1989 was a crucial time in my musical education. At age 11, I was several months into taking drum lessons when my teacher asked me a loaded question: “What drummers do you listen to?” Given that it was the ‘80s and I was deeply enthralled with metal, I rattled off a list of big-haired, double-bass drum playing thunder gods, including Anthrax’s Charlie Benante. My teacher, in what was likely a well-rehearsed speech, quickly rattled off a list of drummers I should be listening to including: Neil Peart of Rush, Bill Bruford of Yes, session drummer Steve Gadd and jazz masters Billy Cobham and Art Blakey. All great drummers, who I’ve been listening to for years – the fact that I can still rattle off the list 31 years after the fact is telling.
Alt-J, Grouplove, more – Shelter from the Storm (Bob Dylan cover)
Brandon Flowers has always worn his love and fandom for the artists that have influenced him on his sleeve. He and The Killers have performed countless covers of his particular idols over the years, and his speech inducting The Cars into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018 was genuinely moving. Flowers and bandmate Ronnie Vannucci Jr. played a short set on CBS This Morning’s Saturday Sessions last week and, in addition to performing two new tracks. threw in a cover of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ snarling, gloriously pent-up anthem “The Waiting.”
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
Angie McMahon – Knowing Me, Knowing You (ABBA cover)
It comes too late for our Best ABBA Covers countdown, but Angie McMahon’s low-simmer version of “Knowing Me, Knowing You” would make a worthy addition. Though it comes coated in a layer of rock grit, the band’s vocal harmonies stand up to the Swedes. And just wait for Angie McMahon’s cover-closing holler.
Alt-Country trio Puss N Boots (Norah Jones, Catherine Popper, and Sasha Dobson) have been relatively quiet since their debut album No Fools, No Fun, released in 2014. The end of 2019 is seeing a flurry of activity from the edgy ladies, though, with two notable covers and a brand new EP. As a tribute to Tom Petty on his birthday, the trio released their version of “Angel Dream”.