Playlist 22: Top 5 Underground Covers

As a self-proclaimed “music aficionado,” one of my favorite parts of musical exploration is finding new versions of popular songs, especially if the new version is by a new artist. There’s something about underground, up-and-coming artists that excites me. Fresh sounds and new interpretations energize me and spark my interest to learn more.

On top of that, I really enjoy sharing it! Passing that energy along to others and opening up new musical worlds is an extension of our own individual creativity. Connections through music can be really strong, and sharing it with others can help link people together.

℗ 2011 Mercury France, exclusively licenced to Wrasse Records

“Seven Nation Army”
Ben L’Oncle Soul (originally by The White Stripes)

I think this guy is so wild. As the name suggests, Ben L’Oncle Soul is a French singer/songwriter full of soul that is perfectly exemplified in his version of “Seven Nation Army.” French soul music is not something I’m familiar with in the slightest, but if this is any indication of what the genre is like, then I’m down.

I wasn’t a big fan of the original version of this tune when it first came out, which was done by The White Stripes (I think I was a little too young and closed-minded about Jack White’s voice and style back then). I remember hearing this version of the song and having a change of heart, thinking “hmm, that’s actually a pretty cool song.” This remake helped change my mind and come around to original! Maybe you’ll have a similar experience after listening to the French soul man.

© Copyright 2012, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved

“Lonely Boy”
Matt Corby (originally by The Black Keys)

Contrary to my first pick, I dug The Black Key’s version of “Lonely Boy” from the get go. I get this sense of vigor, a sort of aggressive energy from The Black Keys that I really respond to, though I have to admit I don’t know much of their music (note to self: download more of The Black Keys). This cover was sent to me by my favorite Irishman, who out of the blue sent me the video saying he thought I’d like it.

Ahh, music sharing once again.

Isn’t it such an awesome feeling when someone recommends a piece of music that either reminds them of you, or that they think you’ll love? Isn’t it even more awesome when you actually do love it? For me, that signifies a pretty special connection between two people, a level of understanding and communication that transcends every day conversation. As someone who communicates through music, sharing tunes with people creates an extra bond between them and I, even if they aren’t aware of it.

P.S., I need to address Matt Corby’s voice. The smoke, rasp and grit makes me want to fall to the floor with my hand draped across my forehead like someone fainting fair maiden. Either that or stop and drool as I get entranced by his voice. So. Much. Talent.

℗ 2005, 2006 Sony BMG Music Entertainment

“Time After Time”
Quietdrive (originally by Cyndi Lauper)

Time to take a trip down memory lane back to high school and the random band called Quietdrive that remade a quintessential 80’s pop jam.

Pop-punk was my genre, my “thing” as a teenager- especially during high school- so this totally fit into that niche. There’s something about the way this song was reinterpreted that really grabs me. The intro has a cool drum hook which continues to elevate through each verse and chorus. The harmonies that kick in really gear me up for their emphatic delivery, and the bridge is like the peak of energy. Though I wouldn’t say that the lead singer’s voice is super distinct, there’s something piercing about it that tugs at my heart strings a bit.

As for Cyndi, her original version of Time After Time is so tender and genuine, and is interesting in contrast to the newer punk interpretation. It tugs at my heart strings in it’s own way. I don’t even mind the synthesizer in the background!

I also really dig the message of the song. To me, it’s is a simple way of letting someone know you’re there for them. I’m a sucker for a good message of support, what can I say?

℗ 2012 Downtown Records

“No Diggity”
Chet Faker (originally by Blackstreet f/Dr. Dre and Queen Pen)

I bring you: Chet Faker, with perhaps the most distinctly contrasting remake of this Top 5 List. This version of “No Diggity” was introduced to me several years ago. I remember hearing it in the car pausing for a minute until I realized what it was, and saying “Who is this?!” I was stunned, largely because it was almost unrecognizable to me with how different Chet Faker’s version sounds compared to the original.

If you take a listen, the first thing you’ll likely notice is that it’s super chill, and borderline sleepy, but it really has a lot of interesting elements in the background that help keep the groove going. Apparently he falls into a category of music called “trip hop,” which, in short, is an experimental type of music that fuses hip-hop and electronica, and can also incorporate genres like funk, soul, R & B, and house.

I had never heard of trip hop before, but I’m glad that there’s a name for this type of music because I would’ve struggled to identify it on my own. Naturally I’m stoked by this new discovery and intrigued to learn more. If you know of artists who fall into this genre, I’m taking recommendations (leave them in the comments).

℗ 2013 Universal Classics & Jazz

Jamie Cullum (originally by Pharrell f/Jay-Z)

Okay, I know I featured Jamie Cullum a few weeks ago as an ode to my birthday. But as I said, he’s my all time favorite artist, so I genuinely can’t help it if he makes a few appearances in these playlists. To me, he’s fantastic enough to make the exception.

Jamie Cullum does a ton of covers- some of older, more classic songs (see: Wind Cries Mary and I’m Glad There Is You), and some from newer tunes from a variety of genres (see: Don’t Stop The Music and High and Dry). Yes I’m biased, but I think he’s a true visionary for adding a jazz twist to so many different types of music, including “Frontin’.”

Another random mash-up between genres, Jamie’s version of Frontin’ is swanky in a similar, yet different way to Pharrell’s. They both embody a similar laid-back vibe, but have drastically different approaches which is so stellar. I really enjoy it when hip-hop and rap, genres that can be so distinct within themselves, are reinvented and turned into something new altogether. There’s a piano solo in what was originally a rap song, and it totally works.

Weekly Wrap-Up

This week’s writeup was one of my favorites, as it reminds me of one of the things I love so much about music- its ability to be adapted and molded by artists with completely new ideas.

Creativity in interpreting music is so inspiring. Not only does it act as a way to merge genres, but cultures. A musician’s inventiveness can turn songs that may be have been off-putting into something relatable and enjoyable. Or, turn something you loved into something that makes you tilt your head to the side, squint and smirk as you start to open your mind to a new interpretation.

What are your favorite cover songs that are totally different from their originals?
Share your recommendations in the comments at the bottom of the page.

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