Between the Covers
The Boy Least Likely To Covers George Michael's “Faith”
In this toned-down version of “Faith,” a British indie pop duo from the 2000s covers one half of a British dance pop duo from the 1980s. Instead of toe-tappingly cheesy ‘80s vibes encapsulated in the original video (where Michael stands against a Wurlitzer jukebox in skinny jeans and a leather jacket, opposite a face-less, torso-less leggy woman in color-changing heels), there are understated breathy vocals, acoustic strums, handclaps and banjo and xylophone jams. This simple reconstruction of an already catchy song should serve as a model for those who still think “cover” means “strain yourself to out-do a perfectly good original.” And adding a banjo is usually a good call, too (when done right).
Sara Bareilles Covers Beyoncé's “Single Ladies”
While some songs are perfect the way they are, there’s something to be said for other artists completely reinterpreting a song to make it their own; Sara Bareilles told Billboard in an interview after performing Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” that this is one of her favorite things to do with covers. And she does it with a wink and a smile, paying homage to the original while adding her own doo-wop piano diddy and minimal instrumentation. Bareilles effortlessly follows Beyoncé’s vocal rises and dips, from her exotic exploration of half-steps that leaves audiences in silence (“like a ghost I’ll be gone”), only to start up again on buoyant “woh oh oh, oh oh oh oh ohs,” which Bareilles takes some freedom on with male back-up singers. All and all, the song captures that playful girlish spirit visible in Beyoncé’s last surrendering smile after some intense workout-dancing at the end of her “Single Ladies” video.
Calexico Covers Love's “Alone Again Or”
As a band of the 1960s and '70s, Love had a diverse blend of garage, psych and folk rock - so it’s only fitting that a band like Calexico would add yet another dimension to that sound with Latin-inspired alt-country appropriate for Calexico’s hybrid namesake (a border town in California, right above Mexico). Calexico’s cover actually sounds a lot like the original, but with just enough modern touch of alternative drums and instrumentation to keep things interesting. Good choice to keep the horns in, though – they add an ironically heroic quality to otherwise dejected lyrics about waiting and loneliness in spite of and because of all the free love in the late 1960s.