If you follow my blog regularly then you may remember that back in January 2015 I posted an article about my thoughts on cover versions, which then spurred me on to post my ‘Top 6 Favourite Covers’, as part of my ‘Journaling in January’ series. As I said in my previous ‘Top 6’, I’m a sucker for a really good cover; I love it when an artist can breathe new life into a song and transform it. It’s hard to take a track people already know and attempt to re-write people’s perceptions of it and make it good. It’s easy to make a bad cover, it’s harder to make one that rivals the original.
There are a lot of covers out there that I like, and lately I’ve come across some new ones that have become fast favorites, so I’ve decided to revisit my ‘Top 6 Favourite Covers.’ That isn’t to say this is a replacement for the old ‘Top 6’, it’s more of a part two, and who knows… maybe I’ll make it an annual thread.
*I’d just also like to point out that this list isn’t in any order of preference, I’ve ordered them starting with my newest discoveries charting down to ones I’ve liked for a while (which, in some cases, is years.)
#1 Hotline Bling/Can’t Feel My Face – Hobbie Stuart (Original by: Drake/The Weeknd)
I wrote a ‘One to Watch’ on singer-songwriter Hobbie Stuart back when I stumbled across his music online in December last year. Prominent in the current ‘YouTube community’, Stuart uses his channel to promote his music, uploading cover versions of popular chart hits. Among them is this alluring, acoustic mash-up of Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’ and The Weeknd’s ‘Can’t Feel My Face.’
As I said in my previous review:
‘Stuart’s vocals are flawless as he moves between the smooth notes of his lower register into his beautifully captivating falsetto, the two tracks flowing together seamlessly as he segues from one to another like they were made that way… Stuart’s rendition also incorporates The Weeknd’s ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ – and the two work brilliantly together. The softly seductive combination of the melodic guitar and Stuart’s honey-voiced drizzle is mesmerising, giving a romantic vibe to the whole thing.’
Every time I hear this cover I’m struck by how beautiful it is. From the delicate instrumental to Stuart’s amazing, angelic vocals, it completely turns the original on its head and opens it up to a whole new genre… and I actually prefer it.
To check out my full ‘One to Watch’ on Hobbie Stuart, click here.
#2 Yellow – The Summer Set (Original by: Coldplay)
The last time I caught Arizona-based pop-rockers The Summer Set live in London, they played this cover of ‘Yellow’. Beforehand, frontman Brian Dales explained to the crowd that during the tour, he and bandmate Stephen Gomez came up with the idea that every night they would play a song by a band from the city they were in, so every night was a little bit different. Dales went on to say that ‘Yellow’ was one of his favourite songs ever, and being that Coldplay hail from just outside of the city, that was the song they played.
I love Dales’ vocals on this song and the stripped-back, acoustic arrangement really heightens the romantic nature of the lyrics, making it all the more poignant; hearing the entire audience sing along in unison was enough to give you chills. I’m not such a fan of the original, but this version made me fall in love with the song.
#3 I Really Like You – Chrissy Costanza and MAX (Original by: Carly Rae Jepsen)
Again, this is another cover that I have reviewed previously in a ‘Tracks of the Month’ post. However, I couldn’t not include it because I really, really like this one (see what I did there?)
‘Originally by Carly Rae Jepsen, this version incorporates a pop-rock sound with a heavier drum beat and an altogether more edgy vibe. It’s also been turned into a duet, with vocals by Against The Current’s Chrissy Costanza and pop solo artist MAX. Chrissy’s vocals are bold and powerful – while still being able to hit higher notes beautifully – and MAX has a deep and husky tone, with a smooth and down-right mesmerising higher range. This, together with the rock accompaniment, makes the song a bit more interesting and gives it a fierce, explosive quality that demands your attention – and holds it.’
Both Costanza and Max have also posted other cover versions to their respective YouTube channels, as well as collaborating with other musicians. Chrissy Costanza has also lent her voice to some others that I really enjoy, including Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’, The 1975’s ‘Chocolate’, One Republic’s ‘Counting Stars’ (a collaboration with Alex Goot and Kurt Schnider,) and a pop-rock version of ‘Uptown Funk’ – that I included in my last ‘Top 6 Covers’ – with Set It Off’s Cody Carson and Dan Clermont.
#4 Grenade – Cody Carson (Original by: Bruno Mars)
Speaking of Cody Carson…before/as well as being Set It Off’s frontman, he also started his career posting videos on YouTube. After putting videos up sporadically for the last nine years, Carson recently uploaded a video entitled ‘Welcome to CCTV’ (we’re assuming that means Cody Carson TV – we hope he’s not going all Big Brother on us!) and implied that he will be posting a lot more material to his channel, including covers.
When I first started listening to Set It Off, I fell in love with Carson’s voice and I was eager to hear more from him, so when I found his online material it was a given that I’d check some of them out. It was here that I found his cover of Bruno Mars’ ‘Grenade’.
Armed with an acoustic guitar and his expressive powerhouse pipes, Carson performs the song with such theatricality and passion that you’d think it was his song. Low notes? High notes? Projection? Carson takes it all in his stride and still manages to inject a little of his trademark sass; his facial expressions as he sings ‘you’ll smile in my face then rip the breaks out my car’, make me chuckle every time.
#5 We Found Love – Alex DeLeon and Brian Dales (Original by: Rhianna)
Back in 2012 The Cab and The Summer Set embarked on a co-headlining tour around North America (let’s not talk about the fact they didn’t make it to the UK.) During the tour, vocalists Alex DeLeon and Brian Dales would do meet and greets with fans, where they would play a few acoustic songs and hold an informal Q & A. This cover comes from one of those instances, and people were kind enough to upload their videos to YouTube so others could discover it for themselves.
Stripping away the dance-pop vibe of the original, this acoustic cover is miles away from the heavily produced sound we’re used to hearing from this track. The delicate instrumental gives the whole thing a softer sound, and compliments the romance illustrated in the lyrics. DeLeon takes the lead with his smooth and soulful, Timberlake-esque pipes, slipping in and out of his higher range flawlessly. Dales’ then harmonises with DeLeon during the chorus – their voices blending together beautifully – and his distinctive tone ensures a brilliantly unique sound throughout the second verse. It’s true the guys are amazing separately, and together it only gets better. I’m hoping they’ll release a song together at some point – if the result is anything like this I’d be all over it.
#6 Heartbreak Girl – Robbie Coles (Original by: Five Seconds of Summer)
I wrote a ‘One to Watch’ post on ex-Show It Off member Robbie Coles, way back in 2013 when he premiered his first original single, ‘Hey Summer’, on YouTube. However, the first time I ever heard from him sing was when I found this acoustic cover of Five Seconds of Summer’s ‘Heartbreak Girl.’
Accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, the singer-songwriter turns his talents to this rendition of the pop-rock track; with a voice not unlike Sleeping With Sirens’ frontman Kellin Quinn. The result? an insanely addictive cover – one listen is never enough.
To check out my previous ‘One to Watch’ on Robbie Coles, click here.
And there you have it. If you made it this far, thank you for reading my ‘Top 6 Covers’ revisited – did you like any of the covers I’ve chosen? Are there any covers you think I should check out? Feel free to let me know in a comment. 🙂
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