I mean, sure, there are bad covers of anyone worth covering. But it struck me going through the many candidates for this list that they mostly ranged from transcendent on the high end to pretty good on the low. “Pretty good” was about as bad as it got! I don’t think you could say that for anyone else we’ve featured in this series.Continue reading »
Two things strike me as I scan through our list this year. This first is that many of the highest-ranking covers are tributes to recently-deceased icons. No surprise there, I suppose. But none actually pay tribute to artists that died in 2018. They honor those we’ve been honoring for two or three years now – your Pettys, your Princes, your Bowies. Hundreds of covers of each of these legends appeared in the first days after their deaths, but many of the best posthumous covers took longer to emerge.
Good covers take time. That principle – the cover-song equivalent of the slow food movement, perhaps – holds true throughout the list. Sure, a few here appear to have arisen from sudden moments of brilliance, flash-arranged for some concert or radio promo session. But many more reveal months or even years of painstaking work to nail every element. Making someone else’s song one’s own isn’t easy. These 50 covers took the time to get it right.
Arctic Monkeys got a lot of attention covering the Strokes last week (especially because on his new album, Alex Turner sings: “I just want to be one of the Strokes”). But I preferred their wonderfully sleazy “Lipstick Vogue” cover, played in honor of Costello as he recovered from cancer surgery. Turner’s a product of his influences; in addition to the Strokes and Elvis, he appears to have his Nick Cave snake slither down cold.Continue reading »
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“Sam Stone,” from John Prine’s self-titled 1971 debut album, is considered one of the most depressing songs ever written. We’re not talking my-baby-left-me depressing here, understand; this is a song about a wounded war veteran suffering from PTSD and a heroin addiction, who grows remote from his family and winds up dying alone, with a chorus couplet so devastating (“There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes / Jesus Christ died for nothin’ I suppose”) that even Johnny Cash flinched at it, altering the words in his own cover. When the Man in Black can’t bring himself to sing your lyrics, you know you’ve touched a nerve. Continue reading »