The heavy-metal band/talk show group Two Minutes to Late Night, covers The Smith’s”This Charming Man” in their latest video. It was pretty gutsy for them to take this tune by the ever-popular English rock band and make it go punk. And this wasn’t just a Two Minutes cover. My Chemical Romance member Frank Lero (guitar, backup vox) also took the stage, along with Nestor Chumak of Canadian rock band PUP, and comedian David Wain on drums.
The 1984 original is grooving, indie, and Beachy, whereas Morrissey’s vocals are emotive and melodic. While it’s difficult to derive much meaning upon first listen, the song is actually a story from the first-person perspective about a man who gets a flat tire on the hillside. Then, a man driving an expensive car drives by and offers him a ride. That all being said, the tune is much deeper than that: The original was intended to reach gay audiences, and showcase the softer side of masculinity.
This new version is driving, catchy, and angsty. Its yell-singing, standard punk beat, and distorted guitar are certainly a contrast to the original. That being said, the lead vocals harken back to that British indie-rock original ever so slightly.
“Station to Station,” the title track from his 10th album, is David Bowie’s longest song. It introduced Bowie’s latest character, The Thin White Duke, and marked a return to artier music after the flirtation with Philly Soul on Young Americans. There’s still soul in Bowie’s music at this point, but now it’s weird.Continue reading »
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.
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.
While going back through the hundreds of new covers I’ve amassed in preparation for our upcoming Best Covers of 2020 list, I noticed a micro-trend: Heavy metal covers of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Trend” were big this year. So let’s rank three of ’em.