Oct 312022
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

For someone who exuded so much snarl and toughness (“Hit Me with Your Best Shot”), you’d think Pat Benatar’s model was Joan Jett, say, or Suzi Quatro. Actually, it was hearing Liza Minnelli that inspired Benatar to give up her day job and give the music business her best shot. And a pretty impressive shot it was: Benatar enters the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this week.

Her timing was as striking as her voice. The singer’s rise coincided perfectly with the era of MTV. In fact, Benatar’s “You Better Run” was the first video by a solo artist that the channel ever played. True, she was well on her way to fame and fortune with her pre-MTV releases–she was already a radio star, in other words. But Benatar had the physicality, the charisma, and the work ethic to take full advantage of the new format.

We are looking at “Love is a Battlefield,” one of the singer’s best sellers. Unlike “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” her very best seller, Benatar is still willing to sing “Battlefield” today. The song also represents a pivot away from her early hard rock sound towards softer and more atmospheric material. In the ’90s she would shift gears again, to a blues and R’n’B focus.

While Benatar wrote some of her own hits, “Battlefield” wasn’t one of them. Holly Knight and Mike Chapman get the writing credit. Knight wrote another of Benatar’s hits, “Invincible,” as well as great material for Tina Turner, Bonnie Tyler, and others. Chapman, for his part, is famous mostly as a producer, most notably on the “Chinnichap” recordings of the ’70s and the breakthrough Blondie records. He also produced Benatar’s first album and at least one of her later recordings.

“Battlefield” may not be Benatar’s most popular song, but it’s by far the most covered song in her catalog. We found a few versions that standout from the field. Of these…
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Nov 062020
 

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

depeche mode covers

Way back in January, we polled our Patreon supporters to see which 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee they wanted to see get the “Best Covers Ever” treatment. Depeche Mode won, so we started planning our schedule to get it ready in advance of the big induction ceremony on March 24.

Then…you know.

Tomorrow, many months later, the Rock Hall is finally hosting some sort of ceremony – remotely, of course – and we’ve been honoring each artist all week with covers features: Whitney Houston, Notorious B.I.G., The Doobie Brothers, T. Rex, and Nine Inch Nails. Now, many months after we expected to post it, the grand finale: The 25 Best Depeche Mode Covers Ever. Continue reading »

Apr 302020
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best cover songs april 2020
Arlo Parks – Redondo Beach (Patti Smith cover)


I’ve wanted to do a “Full Albums” on Patti Smith’s Horses for years. But it, and she, gets covered less than you’d think. This beautiful piano “Redondo Beach” gets me one step closer. Though, admittedly, I already had Courtney Barnett’s recent cover for that slot. Someone cover “Break It Up” already! Continue reading »

Apr 142020
 
live-from-home covers

It’s a strange circumstance: What has been awful for humanity at large has been pretty good for the world of cover songs. Even we would say that’s a terrible trade-off!

Nevertheless, we’ve been grateful that so many musicians have taken to Facebook, Instagram, etc to share their music and, in many cases, cover favorite songs that are helping get them through. So, for the fourth time and certainly not the last, we’re rounding up some of the best we’ve seen recently and encouraging you to add your own below.

One note: There are some obvious names you won’t see here. John Prine. Bill Withers. Adam Schlesinger. Kenny Rogers. So many wonderful covers are emerging to pay tribute to artists no longer with them that we’ll be rounding them up separately. We did the first set for Prine here. Continue reading »

Mar 192020
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

violator

You Want it Darker, the title of Leonard Cohen’s farewell album of 2016, might also have made an appropriate moniker for Depeche Mode’s 1990 release, Violator. The British synthpop group had grown steadily in popularity since signing to the independent Mute label in 1980, even to the point of selling out the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena (over 90,000 seats) in 1988. Yet it was when they took a more direct approach to the subjects of guilt, sin, sexual obsession, and inner torment on their seventh LP that they truly achieved a mass audience. This involved selling three million copies in the US and 15 million worldwide, in the glow of the indomitable hit singles “Personal Jesus” and “Enjoy the Silence.”

Today marks 30 years since the release of Depeche Mode’s bleak, unit-shifting masterpiece, one of the most influential records of the ’90s, and one that made #342 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of all Time in 2012. The breadth of artists who’ve covered its songs is testimony to the album’s impact. These artists span an unimaginable variety of genres on an international scale, and they provide ample justification for the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.
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Feb 212020
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Strange Little Girls

Wham, Steely Dan, Bette Midler, Bill Withers, Rihanna, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Eagles, the Stones – Tori Amos has covered ’em all, and anyone and everyone left in between. (OK, maybe except maybe boybands – it wouldn’t surprise me if she tackled, say, “Back For Good” at least somewhere live, but I couldn’t find it in the pages and pages and pages of YouTube Tori Covers links.) Not necessarily successfully every time, it’s true, but always challengingly and usually well worth the ride.

Despite this evident love for the songs of others, Amos has officially issued only the one covers project, such is her own prolific muse, with well over a dozen discs of her own. (There’s also Midwinter Graces, a festive album with several traditional songs, and Night of Hunters, reimagining several classical pieces of inspiration to her over her years, but they don’t really count as cover albums.) Strange Little Girls, which came out in 2001, had a specific intent. Rather than a outpouring of personal favorites, this was a procession of songs delineating a masculine view of the world. By men and about men. With Amos’s acknowledged feminist opinions and activism, this was a deliberate stance, with the aim of subverting them and offering a female perspective thereto.
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