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Between the Covers: Edition 1

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Nelly – “Hot in Herre”

Jenny Owen Youngs covers "Hot in Herre"

Who could forget Nelly’s 2002 hit “Hot in Herre?” It inspired many covers even by non-rap groups (looking at you, Coldplay), including one by miss Jenny Owen Youngs. Youngs adds some fun gender role reversal and cute folk-rock strumming to the otherwise hot and heavy hip hop song. She soothingly suggests “it’s gettin’ hot in here, so take off all your clothes” to a monotonous chorus of men chanting back “I am getting’ so hot, I wanna take my clothes off” (they also cleverly replace “Nelly just fall out” with “Jenny just fall out” in the background of the last verse). Matching the quirkiness of the song, the video takes place in an igloo nightclub where Eskimos, penguins and polar bears join Youngs at the bar. . City High – “What Would You Do?”

Bastille covers "What Would You Do?

At first, the soaring “woh-ohs,” indie harmonies and heavy British accents seem a funny match for American R&B band City High’s “What Would You Do?” from 2001. But when the cliché hip hop lyrics of “Saturday night I was at this real wild party / They had the liquor overflowing the cup / About five or six strippers trying to work for a buck” turn into the urban philosophical question of “What would you do if your son was at home / Crying all alone on the bedroom floor / 'Cause he's hungry / And the only way to feed him is to / Sleep with a man for a little bit of money,” the song comes into its own. Regardless of who is singing, no matter the musical genre or even subject matter, the lyrical response of “Get up on my feet and stop making up tired excuses” is transcendent, life-affirming advice.


Peter Bjorn & John – “Young Folks”

Dawn Landes covers "Young Folks"

Sometimes you really like a song, but if you hear it one more time, you might throw your radio out of the car window. The cure for this predicament of loving a worn-out song? Covers. That’s why I found it refreshing to hear Kentucky-born singer-songwriter Dawn Landes add her own bluegrass swing to Swedish band Peter Bjorn & John’s 2006 indie-pop favorite “Young Folks.” The YouTube video even features the young songstress recording the cover with older male backup singers, personifying the dichotomy of different age groups in the chorus: “And we don't care about the young folks / Talking 'bout the young style / And we don't care about the old folks / Talking 'bout the old style too.”

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