Nov 022020
 
baha men

On Friday, we published a massive list of the 50 best cover songs from the year 2000. Some were emblematic of that year’s musical trends, but most could just as easily have come out yesterday.

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 »

May 272020
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Reneé Dominique

Reneé Dominique grew up in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. She has become quite the YouTube sensation over the years. Since she started her channel in 2013 she has amassed over a million subscribers. Known for her guitar and ukulele covers, she also performs original work (including a single with Jason Mraz).

Domique brings an easy listening style to a variety of both classic and modern tunes. Like most YouTubers do, she records many of her songs indoors. However, in some of her videos she brings us a taste of the outdoors by accompanying her uplifting sound with some fun scenery. We’ll take a listen to a subset of her collection, a mix of oldies and more contemporary songs, and live vicariously through her past travels.

Continue reading »

Feb 272020
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

smokey robinson covers

The story goes that Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson “America’s greatest living poet.” Not so, it turns out, but it sure seems like something he would say – it sounds a note of contrariness, but it also has the ring of truth.

Smokey Robinson turned 80 this month, and his legacy as one of the architects of the Motown sound has long been assured. Not only did he have a silken falsetto that conveyed sunshine and rain with equal ease, he also wielded a pen with a similar level of genius. Whether writing for The Miracles, the band that he led throughout the sixties, or the other members of the Motown stable, he came up with songs that became not just a part of music history, but a part of our nation’s history. As Smokey said, the Motown slogan was not “The Sound of Black America,” but “The Sound of Young America,” and that sound has rung down through the corridors of time as surely as the sound of the Liberty Bell.

No further proof is needed than the number of covers of Smokey’s songs – covers of his own recordings or covers of the original recordings by The Temptations or Marvin Gaye or the many other singers who benefited from his pen. His voice has spoken to other artists for decades, and when those artists tell us what he told them, those songs are just as fresh as they were the day he first set them down. We found thirty superlative covers of songs that Smokey wrote and/or sang, but, as we could have found thirty great recordings of “My Girl” alone, we know we’ve missed a few along the way. Whether you’re steamed at what we missed, or excited to discover what we found, we can agree on one thing: Smokey Robinson is one of the all-time greats, and we’re fortunate to have the privilege to listen to the songs he wrote for the rest of our lives.

– Patrick Robbins, Features Editor

The list starts on Page 2.

Aug 022019
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Edwin Starr War Temptations

Most know “War,” the anti-Vietnam protest song, by its distinctive and aggressive opening. After a drum roll, Edwin Starr launches into soulful protest: “War, huh, yeah / What is it good for / Absolutely nothing.” Hearing his hurt and anger, you can understand why the song resonated with the anti-war sentiment of the times. Throughout, Starr mixes singing with screaming, matching the tone of the wailing electric guitar and the occasional sassy saxophone lick. Starr’s powerful voice can stand up to the at times cacophonous instrumental accompaniment. The lyrics are not subtle, and Starr emphasizes each line without apology: “Induction then destruction / Who wants to die?”

The song was a massive success; it was even inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Its message remains potent, its obvious political statement inspiring near-continual controversy nearly half a century after its release. For example, after the September 11th attacks, Clear Channel Communications put “War” on a list of songs to be avoided for radio. However, it is thanks to the political nature of the lyrics that Edwin Starr got the chance to record the song in the first place. 

Continue reading »

Oct 092018
 
oates weir

History has been kind to the legacies of perceived second-bananas John Oates and Bob Weir. In a recent comedy special, Chris Rock noted how Oates deserves just as much credit as Daryl Hall for their long running partnership. “I don’t know what Oates does,” Rock quipped. “But Hall never had a hit record without him.” Similarly, Weir was always perceived to be second to Jerry Garcia during the lifespan of the the Grateful Dead. But in the two decades since Jerry’s death he has played an essential role in keeping the spirit of the band alive.

Oates and Weir recently teamed up during an Oates solo performance at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California. It was an encore of their previous pairing at the venue in 2015. Weir blends in so well with Oates’ band that one hopes they make a habit out of this.

Continue reading »

Jun 152018
 
best cover songs 1978

Welcome to the third installment in our Best Cover Songs of Yesteryear countdown, where we act like we were compiling our usual year-end list from a year before we – or the internet – existed. Compared to the first two, this one has significantly less grunge than 1996 and less post-punk than 1987. It’s hard to have post-punk, after all, before you have punk, a new genre starting to hit its peak in 1978. And don’t forget the other big late-’70s sound: disco. Both genres were relatively new, and super divisive among music fans. Lucky for us, both genres were also big on covers.

Disco, in particular, generated some hilariously ill-advised cover songs. We won’t list them all here – this is the Best 1978 covers, not the Most 1978 covers. If you want a taste (and think carefully about whether you really do), this bonkers take on a Yardbirds classic serves as a perfect example of what a good portion of the year’s cover songs looked and sounded like: Continue reading »