Barbara Covers Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” While this song has been pursued by more popular artists like Lissie, whose cover earned praise from Kid Cudi himself on his official website, let’s not forget the lesser known artists’ take on the alt hip hop hit. Electro pop California trio Barbara laces the electronic vibes on the original (produced by Ratatat and featuring vocals by MGMT) with folky singing and instrumentation. Between Kid Cudi’s lyrics and Iron & Wine's “The Trapeze Swinger” in the background, classically trained pianist Derek Stephens and hip-hop producer Frank Eybsen tie together their seemingly opposite influences quite well – this despite the group’s confession on their website that the cover was a product of “boredom/drinking.”
Calexico and Jim James Cover Bob Dylan’s “Going to Acapulco” The soundtrack to I'm Not There, the 2007 Bob Dylan biopic, is practically flawless – and this song is a personal favorite of mine, and of most Jim James fans out there. The My Morning Jacket singer even sounds a bit like Nashville Skyline-era Dylan (“Lay Lady Lay,” “Girl from the North Country”) on this Basement Tapes song. James’ high and lonesome vocals are beautifully backed by the full alt-country sound of Calexico, complete with majestic horn section and acoustic guitar strums.
Cake Covers Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive" This 1996 alt rock cover of a 1978 disco anthem (written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris and performed by Gloria Gaynor) has stood the test of time, with over 4 million YouTube views and counting in 2012. Cake altered the song with the band’s signature almost-spoken vocals, trumpet outbursts and distorted guitar riffs – along with changing "I should have changed that stupid lock" to "I should have changed my f*cking lock" and "I'm not that chained up little person" to "I'm not that stupid little person…” While the addition of profanity made this cover Gloria Gaynor’s least favorite version of the original she made popular, the song’s accompanying video of frontman John McCrea writing parking tickets to happy couples while singing puts it in the running as my favorite.
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