Monday, 30th October 2017

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Covers that stand out and mesmerise

Favourites from Simon and Garfunkel to R.E.M.

By Anusha Viswanathan
  • Published 26.03.20, 7:38 PM
  • Updated 26.03.20, 7:38 PM
  • 6 mins read
Simon and Garfunkel (File photo)

The Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel

Cover by Pentatonix

This iconic song is very close to my heart. I have dissected Paul Simon’s haunting lyrics in an attempt to better understand the masterpiece and its historical as well as cultural context. A song that is still so relevant that it’s spine-chilling.

Their harmonies weave in and out of one another seamlessly. I love the bareness of the original arrangement so that the heavy words truly pack the punch they were intended for. It’s very hard for me to appreciate a cover of a song this classically iconic and yet, the soulful a cappella version of this song by Pentatonix really struck a chord. The different textures and tones of the voices of each of the singers add a complex layer to the arrangement, especially considering their voices are the only instrument they are employing. As their five-part harmonies soar through the song’s powerful lyrics, it almost makes me feel like I’m flying. The beatboxing adds an interesting layer to their overall sound. I would really recommend this cover. It definitely stands out, feels different but mesmerises in its own way.

Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey (File photo)

Doin’ Time by Sublime

Cover by Lana Del Rey

This song is yet another groove fest despite its fairly serious subject. It compares being in a relationship with “a cheating girlfriend” to “doin’ time” in prison albeit using rather fun beats. In my opinion, it deflects our attention from the graveness of the situation described but makes us shake our heads nonetheless. This ’90s trip hop reggae number (which samples a version of George Gershwin’s Summertime) has been on my playlist for quite a while and so the recent Lana Del Rey cover of this song really caught my attention.

Her cover has her signature style stamped all over it. The dreamy, melodic yet groovy tunes she loves to dabble in are unmistakable. Even the lyrics so beautifully fit her brand considering the plethora of songs she has written about hopeless devotion to a lover. This cover, therefore, really feels like one of her own songs. I’m quite attached to this soulful version. I think it brings out the emotional aspect of the lyrics even better than the original.

Adam Levine of Maroon 5
Adam Levine of Maroon 5 (File photo)

Memories by Maroon 5

Cover by Boyce Avenue

Maroon 5 is a band I grew up with, so it goes without saying that I love their song about memories, right? I love how the song gets stuck in your head right after the first listen, especially the line, “Memories bring back, memories bring back you”. I particularly love how soothing the pre-chorus is. There is something warm and optimistic about the song that makes me smile... a toast to moments that are happy, sad and everything in between. Another thing that I need not have mentioned but I will anyway, is my soft corner for Adam Levine, so what can I say, it’s a special song!

The Boyce Avenue cover of Memories caught my attention as soon as I heard the violin at the start. Then, it snagged my heart further once I realised it’s an acoustic piano cover. I often lean towards acoustic because it sounds so raw and it’s so much harder to entice an audience with something so stripped back but the impact is insane if one succeeds and that is exactly what this cover achieves. The vocals hold and carry the emotion of the song wonderfully. Their version is absolutely stunning, emotional and soulful.

CCR (File photo)

Have You Ever Seen The Rain? by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Cover by Arthur Gunn

This song would definitely top my rainy afternoon playlist. This massive CCR hit feels unbelievably romantic to me, like a beautiful ode to the rains. I don’t know what it is that makes this song so addictive, perhaps it sticks from the riff at the very beginning or the lyrics or the melodies but I’ve heard this song on repeat so many times.

The chorus is really special. There is something extremely earnest in the way John Fogerty asks the question, Have You Ever Seen The Rain? I heard Arthur Gunn cover a part of this song first at his American Idol audition and I was absolutely blown away. After a little bit of searching, I found his official cover of the song and then began the obsessing. The simplicity of his acoustic cover is rather touching. He really digs into the song with the rough texture of his voice, unaided by any other embellishments except his guitar. It’s a beautiful, pure rendition that everyone should give a listen to.

Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish (File photo)

When The Party’s Over by Billie Eilish

Cover by Lewis Capaldi

The song is almost a plea for goodbye. This song serves as a layered, melodic, confrontation where Eilish effortlessly jumps two entire octaves to underline it. The chorus is especially striking in its softness but lands the blows right where it’s sore.

Lewis Capaldi strips down the song in his cover, and uses strings and keys in his arrangement. His rendition feels very different from that of Eilish’s. He is far more aggressive and uninhibited in his delivery. He tears down all pretences and sings with emotion that seems to make his voice go raw in the higher notes.

The gravel in his voice gave me chills. While there is a beautifully woven set of harmonies and precise lethal notes that serve as the arsenal in the original, the very lack of them along with the full notes in Calpaldi’s version create a blankness that feels like a punch in the gut. His cover of this song, in one word, is haunting.

Postmodern Jukebox
Postmodern Jukebox (File photo)

Wannabe by Spice Girls

Cover by Postmodern Jukebox 

I think everyone knows this song by heart. Especially the way it begins... it’s easily one of the songs that has the catchiest beginnings of all time. Considering it was the debut single of the Spice Girls, it literally translates to them grabbing you by the collar and saying, “You better pay attention to us”. It’s a really fun song that glorifies female friendship without being preachy and that is my favourite part. This internationally chart-topping dance pop number really put Spice Girls on the map. Over the years this song has become quite the symbol. I recently came across a vintage cover of this song by Postmodern Jukebox that is so wildly different from the original yet such a beautiful rendition all the same that I absolutely fell in love with it. The three singers in this cover look like they’re having the time of their lives while effortlessly singing extremely intricate melodies individually and super-tight harmonies together. I could never have imagined, of my own accord, a version of the original to have this flavour. They play with the rhythm and structure of the song while still remaining recognisable as a rendition of the original. Kudos to Postmodern Jukebox for hitting it out of the park yet again.

Portugal. The Man
Portugal. The Man (File photo)

Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man

Cover by Postmodern Jukebox

This extremely catchy number almost forces me to sing and dance along to it. It’s extremely addictive and I can never listen to it just once and be satisfied. When the chorus hits with “Ooh I’m a rebel just for kicks” you cannot help but get your groove on. This chart-topper is an amazing mood-lifter and I recommend it to anyone who wants to just get out of their heads for a bit and dance it out. The Postmodern Jukebox cover of this song establishes a character of its own, incorporating a vintage ’60s vibe. It is languid, soft and sensual without losing the signature catchiness of the original. The three singers harmonise beautifully and lazily stretch out the notes in some parts. The ensemble of instruments completely alter the sound while somehow retaining its spirit. Postmodern Jukebox has created several masterpieces in their renditions of popular songs but this one is among my favourites. It flips the mood of the song to something sexier while keeping all the fun alive.

Michael Stipe of R.E.M.
Michael Stipe of R.E.M. (File photo)

Losing My Religion by R.E.M.

Cover by Molly Parden and Hollow Hum

This 1990s classic was a mammoth hit as it deserved to be and is one of my all-time favourites. This song built on a mandolin riff really conceals the despair written into the lyrics through the uptempo expression of the song. I’d recommend this if you want to listen to something while you’re broken-hearted but don’t want to spiral too far. Having said that, however, this song perfectly suits the feeling of unrequited love that it wishes to convey. The line that is my absolute undoing is, “I think I thought I saw you try/ But that was just a dream.

What I really love about this particular cover is the way it peels off everything barring its essence when it begins. The slow, liquid pace makes us pay attention to the beautiful lyrics.

Soon after, a chorus of strings, the piano and finally an electronic drum beat slowly builds and intensifies the mood of the eerie folk rock rendition of the classic. Molly Parden has a clear, soft, enchanting voice and it’s hard not to get lost in it.