A cover song can go wrong so quickly; there’s a fine line to tow between X Factor and excellent. I’ve gathered my pick of cover songs from this year, including some unexpected pop gems and a funk take on an indie-rock favourite.
10. Vampire Weekend – Fight For This Love (Cheryl Cole)
I couldn’t get into the original version of this song. I just couldnt find the hook, which I presume is the key to any great pop song. I was clearly blind because Vampire Weekend are all over it. Ezra Koenig’s voice is smooth and perfectly suited. The drummer looks like a beast of a man, but he knows how to keep a beat.
9. Florence & The Machine – Addicted To Love (Robert Palmer)
I have strong childhood memories of watching the video clip to this song repeatedly, on a videotaped compilation of Video Hits music clips my dad had recorded over time. Thus I’ve always had a soft spot for Palmer. Florence does the song immeasurable justice – and for those keeping score, I know this was technically a 2009 release in Australia, but internationally it was 2010 so I’m taking the loophole for what’s it worth.
8. Jimmy Fallon (as Neil Young) & Bruce Springsteen – Whip My Hair (Willow Smith)
There are so many levels of comic hilarity to appreciate in this cover. You must watch the video to fully comprehend the impressive Neil Young impersonation Fallon has perfected. Plus getting The Boss to growl ‘I whip my hair back and forth’ always adds gravitas.
7. Cee-Lo Green – No One’s Gonna Love You (Band Of Horses)
I adore the original version of this song, it’s pretty much the soundtrack to every self-pitying sad sack moment I’ve experienced. I read it being described as an ‘indie prom anthem’ elsewhere, but Green takes it to a completely different world, that of dance funk. It’ll have people pounding the dancefloor if nothing else.
6. Hurts – Confide In Me (Kylie Minogue)
Hurts take Kylie’s sensually promiscuous hit song and turn it into a soaring love song for the broken hearted. Theo Hutchcraft is solemn but serene in his vocal delivery, and when his voice booms out the chorus you can’t help but shiver.
5. Cloud Control – Pursuit Of Happiness (Kid Cudi)
I’m not really a fan of Cloud Control, no disrespect to what they do, but I’ve never been compelled to listen. They performed this Kid Cudi cover on Triple J’s Like A Version and it blew me away. The harmonies are seamless, breathing a folkish air into hip-hop.
4. First Aid Kit – When I Grow Up (Fever Ray)
First Aid Kit are developing a bit of a reputation for cover songs, after being discovered on YouTube with their version of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song. This song is a perfect match for their yin/yang vocals and accents. They take the acoustic route on an electronic soundscape in mesmerising fashion.
3. Warpaint – Ashes To Ashes (David Bowie)
There are a lot of Bowie covers in the world. So what makes this one special? It’s just the feeling evoked listening to Emily Kokal’s weaving vocals taking on the classic lyrics. As if that bass line won’t have you hitting repeat.
2. Foals – One (Your Name) (Swedish House Mafia)
What takes a catchy dance song to indie pop heights? Have Foals come in and perform a multi-instrumental version that brings in a cacophony of sounds to form an overwhelming pulsing beat. Yannis runs circles around Pharrel Williams original vocals and they set it alight at the end in suitably climatic fashion.
1. Gorillaz – Crystalised (The XX)
The Damon Albarn lovefest on this blog continues with this unexpectedly tender cover of the 2010 Mercury Prize winners The XX’s Crystalised. It’s so simply recreated but the tenderness in Albarn’s gravel voice and sympathetic backing from Daley prove it to be bigger than the sum of its parts.