I've been a music junkie ever since I could remember. I'll never forget being four years old and asking my mom to cut the shoulders off of my green sweatshirt so that I could look just like the girl on the cover of the Flashdance album. Isn't imitation the highest form of flattery? When we love something we want to make it our own, somehow. My love and appreciation for the songs from Flashdance clearly made me aspire to sing and dance like a maniac in 1984. Oh, what a feeling...
Recently, I saw the band Horse Feathers do a cover of Nirvana's "Drain You" and fell in love immediately. I'm fascinated with the concept of music evoked nostalgia and I think that is exactly what musicians feel when they've decided to cover another artist's song. There is also something about the old becoming new again for the audience. The mix is comforting, yet has that element of surprise. Needless to say, I was inspired to put together a list of my favorites.
Here are My Top 15 Cover Song Must Haves (In No Particular Order):
1. Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology) by Marvin Gaye
Covered by: The Strokes, Eddie Vedder and Josh Homme
A fresh take on an essential ode to Mother Nature: Sunny with a 99 percent chance of garage grunge- pop explosion. This takes us back to 1971, when Marvin first asked us "How much more abuse from man can she stand?" 43 years later, not much has changed, except for the generation's voice. Eddie and Julian's vocals are a husky, warm and velvety combo, backed up with killer hooks. These cool cats get credit for shedding light on the environment again and doing it for charity.
Fun fact: Vedder once said, "If it's a good cause, I'll play just about anything." Stellar.
2. I Saw Her Standing There by The Beatles
Covered by: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Oh lucky day, two of my favorite bands colliding. The Fab Four revisited with a country, sock-hop twist. The Jade and Alexander duo sing to each other per usual in this adorable rendition. Simple, fun and straightforward, with "stringy strings." My heart went boom when I found this. This takes me back to wearing a gingham skirt and dancing with a boy at an awkward 8th grade dance.
3. Drain You by Nirvana
Covered by: Horse Feathers
Who doesn't want to bring Nirvana back to life? This somewhat does and will tug at your heart strings. The original exhibited raw and animalistic qualities both in lyric and sound. Horse Feathers transforms it with haunting vocals and acoustics. The unexpectedness of an angelic string quartet takes the edge off... It's like meeting Kurt Cobain's innocent, soft spoken, Quaalude popping cousin and chewing his meat for him, because you "like" him.
4. Gin And Juice by Snoop Dogg
Covered by: The Gourds
Wow. Twangy, country, funky-ass sh*^t. Think college and frat-boys-playing-beer pong till six in the morning. It's a crowd pleaser and the instrumental is sick. Rich banjo and violin come in strong... Snoop might drink himself into oblivion and smoke way too much indo trying to understand this ridiculously amusing rendition.
5. Down By The River by Neil Young
Covered by: Puss N Boots
...She could drag me over the rainbow and take me away with this cover. It's hearty and sultry. Chicks who can play the guitar and sing a Neil Young tune? Swoon. Put the guns down. No way you would shoot her dead down by the river with a voice like that. Pairs well with cowboy boots, mason jars and hip shaking.
6. All I Have To Do Is Dream by The Isely Brothers
Covered by: Lauren O'Connell
It's like an angel putting you to sleep. Lovely, seemingly effortless vocals. Put it on repeat and pass out, no ambien necessary. Delicate, lullaby-ish...Only trouble is gee wiz, I'm dreaming my life away...
*Advice: Wake up, find that damn person and taste their lips of wine.
7. Private Eyes by Hall & Oates
Covered by: the bird and the bee
Here's some indie pop for you. Electronic dance sounds back up to an 80's classic, minus the best mustache and mullets of the 80s. I keep picturing Lisa P from Adventureland dancing to this. Or hearing it in the background of a Patrick Bateman, American Psycho scene.
8. Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns N' Roses
Covered by: Taken By Trees
Lots of piano. Awkward, beautiful, uneven voice. I see ballerinas floating...."Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place"...way unlike Axl Rose's weird dreads/ cornrow period. You may however, miss Slash on guitar and of course, Axl's irreplaceable sway.
9. She Said, She Said by The Beatles
Covered by: The Black Keys
Beatles gone blues. I didn't recognize it at first. This cover is like being in a sea of flannel listening to your best friends rocking out in a garage. Really digging this rendition for it's rugged, manly, grittiness. One tambourine, please. A few butt slaps, thank you. Pairs nicely with whisky and hipsters.
10. 99 Problems by Jay-Z
Covered by: Hugo
I got 99 problems but finding a country rendition to Jay-Z ain't one. This is hillbilly- fun-loving overload. Accentuation at it's finest. Insert drawl.
Fun fact: Hugo asked Jay-Z around 2am, (after he had enough drinks in him) "So I was thinking about doing '99 Problems' with a banjo. You're okay with that right?" He looked at me for a second, smiled and said, "Go for it, man."
11. Dire Wolf by The Grateful Dead
Covered by: Nicki Blume and The Gramblers
A Jerry lovers/ camp fire/ road trip MUST. It's charming. They had me at "van sessions".... Nikki's voice is impeccable, perfect like a songbird and these dudes kill it.
Bonus fun fact: I spoke with Deren Ney (rad guy playing the electric guitar) and here's what he had to say, " I hope Jerry would like it, sure. I think he would dig the mix of musicality and humor. As goofy as the videos are, it's clear how respectfully we approach the songs. We aren't just drinking beer and loosely jamming a song. Actually, we are drinking beer." Tightly done on a buzz. What a gem.
12. Addicted To Love by Robert Palmer
Covered by: Florence and The Machine
Florence decided that in fact, we are all addicted to love and I dig the reverse/ chick take on this song. It's sexy, sultry and seductive. Starts off slow and quiet with lingering vocals and a magical harp. The beat comes in and all of a sudden she captures you in a trance like a siren. Now... if we could just add those back up babes with the bushy eyebrows, red lips and slicked back hair from the original Robert Palmer video to this version, it would be serendipity.
Fun fact: none of them knew how to play an instrument anyway. #EyeCandyOnly
13. Handle With Care by The Traveling Wilburys
Covered by: Jenny Lewis, Ben Gibbard, Conor Oberst and M. Ward
What a classic to cover. The Wilburys were a supergroup; some pretty big boots to fill, but these new cats handled it with care. Here's a beautiful indie-folk-rock clusterf*ck of newer talent. It's as sweet, up-beat and adorable as Jenny Lewis herself, with an exceptional supporting cast to lean on. M.Ward's voice is dreamy and the cherry on top.
Fun fact: the original lyrics are "I've been fobbed off and I've been fooled" but Jenny changed it to "fucked off and I've been fooled." I bet Bob Dylan would appreciate that.
14. Crazy by Gnarls Barkley
Covered by: Ray Lamontagne
Totally unexpected. This acoustic version is practically unrecognizable. Ray took the fun out of Barkley's original and is trying to rip your hearts and guts out. Success. It's intense, raspy, raw, heart wrenching and asking the wailing question: Does that make me crazy? Yup. Ray, bless your soul for taking this song to a whole new level.
15. Pursuit Of Happiness by Kid Cudi
Covered by: Lissie
Covered in gold... and a bit of tequila. Lissie is a spirited bad-ass, channeling a new age She-ra: sassy, vibrant, empowering and pretty damn convincing. One word: lungs. Three more words: Sorry not sorry. Living life to the fullest, it's what we all want, right? It sucks sometimes, but "F*ck that," you'll figure it out. Add this to your workout mix, girls. (However, a very cool dude introduced me to this one, so don't be shy guys).