Posting a list of the best covers projects and singles of 2021. I know it doesn’t make sense to rank singles against full albums, so I’ve simply alternated. One album, one song. All the way to the top 30!
See also: my list of the Best Albums of 2021!
15. Blacklist by Various Artists.
Covers of every song from Metallica’s legendary album. This should have been a lot better than it was, but there were some stand-out versions by Alessia Cara, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Phoebe Bridgers, and others.
15. Take a Bow (Madonna) by Bathe Alone
14. Hail Satan by the Dee Gees.
The Foo Fighters do Bee Gees songs. It’s pretty close to karaoke in most cases, since the band stays close to the original, but it’s got that Foo sound on top of it so the songs rock. “You Should Be Dancing” is particularly excellent.
14. Back in the High Life (Steve Winwood) by Jason Boland and the Stragglers
One of the best classic rock songs of the ’80s sounds remarkably good as a country tune.
13. Bright Lights by Susanna Hoffs
A sweet collection by the former Bangle, with a lot of variety. Covers of Velvet Underground, Prince, Badfinger, and others.
13. Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant Cover) Bo and the Locomotive electric avenue (low)
Turns Eddy Grant’s party song into a chugging anthem. Love it.
12. Covers 3 by Lauren O’Connell
Interesting collection of hits and deep cuts from a great singer.
12. Boom Boom Mancini (Warren Zevon) by Luke Elliot
Unusual choice, great rendition.
11. Georgia Blue by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
I’ve been waiting for an Isbell covers album for years, and while this one was a little disappointing, it still had some truly fantastic stand out tracks like “The Truth (Ada Blue)” and R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming.”
11. Somebody That I Used to Know (Gotye) by Benee
10. Modern Love, A David Bowie Tribute Album by BBE Music.
Standout covers on this collection include Sound and Vision by Heleado Negro and Sessa’s Panic in Detroit. Proof you can never have too many David Bowie covers. Oh, and don’t miss Jeff Parker, The New Breed’s cover of Soul Love. It’s chilling.
10. Steal My Sunshine (Len) by Portugal. The Man featuring Cherry Glazerr
The most fun I’ve had listening to a cover this year.
9. C’Mon, Covers? by Perpetual Groove
9. The Killing Moon (Echo and the Bunnymen) by CHVRCHES
8. Easy Cover by Scouting for Girls
Easy Lover (Phil Collins and Phillip Bailey). Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears). I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Whitney Houston). And many more. Perfect pop.
8. Who Can It Be Now? (Men at Work) by Alanis Moranis
7. I’m A Stranger Here by Charlie Hunter and Lucywoodward.
Jazz versions of pop songs. The eclectic nature of the songs chosen make this a particularly interesting album: disco classic Ring My Bell, You’re the One That I Want from Grease, Dirty Work by Steely Dan, En Vogue’s You’re Never Gonna Get It…An unpredictable collection of songs unpredictably arranged. See also: Peter Escovedo’s album, Rhythm of the Night.
7. Streets of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen) by Waxahatchee
6. Aisles by Angel Olsen.
All ’80s covers. Safety Dance. Eyes Without a Face. Gloria. And all with Olsen’s slow, sad spin.
6. Don’t You Forget About Me (Simple Minds) by Boy and Bear.
5. Achtung Matty by Matt Nathanson
Most people will tell you that Joshua Tree is the best U2 album. And they’re right. But Achtung Baby is their second best, and in honor of it turning 30, Matt Nathanson covered the whole thing. He does a great job, transforming the highly produced album into a set of simple, straight-ahead rockers.
5. Don’t Let Us Get Sick (Warren Zevon) by Amy Speace.
It’s hard to fuck up when you have an underlying song that is pure genius, but Speace does more than just rely on Warren Zevon’s powerful lyrics (written when he knew he was dying of cancer). She makes the song her own. Lovely.
4. Gild the Black Lily by Queen Esther
This is the only album to make it on to both this list and my list of the best albums of the year. Queen Esther’s album is fantastic, and it includes great cover versions of Sam Cooke, Blind Willie Johnson and…Anne Murray???? Yes. And it’s amazing.
4. State Trooper (Bruce Springsteen) by King Hannah
This song has been covered hundreds of times, but this version is one of the best.
3. The Servant by Shelby Lynne.
She lends her voice to a collection of traditionals. Lynne could read the phone book and it would be worth the purchase price–and this is a lot better than that.
3. Eye in the Sky by Golden Boots
A modern and quiet take on Alan Parson’s beautiful classic.
2. Taylor’s Versions (Taylor Swift) by Taylor Swift
This makes the list because Red and Fearless are great albums, but it makes it this high on the list because TS figure out how to say “fuck you” to the label that owned her originals by covering herself, and in the process making more mature versions of her own classics.. Swift continues to be not just an extremely talented songwriter, but an important force in the world of music.
2. Army of Me (Bjork) by Julia Jacklin & RVG
1. MADLO Influences by Car Seat Headrest.
An EP featuring the band covering songs they say informed their amazing 2020 album “Making a Door Less Open.” I would have been happy with CSH karaoke, but they truly make each song their own–and brought together my favorite collection of covers put out this year.
Now, on to my favorite single cover song…
1. If We Were Vampires (Jason Isbell) by Jenny Yim.
If you’re a fan of my site, you know I love Jason Isbell. And if you’re a fan of Isbell, you know this song is one of his best. Jenny Yim’s cover will break your heart. It’s the rare example of a cover that “gets” the original even better than the original.
It’s my favorite cover song of the year.