I’m a huge fan of cover songs. I see a cover song as an immortalization of the original artist’s creative soul. When another musician revitalizes the poetry, whether verbal or instrumental, the interpretation ignites a unifying nostalgia between the performer and the audience. Yeah, I know that’s a pretty romantic way to put it.
The A.V. Club has over time collected a video archive of musicians performing live on their “A.V. Undercover” stage. Since 2010, videos have been posted of relatively well-known or rising artists performing covers of famous songs chosen and then crossed off from a common song list. My personal favorite so far has been Iron & Wine’s shockingly beautiful cover of the GWAR song, “Sick of You.” (Make sure you watch GWAR’s original version first!) “Undercover” is a great series because it’s fascinating to witness talented musicians in their own right reinvent songs using their distinctive sound in ways that surprise and inspire while still honoring the original arrangements. I say these renditions are inspiring because afterwards I usually run for my guitar shouting, “I want to try!”
This holiday season, I recommend checking out the “Holiday Undercover” short series of performances dedicated to holiday-related covers. Performances feature Greg Lake’s “I Believe In Father Christmas” covered by Drive-By Truckers, Joni Mitchell’s “River” covered by Ashley Monroe, Elliot Smith’s “Angel In The Snow” covered by Laura Stevenson, and Low’s “Just Like Christmas” covered by Craig Finn and Esmé Patterson. Several timeless performances from years past are also archived and available to watch.
Of course, it’s so important to never plagiarize or appropriate music. Give credit where credit is due when performing cover songs. Enjoy the holiday tunes and don’t forget to sing along in your own style!