What do Sufjan Stevens and Katy Perry have in common? Well, they both have their roots in the Christian music world for one (Danielson Famile, “Katy Hudson”). And now a second: They’ve both been given terrific covers by Brooklyn singer-songwriter Kelsey Byrne aka VÉRITÉ. When we last heard from her, she was covering Sufjan’s “John, My Beloved” – it made our Best of 2018 list – and now she’s back tackling Perry’s “Teenage Dream.”
Two things strike me as I scan through our list this year. This first is that many of the highest-ranking covers are tributes to recently-deceased icons. No surprise there, I suppose. But none actually pay tribute to artists that died in 2018. They honor those we’ve been honoring for two or three years now – your Pettys, your Princes, your Bowies. Hundreds of covers of each of these legends appeared in the first days after their deaths, but many of the best posthumous covers took longer to emerge.
Good covers take time. That principle – the cover-song equivalent of the slow food movement, perhaps – holds true throughout the list. Sure, a few here appear to have arisen from sudden moments of brilliance, flash-arranged for some concert or radio promo session. But many more reveal months or even years of painstaking work to nail every element. Making someone else’s song one’s own isn’t easy. These 50 covers took the time to get it right.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
Start the countdown on the next page…
In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
I first discovered VÉRITÉ via her insanely catchy pop 2014 song “Weekend.” It was only her second single, and yet I was already late to the party. The first single – “Strange Enough” – reached number one on Hype Machine and landed her as Twitter’s “#1 Most Viral Twitter Artist” of that week. And this was all before anyone knew her real name!
At the end of every year, we work for weeks curating our annual Best of the Year list (here’s last year’s). We’re monitoring what comes out all year though, so this month I thought: why wait? Here’s a more impulsive and spontaneous list, some songs we’ve written about already and others we didn’t get to. Just some great covers that stood out as the month comes to a close.
After several years exploring electronic music, Sufjan Stevens’ 2015 album Carrie & Lowell was a return to form for fans who preferred his earlier folky fingerpicking. And people who liked the dancier direction? Well, now there’s something for them too: VÉRITÉ’s electropop cover of one of those Carrie & Lowell ballads.