Last weekend, CMT broadcast “A Celebration of the Life and Music of Loretta Lynn” at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House. A host of country music royalty turned up to play her songs, from veteran industries stars like George Strait and Tanya Tucker to newer outlaws like The Highwomen and Margo Price. Jack White sang “Van Lear Rose,” off the album of the same name he produced for Lynn in 2004. Keith Urban busted out a banjo-guitar for “You’re Lookin’ at Country,” Lynn’s 1971 hit. Strait tackled early chart-topper “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).” Her tracks pushing at the conservative country establishment got airings too: Price performed the pioneering birth control song “The Pill” – a song the Opry, where this show took place, once tried to ban – and Darius Rucker (of all people) performed the feminist anthem “Fist City.”
‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
There was a time in this blog’s lifespan where a shocking percentage of the covers landing in our inbox and RSS feeds were of Lady Gaga songs. It only lasted a couple years, but for a minute there Gaga was doing Beatles numbers. Hell, even relatively minor singles like “Marry the Night” would dominate the covers world for weeks after people heard them.
As Gaga’s entered the Vegas-residency stage of her career, her new songs don’t get covered as often. But even still, there seems to be a respect from other musicians not afforded all her pop-star peers. A Katy Perry chart flop will get ignored. A Gaga chart flop will still likely land a few interesting covers.
Though the songs were never as weird as the outfits were, there was always some unexpected twist for other musicians to play with, from the rolled r’s of “Bad Romance” to the goofy theatricality of “Alejandro” to the best stuttering since “My Generation” (“pa-pa-pa-pokerface,” “stop telephoning me-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh”). Plus, even after a few years in the wilderness, everyone knew any minute she could return with a “Shallow.”
In our list of 30 covers below, all those big hits show up plenty. But even the more recent songs and album cuts make appearances. Lady Gaga’s songs are sturdy enough to remain infectious whether they’re performed as gothic metal or throwback rockabilly. See for yourself below.
The list begins on Page 2.
The previous supergroups we’ve featured for Supergroup Week have been members of other bands, forming a new band with musicians based on their musical networks. This sometimes is a natural progression: band dynamics cause groups to fracture and leave members looking for a new team to create music with. Friends from a musical past-life join others that they’ve jammed with at some point to try something new. This time around, we have solo artists joining forces. This suggests a longing to collaborate and be part of a bigger musical effort. We also switch genres, from rock to country & western with some outlaw flair. The supergroup networks are still strong in the ’80s, often first marked by solo artists covering others’ work that they admired, and their legacies sparked new supergroups in the ’10s.
In 2019, Cover Me wrote about more new covers than in any year in our 12-year history. I know; I checked the numbers. Our News team wrote amazing stand-alone stories on sometimes tight deadlines, adding context and research beyond “here’s a new cover” quickie. Plus, we rounded the best of the best into monthly 30+ lists, and added even more for supporters of our new Patreon. Even our Features team, who ostensibly couldn’t care less whether a cover came out last month or last century, seemed to be constantly finding new things to slip into their deep dives.
The point here is not to toot our own horn… well, that’s not entirely the point. What I want to do is emphasize just how high the bar to appear on this list has been set. Calling these covers great almost does them a disservice. There were way more than 50 great covers in 2019. In fact, we’ve already got 150 more bonus tracks lined up for Patreon supporters (which, I know I mention it a lot, but it’s how we keep this site afloat, so please consider supporting us if you like what we do). Honestly, we could throw all of the above in the trash and still come up with a pretty impressive batch of 2019 covers. But these 50 below – these are the cream of the crop, the belles of the ball, the toppermost of the poppermost.
You won’t agree. I guarantee it. As you go through this list, there will be at least one cover you hate. Maybe more than one. And if you followed cover news yourself this year, you’ll probably be outraged when a personal favorite placed too low, or didn’t make it at all. Great! That’s the beauty of these lists: It’s all opinion. Extremely educated opinions in our cases – I can pretty much guarantee that we collectively listened to more 2019 covers than any other site out there – but opinions nevertheless. So dive in and discover something new. Then help us discover something new by adding your own favorites in the comments.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
Country supergroup The Highwomen are wielding some killer harmonies and fierce lyrics as they tour in support of their upcoming self titled album due out September 6th. For the soundtrack for the movie The Kitchen, a high stakes drama about an all female gangster organization, the quartet performed a powerful rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”. They’ve since covered it a couple times live: at a recent visit to Howard Stern’s SiriusXM show and again sitting in a circle backstage at Jimmy Fallon’s show a few days ago – with Fallon himself. Both live versions also feature an uncredited Jason Isbell on guitar.