The art of the perfect cover song is in transcendence of a genre. It’ll make light into darkness, and absolve overwrought drama of a pop tune into indie-alternative legitimacy.
Here are seven amazing covers – a perfect playlist together, or a worthy addition to any mix.
1. Weezer – Unbreak My Heart (Toni Braxton cover)
Rivers Cuomo rock-emotes until every last note of cheesiness has been stripped away and the legitimately heartbreaking lyrics about a lover leaving shine through.
2. Girl Crisis – The Sign (Ace of Base cover)
Girl Crisis, a fantastic all-female concept troupe, which exists only in online video form and composed of a revolving cast of indie musicians, are arguable the queens of the cover genre. They’ve recorded nine covers of classic songs over the past few years, each flawless.
3. Calico Horse – Idiotheque (Radiohead cover)
Radiohead are no strangers to covering other bands, and Thom Yorke’s version of the Velvet Underground’s I’m Set Free with Beck is absolutely lovely. Calico Horse take on the alternative giant’s apocalyptic EDM anthem and turn it into a dreamy, folksy song for a starry night at the campfire.
4. Devendra Banhart – Doo Wop (That Thing) (Charles Manson/Lauren Hill cover)
Not just cover song, but also a mash-up, featuring Cibelle and Rahzel blew my mind in 2005 – the original, good quality video’s long gone from YouTube (although this audio-only recording remains for now), but this one at Daily Motion, though blurry and pixelated, is worth watching for a glimpse of the sheer fun the musicians were having and the joy of passerbys dancing on the streets of Paris.
5. Prince – Creep (Radiohead cover)
Another absolutely fabulous Radiohead cover, that Prince has gone to incredible lengths to ensure no one ever sees online, taking down every YouTube fan video in existence. Of course, you can’t ever kill anything on the internet, and this epic live version from Coachella 2008 lives on. Bonus: this amazing, sweaty, bar-top, drunk acoustic version by Amanda Palmer on ukulele.
6. Amanda Palmer – Marry Me (St. Vincent cover)
Speaking of Amanda Palmer, she of an entire album of Radiohead covers on ukulele, this beautiful cover of Annie Clark’s poppy single with Reggie Watts beatboxing, and Sxip Shirey, Jason Webley, Meow Meow and a bunch of other performers on stage, singing backup, dancing, and passing out pizza to the audience is everything a live show should be.
7. Say Hi – Kiss Off (Violent Femmes cover)
Eric Elbogen does a brilliant job of modernizing the punk song and making it more complex without taking any of the edge off. The result is haunting and highly addictive.
- White Stripes – One More Cup of Coffee (Bob Dylan cover)
No strangers to the art of the perfect cover song, Jack and Meg have brought new life to a whole catalog of glorious remakes, and this one’s among some of their best work.
- Passion Pit – Tonight Tonight (Smashing Pumpkins cover)
A lightened up, fun version of the 1990s dark alternative classic.
- Ben Folds – Bitches Ain’t Shit (Dr. Dre cover)
Extremely NSFW for practically nonstop-cursing, and ridiculous, chauvinist lyrics. Ben Folds starts slow and dreamy on the piano and builds the song with guitars, drums, and a sing-along that reminds of a real deficiency in modern music – more white guys releasing intensely profanity-ridden indie rock songs, please!