Covers are one of those things that, like interviews and live performances, bring artists and their fans together by way of their common love for music. While they can serve as a nice buffer between album cycles, covers allow certain songs and legacies to transcend time, exposing a younger generation to the gems of the past. I believe in covers and can confidently name a dozen that are just as good (if not better) than their predecessors. So, without further ado, here’s a list of five covers to add to your roster and inspire future debates.
Let’s start off strong with Lianne La Havas' cover of “Weird Fishes”, a song the British singer once mentioned to be her “favorite song ever.” This cover is a great example of an artist taking a well-loved song, acknowledging all the things that make it great, and adding their own touch to it, perhaps enhancing its beauty in the process. The first few bars of the track are reminiscent of the original until it switches gears into a medium-slow swing, giving her room to slowly lure you into the experience. Halfway through the second verse the song opens up, revealing a beautifully hazy sea of harmonies, washing away any prospects of dismissing this cover as anything short of greatness. The bridge acts as a safe haven offering a moment of stillness (a calm before the storm, if you will) before the grand finale, where her vocals shine in all their lustrous glory bringing you back to shore wanting more.
I wouldn't go as far as to say that this cover is necessarily better than the original. However, it fine-tunes the lyrical tone of the song, complimenting the forbidden longing expressed in the soul classic. Chaka Khan is an icon; nobody can take that away from her, but there’s just something about Dijon’s cover that makes it almost indispensable after the first listen.
Courtesy of Chaka’s charismatic vocals and the funky instrumentation, the original portrays this overwhelming feeling of want and desire in a very self-assured way. Yet, sung from Dijon’s lips, the longing is amplified, giving off the vibe that he is baring his heart and soul into this confession. It’s all about the little details, like the small gasps and sighs scattered around the track, building up to his gut-wrenching proclamation as he sings, “You are my heat, you are my fire / You make me weep with strong desire,” convincing you of the urgency behind each verse.
Sade’s song “All About Our Love” is the definition of a rainy, sunny day. It checks off all the right boxes, from the delicate guitars and comforting lyrics to her inviting vocals, offering a shoulder to lean on for emotional support. I’d say there’s nothing missing, but Mapache would beg to differ. The folk-rock duo stripped down the song and gave it the western treatment with the welcomed addition of a crooning steel guitar solo (which also happens to be my biggest weakness). Although this cover does not completely overshadow the original, it’s enough to serve as a gate-way into the duo’s discography, and certainly more than enough of a reason to revisit Sade’s Lovers Rock.
I never really thought I’d need a cover of this 90s classic. To be fair, the one I had heard at the time was through this low-quality recording a friend had filmed at a Calpurnia concert (back when the band was still together and opening for Mac Demarco). The cover wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was enough to put me off the idea of entertaining another in the near future. It wasn’t until I was recently reminded of Tkay Maidza’s synth-pop masterpiece that I reconsidered the possibility.
Fundamentally, the cover stays true to its roots while she simultaneously flips it over its head, repurposing it into a post-apocalyptic, synth-heavy reprise. Contributing to the long-lasting legacy of the song, Maidza created an instant Gen Z classic sure to soundtrack many Fight Club edits to come.
To finish off on a high note, Yebba’s rendition of John Mayer’s song “The Age of Worry” is probably one of the most impressive covers on this list. Gracefully adopting it as her own, the talented vocalist completely rejuvenated the track, somehow reawakening Mayer’s beast with a newfound purpose.
There’s a certain trend in the ever-expanding universe of covers where artists strip down songs to make them seem more personal. Yebba, however, took the opposite route adding strings and elongating a pre-existing key change, allowing the song to soulfully flourish to its full potential. While creating a cover that seamlessly blends into her previous album Dawn, she accomplished what I believe Marvin Gaye once achieved with his cover of The Beatles “Yesterday,” perfection.