Picture this: Shaggy and Sting — on a sandy beachfront, bangin’ on about Frank Sinatra. This scene may sound like some luxuriant fantasy tableau (or, possibly, a clunky callback to Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me”), but it is also now a sweet, sweet reality. Continuing their unlikely creative partnership in the wake of 2018’s 44/876, Shaggy has announced his latest album: a full-length reggae Sinatra tribute record, brilliantly titled Com Fly Wid Mi and featuring Sting in the producer chair.
We already counted down the 50 Best Cover Songs of 2018 but, inevitably, many of our staff’s personal favorites get left off. So, before we begin scouting for what might become the best cover of 2019, we share the best of the rest, an unranked hodgepodge of worthy covers that only just missed our year-end countdown.
“When We Were Young,” Adele’s second single off 25, peaked at #14 on the pop charts. Amazing by most artists’ standards, but middling by hers (particularly following “Hello” topping every chart in existence). But as with so many of her songs before it, it’s lived on well past its chart run through endless covers. The latest, and maybe greatest, comes from Sweden’s The Tallest Man on Earth.
He performed it on the Swedish game show På Spåre, backed by local pop group Augustifamiljen. It’s a bigger and more lavish production than most of Kristian Matsson’s covers, which tend more towards fingerpicked folk tunes. But he sells it perfectly, finding a middle ground between his singer-songwriter sensibilities and Adele’s bigger soul belting.
Our official list of the Best Cover Songs of 2017 comes next week. But first, we’re continuing the tradition we started last year by rounding up some of the songs it most killed us to cut in a grab-bag post. No ranking, no writing, just a bunch of knockout covers.
When people argue over the Worst Song of All Time, inevitably someone will mention Journey’s (in)famous “Don’t Stop Believin’.” If Starship had never built that city on rock and roll, it would probably take the crown.
Frankly, I like other Journey songs, but “Don’t Stop Believin'” deserves most of the hate it gets. Its ubiquity on class rock radio, bad karaoke stages, and every college a cappella group that ever donned bow ties has made in insufferable (thank the Glee cover inexplicably going to #4 on the charts for the last one). Even The Sopranos couldn’t give it a coolness bump. It is not only Journey’s biggest song by a mile, it’s one of the most well-known songs of the 1980s, period.
The funny thing is that when it came out, not only was it not Journey’s biggest hit, it wasn’t even the biggest hit on that same album. “Open Arms” off Escape went to #2. “Who’s Crying Now” went to #4. “Don’t Stop Believin’,” meanwhile, barely scraped its way into the top ten.
Escape turns 36 this week, which might occasion a Full Album if anyone ever covered any of the other songs off it. But they don’t. They only cover “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
“Shape of My Heart” by Theory of a Deadman represents the first single released from their upcoming album which they are currently recording in London. It is a fantastic choice of cover for this band, albeit a surprising departure from their Nickelback-infused originals. Tyler Connolly’s voice sits comfortably in Sting’s range with a more gruff, rocker vibe than the pop infused original.
Much of the heart of the original is kept intact for this cover with a few notable exceptions. The harmonica solo is replaced with some beautifully executed finger picking on the guitar – more Spanish flamenco than Parisian cafe. The constant presence of a shaker only serves to enhance the Spanish feel. Theory of a Deadman adds backing claps and some synth to the instrumental arsenal, filling out the sound.