On the latest edition of Triple J’s Like a Version series, Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo contributed a soulful version of fellow Swede Robyn‘s ‘Dancing On My Own’.
Tove Lo said of the cover: “Lyrically, it’s so simple, so clear, you really picture – like you can really see it in front of you….I just remember that feeling of like, frustration and still hopefulness that’s tied into the song somehow.” And it’s these elements that come through crystal clear in her cover.
Accompanied by a soft piano, Lo slows the song right down, allowing her powerful and pitch perfect voice to carry the lyrics and sentiment of the track. This turns the track from a dancefloor banger into a gentle song for the early hours, for contemplation or finding solace over a nightcap.
When Neneh Cherry made that huge international splash in 1989 with her debut album, Raw Like Sushi, it was the result of a big collaborative effort, or, as she put it, “just having fun with my friends.” The Sweden-born and US- and UK-raised singer-songwriter put the record together with producer Cameron McVey (her soon-to-be husband), Tim Simenon of Bomb the Bass, and various members of the Bristol (England) Wild Bunch collective, including DJ Nellee Hooper, and future founders of Massive Attack 3D, and Mushroom. But she also happened to be one of the most charismatic female performers of her generation, who galvanized the 11 distinctive pop/rap/dance songs with her energy, attitude, sexiness, and bomber-jacket cool, while providing the perfect street-tough antidote to the ubiquitous girl-next-door tweeness of Kylie Minogue. She was central, indeed, to a new era of defiant women in hip-hop, who influenced everyone from MIA to Rihanna to daughters Mabel and TYSON, without letting a little thing like being six months pregnant compromise her dance moves on Top of the Pops.
Cherry now cites a collaborative spirit in the revival of such iconic Sushi tracks as “Buffalo Stance” and “Manchild” on The Versions, billed as a Neneh Cherry album while, in fact, featuring a bumper crop of current female artists taking the lead on her tunes. You might call it a tribute album, but Cherry calls it a collection that came about by “asking some of the favorite divine women of our time to record their own versions of these pieces.” She also says it’s the outcome of “a new generation of visionaries” reworking the tracks on the understanding that she doesn’t “own” them. And while the Sushi numbers are the most prominent of the ten included here (with both “Buffalo Stance” and one version of “Manchild” having been released as singles), the assembled artists also offer new takes on material across the singer’s subsequent two albums: 1992’s Homebrew, and 1996’s Man. Continue reading »
What’s better than one Indonesian black-metal Dua Lipa cover? Three Indonesian black-metal Dua Lipa covers! Not that you’d ever know these were Dua Lipa songs unless you were listening really closely to the lyrics (and could manage to make them out).
The Band of Heathens – El Paso City (Marty Robbins cover)
During lockdown, Band of Heathens hosted a regular livestream variety show called Good Time Supper Club. One segment, “Remote Transmissions,” featured them covering a new song every episode – over 50 in all. They’re collecting some of the best on a forthcoming album of the same name: Remote Transmissions. “Making records is always about cataloging any point in time. We wanted to celebrate the unique collaborative aspect of the show,” guitarist Ed Jurdi told American Songwriter. “What better way to document the last year than with these songs?” First up is this take on a Marty Robbins country classic.Continue reading »
Swedish pop hero Robyn has stayed fairly quiet since releasing her last album Honey in 2018, but she returned this week with a cover of 1988’s classic “Buffalo Stance,” by her fellow Swede Neneh Cherry. The single comes from an upcoming Cherry compilation project and features Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes on production and Swedish rapper Mapei. This indie-pop ballad sounds very different than Cherry’s iconic but very late-’80s rap sounding original; no turntable scratches to be found in Robyn’s version.Continue reading »
Anyone who was paying attention to cover songs a decade ago will remember The A.V. Club’s “Undercover” series. In the vein of the BBC Live Lounge and Triple J Like a Version, the entertainment web site would bring bands into their Chicago offices to cover a song. The concept, though, was the site started with a masters list of songs and the band had to pick one. The later they came in, the fewer song choices remained. It went on for years and the covers were ubiquitous (we must have posted a million of ’em). Practically every indie band of the era stopped by (many several times), and they often delivered something great.Continue reading »
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.