about the opening to Twin Danger’s cover of Queens of the Stone Age‘s “No One Knows,” there might be a good reason for it. The sultry saxophone blast that kicks off the track comes from Stuart Matthewman, cofounder of Sade, who first achieved fame in the ’80s. The vibe from the band that surrounds him and the slinking vocals from Vanessa Bley are certainly reminiscent of Matthewman’s better-known group. The source material for this track, however, is a bit rougher around the edges.
Queens of the Stone Age have been rocking since the late ’90s, lead by singer and guitarist Josh Homme. Their 2002 song “No One Knows,” featuring Dave Grohl on drums, was their breakthrough to the mainstream and remains one of their most recognizable hits. Its heavy reliance on staccato guitar riffs and blistering drum rolls doesn’t seem to lend itself to a late-night, jazz cover, but Twin Danger prove otherwise. The piano picks up the essence of the churning guitars of the original, Bley’s voice draws you in, and the horn section bursts into the foreground often enough to mix things up. The video is below, but there are so many pans and cuts that its frenetic pace feels out of sync with the music. You’ll be better off listening without the visuals, or better yet, go buy the track on iTunes or hear it on Spotify ahead of Twin Danger’s album release on June 30th. [via Speakeasy]
Fifty years ago, a covers album wasn’t called a “covers album.” It was called an album. Full stop.
Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Billie Holiday – most albums anyone bought were “covers albums” as we’d think of them today, but that’s not how folks thought of them then. Once the public began putting a premium on singers writing their own songs in the ’60s the concept of course shifted, so that an artist doing a covers album has to be like Michael Jordan playing baseball – an okay diversion but let’s get back to the main event please.
More so this year than ever before though, that pendulum seems to be swinging back in small but meaningful ways to what an album originally meant. More and more artists are releasing LPs saying, this is not my new quote-on-quote “covers album,” this is my new album (that happens to consist of covers). The attitude showcases a confidence and surety of purpose that shows they take performing other peoples songs every bit as seriously as they do their own.
That holds true for both of our top two covers albums this year, and plenty more sprinkled throughout. Which isn’t to knock anyone doing a covers album as a lark, novelty, tribute, or side project – you’ll see plenty of those here as well – but any blurred lines that put a “covers album” on the same level as a “normal” album have to be a good thing.