Dec 182020
 

Follow all our Best of 2020 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

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.

– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief

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Oct 262020
 
miley cyrus covers

In 2020, Miley Cyrus has spent lockdown reinventing herself, unleashing new old-school rockstar personal on her recent performances on MTV Unplugged and the Save our Stages Festival on Youtube. She covered a whopping seven songs over both performances – five in Unplugged and two in the SOS performance, her choices signaling her current touchstones. Continue reading »

Jan 242019
 
vic mensa zombie cover

Remember when Lil Wayne decided to become a rock and roll guitar hero, despite clearly not knowing how to play the guitar? Or, before that, Ice-T first ditched rap in his metal band Body Count? There’s a new name to add that list: rising rapper Vic Mensa, who has just debuted a new alt-rock band with a heavy cover of the Cranberries’ “Zombie.” Continue reading »

Jan 172019
 
hannah georgas covers cranberries

It’s been a few years since Hannah Georgas released her last full length album For Evelyn, but the Canadian singer-songwriter has finally returned with an EP of cover songs called Imprints. The first song available from the new album is Georgas’ cover of “No Need to Argue” by The Cranberries.

Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius join Georgas to transform the song into a 1980s brat pack break up moment. With an easy drum machine beat, synth, sound effects, and luscious harmonies, the effect is decidedly lighter than The Cranberries’ solemn and slow dirge. Continue reading »

Sep 182018
 
dawn zombie

Music of the mid-1990’s can get stuck between “oldies” and “contemporary,” but few chosen hits from that period remain timely and relevant to life in the present tense. “Zombie” by The Cranberries is one of them.

This catchy, nod-your-head tune is a message of protest against war and violence. It’s hard to recreate the ache and irony in Dolores O’Rordian’s voice without coming off downright angry and dark, like this heavy metal style cover by Leo & Stine Moracchioli. But a Haitian Creole singer Dawn Richard (known as DAWN) delivers a light and fresh take on the song in her new cover. Continue reading »

Jul 022018
 
cover songs june
Andrew Combs – Reptila (The Strokes cover)


The Strokes’ Is This It songs have been covered to death, so musicians are digging deeper. We heard a killer Angles cover in April from Billie Eilish (more on her in a minute), and now singer-songwriter Andrew Combs takes on this Room on Fire track. His own music leans Nashville Americana, but from the crazy horns here, sounds like he’s been spending time in New Orleans. Continue reading »