12 Cover Songs from 2020

Image Credit: Yousef Alfuhigi

Now that the finish line of 2020 is in sight, at Routenote we’re looking back over this endless year and pulling together some of the highlights from the music world. What was the best cover version of a song you heard in 2020?

An overwhelming number of musicians covered other artists’ songs this year. Many were performed in lockdown, from musicians seeking to keep themselves busy, entertain us in our homes, and respond to the madness of the world through a comforting classic they love. Heartfelt covers, joyful covers – far too many to feature in this selection, but it’s a start.

Dinosour Pile Up – ‘It’s Tricky’

Fuzzy guitars and hefty micro breakdowns soundtrack the daft, delightfully zany music video, channelling the Beastie Boys.

Original: RUN DMC

Sharon Von Etten feat Josh Homme – ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?’

There’s no messing about with arrangements for this duet, a slow and steady country ballad that lets the vocals and emotion shine through.

Original: Nick Lowe, but made famous by Elvis Costello

James Blake – ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’

The electronic artist has released a ‘Covers’ EP. The power of his voice, unobscured by vocal effects, really comes through in this peaceful track.

Original: First written for Peggy Seeger, and made famous by Roberta Flack.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor – ‘Like a Prayer’

Throughout the UK lockdown, the ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ singer kept thousands entertained with her Kitchen Discos on Instagram Live – karaoke in complete chaos, surrounded by children, vocals still flawless.

Original: Madonna

Mattiel – ‘Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun’

A great high-energy cover full of attitude. It matches the style of the original and twists it to contain just a chopping drumbeat, chanting and yowling vocals, and growling guitar.

Original: Beastie Boys

Biffy Clyro – ‘WAP’

‘Get your boots and your coat if you’re wet as Biffy’. I have nothing else to say. Except… sorry.

Original: Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion

Bombay Bicycle Club – ‘Lose You to Love Me’

From the Radio 1 Live Lounge at the very beginning of 2020. A restrained, beautifully layered arrangement. 

Original: Selena Gomez

Miley Cyrus – ‘Zombie’

In aid of Save Our Stages Fest at Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles, Miley went full rock chick, stalking around the band. Featuring throaty vocals and an absolute shred of a guitar solo.

Original: The Cranberries

Jorja Smith – ‘Rose Rouge’

Taken from the Blue Note:Reimagined album, a fascinatingly inventive album of covers of classic jazz tracks reborn for modern ears.

Original: Rose Rouge

Kelly Clarkson – ‘It’s My Life’

A bit of cheesy pop rock joy for you here from the American Idol winner turned chat show host. You cannot deny the force of those pipes.

Original: Bon Jovi

INTER ARMA – ‘Southern Man’

Still have no idea what’s going on here but I kind of love it.

Original: Neil Young, who would almost certainly hate this

Christine and the Queens – ‘Heart of Gold’

Neil Young might find this cover of another of his classics more palatable. An electronic arrangement that’s both beautiful and haunting, with backing vocals that swoop around the raw emotion of the lead.

Original: Neil Young

Did you spread joy or let off steam by recording any cover versions of songs yourself this year? Routenote can distribute them for you, for free.

I write about music for RouteNote, sharing fun stuff, news, and tips and tricks for musicians and producers. Also a saxophonist and hater of marmalade.

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