Bria – When You Know Why You’re Happy (Mary Margaret O’Hara’ cover)
Bria’s “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” made our list of the Best Covers of 2022. The track was a sneak peak at her covers EP Cuntry Covers Vol. 2, and the full thing dropped a few weeks ago. It includes a wonderful version of this much more obscure song. Bria explains: “Mary Margaret O’Hara is a creative force and one of my favorite Canadian artists. I have been a huge fan of hers for quite some time and really wanted to try my hand at one of her songs for Vol. 2. She is a real queen of vocal improvisation. It’s a trait of hers that I’ve always admired, so I really wanted to explore that when recording this cover. The video for this track is special to us, a sort of collage of memory; fragmented footage of summer taken over the last two years is dispersed throughout shots of a vast winter scene, filmed while we finished the record up North with our live band.”Continue reading »
Singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas has been an underrated, reliable presence in the pages of Cover Me for over a decade. Most recently, she’s been on a kick of some noteworthy, and unexpected, cover picks, like Bjork and Mariah Carey. There’s wry humor in her approach, at least in terms of song choice — taking left-field or especially poppy picks down a peg from the stratosphere, mellowing things out. But the effect has felt consistently authentic and heartfelt, and remains so on her latest cover: a version of The Bangles’ “Eternal Flame.”
When I first encountered Thomas and her music, it was in close collaboration with Sufjan Stevens. The pair have worked together frequently through the years, perhaps most surprisingly around Stevens’s 2010 record, The Age of Adz. That record, one of Stevens’ first moves away from acoustic material, felt like a total glitchy aberration (meant in the best way possible). Thomas’s solo work remains a bit less radical than Adz, but it’s in this liminal sonic space that her cover of “Eternal Flame” resides: part electronic rip in the continuum, part gentle folksy reel. The track, featuring collaborators William Fitzsimmons and Denison Witmer, is featured in an EP series that Thomas is calling Lullabies for Parents. That title feels like the most fitting description possible for what Thomas has made here: dark, heavy and drowsy, supremely dreamy.
When Elvis Costello first appeared on the scene, the press fell over themselves not only to praise him, but to pigeonhole him. He was a punk. He was a new waver. He was a nerd, what with his glasses and gawky suits (Dave Marsh memorably said that “Elvis Costello looks like Buddy Holly after drinking a can of STP Oil Treatment”). Most commonly, he was lumped in with Graham Parker, Joe Jackson, Billy Joel, and others as an Angry Young Man. “I’m not angry,” Costello protested on My Aim Is True, and everyone nodded and smiled and patted his head.
Costello wasn’t interested in living on that particular cul-de-sac. He began expanding his musical palette, making more complex songs with more complex rhymes. He delved into other genres, starting with country & western (to the dismay of both Costello fans and C&W fans, and to the pleasant surprise of music fans) and moving on to blues, jazz, orchestral, classical pop, and more. As he became a greater student, he became a greater teacher, giving credit in word and action to his influences, penning a well-received autobiography, and hosting the talk/music show Spectacle, where he interviewed and played with his peers. He continues to record – his most recent album, The Boy Named If, was released earlier this year – and has settled into the role of elder statesman that his talent earned him long ago.
Costello turns one year elder today, his 68th birthday. We’re celebrating with a collection of the fifty best Elvis Costello covers we could get our hands on. They reflect his wide range of styles, revel in his literacy, plumb his depths. Most of all, they reveal his heart, showing over and over again how his love of song can lift, wrench, open up the people who listen to him and to his music. We hope you find this list as worthy of celebration as Elvis Costello is.
“I usually come in second to Dylan,” Paul Simon once said, “and I don’t like coming in second.” Indeed, he’s had to deal with it literally ever since he was born, in 1941. We already celebrated Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday in May, and today we turn to the man Dylan has called “one of the preeminent songwriters of the times,” Paul Simon, as he hits his own 80th. Simon’s in the rarified air of someone whose songs get covered almost as much as Dylan’s (ugh – second place again), so for this month’s Best Covers Ever, we’re diving into covers of the entire Paul Simon catalog, both solo and with Simon and Garfunkel.
Another thing Dylan once said about Simon, in relation to his own music, is this: “I’m not Paul Simon. I can’t do that. My songs come out of folk music and early rock n’ roll, and that’s it. I’m not a classical lyricist, I’m not a meticulous lyricist. I don’t write melodies that are clever or catchy.”
False modesty aside, Dylan hits on some of what makes Simon’s work so beloved by other musicians. His melodies are clever and catchy. His lyrics are meticulous. In both words and music, Simon can use a little to say a lot. His songs have strong cores, but leave a lot of space for other artists to play around with. So it’s no surprise that the list below spans genres from punk, dance music, gospel, and more. You’ll hear every sound except one: Silence (sorry). No matter how afield the songs roam, though, they still sound like Paul Simon.
So enough talk about Simon being a perennial silver medal winner. His craft and his talent have earned him and his songs a place at the top of the medal podium, and these fifty covers prove it.
So today, a postscript: Covers that came out that year that just scream “2000.” If you were paying attention to music then, you will recognize many of these trends. There’s the ska revival. There’s rap-rock. There are, of course, boy bands.
Smash Mouth and Aaron Carter both make appearances. So do the Vengaboys. Madonna covers “American Pie”; Fred Durst covers Public Enemy. Someone sings a ska cover of “Take On Me” while sitting on the toilet. It was just that sort of year.
To be fair, these covers are not all terrible…but most are. Many were also among the year’s biggest hits, proving that people in the year 2000 exhibited no better taste in music than they did picking a president. And a few you probably didn’t even know were covers in the first place.
Relive your most traumatic memories of music back then below. Bonus hall-of-shame points if the cover has a music video featuring bleached tips or JNCOs.Continue reading »
Last year I did a roundup of the Best Cover Songs of 1996. It was a fun project to retroactively compile one of our year-end lists for a year before Cover Me was born. I wanted to do it again this year, but continuing the twentieth-anniversary theme with 1997 seemed a little boring. Turns out 1997 also featured a bunch of Afghan Whigs covers.
So to mix it up, I decided to go a decade further back and look at 1987. Needless to say, the landscape looked very different for covers. For one, far more of that year’s biggest hits were covers than we saw for 1996. The year had #1 cover hits in Heart’s “Alone,” the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter,” Los Lobos’ “La Bamba,” Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me,” and Kim Wilde’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Plus ubiquitous hits that didn’t quite top the charts, but remain staples of the songs-you-didn’t-know-were-covers lists, Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot” and George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set On You.”Continue reading »