Even 33 years later, “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Fine)” remains one of R.E.M.‘s most iconic songs. From Michael Stipe’s rapid-fire, pop-culture reference-filled lyrics on the verses to the very catchy chorus, it’s instantly recognizable and fun song to (attempt to) sing along to. It has endured longer than any other of the band’s 80s hits, despite reaching only #69 on the Hot 100 on its initial release and it’s possible it’s more famous than any other song of theirs outside of maybe “Man on the Moon” or “Everybody Hurts”. It’s back in vogue with the pandemic, with Michael Stipe using the chorus to introduce his recent PSA about staying home and washing your hands.
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!
Today Michael Stipe, lead singer of R.E.M., reaches a decade milestone, as he turns 60 years old. Stipe was born in Decatur, GA, but raised all over, as his father was in the military. He met Peter Buck, soon to be the lead guitarist in R.E.M., in 1980 at a record store near the University of Georgia in Athens while he was attending school. Not long after, they both dropped out of school to start R.E.M., along with Bill Berry and Mike Mills, and the rest is history.
Some of our readers wanted more covers by R.E.M. upon reading our list of covers of R.E.M. We have a couple points of reference, but celebrating Michael Stipe’s birthday gave us an opportunity to give you even more covers. Moral of the story: ask and you shall receive! This post provides covers by Michael Stipe and friends, paying tribute to his tributes and providing a history of his historical moments.
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
Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
With its distinctive mandolin intro, “Losing My Relgion” is arguably R.E.M.’s most instantly recognizable song, certainly the most recognizable ahead of needing the never-more-idiosyncratic vocal of Michael Stipe to nail the ID-ing. It’s also their most successful, marking the band’s only visit into the hallowed Top Five of Billboard‘s Hot 100. My only disappointment with the song is that I find I cannot frame a Five Good Covers piece around it.
Oh, it has certainly been covered enough – upward of 77 chronicled in the covers bible, Second Hand Songs – but sadly, tragically even, most are poor anodyne recreations of the original, to my mind lacking the charisma and charm that make the original by these four Athenians such an iconic piece of work. And then there are a few that try to imbue a whole different ambience, failing pyrrhically in the process. (Yes, that’s you, Rozalla.) Throat singing death metal, anyone? Gregorian chant?
But here are three that take some liberties, yet manage to add rather than subtract from the joy inherent in the melody.
Kirsten Agresta Copely is a harpist with a storied background. She has played harp since she was five and had her first solo tour at fourteen. Over the course of her career she has performed all over the world and shared the stage and recording studio with a variety of stars such as Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, and Evanescence. She has even played alongside Beyoncé at a state dinner for Barack Obama.
At the end of last month, Copely released her first cover album. You may think an album of harp covers is a bit niche for everyday listening, but if you are looking for a cover album with class for your next dinner party, look no further. There is something for everyone on Copely’s new album with selections that span decades, from Fleetwood Mac to Rhianna.
On their debut album, the three ladies of Applewood Road have perfected the art of the blend. Their intricate and layered harmonies drill into the quality of every note while simultaneously sounding effortless and breezy.
If you haven’t heard of these extraordinary musicians yet, you will soon. We’ve written about all three in their various solo endeavors in the past: Amy Speace, Emily Barker, and Amber Rubarth. Popular already in the UK, they are poised to take over the US with the upcoming release of their self titled album. In addition to their fantastic originals, the album includes a cover of R.E.M.‘s “Losing My Religion”.