By Meredith Nardino
With live radio shows like the “Live Lounge” and “Like a Version,” created by UK’s BBC Radio One and Australia’s Triple J respectively, there has been a new fascination surrounding artists’ abilities to interpret a cover on short notice.
These brief performances differ from instances where a band covers a song in one of its own live concerts because it has far less time to clean up its sound, making it a true testament of the band’s natural artistry. All these performances can be found on YouTube, and I highly recommend that you watch them.
1. “Sorry” —The 1975 (Justin Bieber)
The 1975 have always been open about its love for every plausible genre despite its reputation as an alternative group. Choosing a Top 40 song to perform in the “Live Lounge” was risky, but it demonstrates the band’s ability to adapt any song to its unique style.
The most impressive addition to the cover was the use of John Waugh on saxophone, which added a jazz element to the performance. The 1975 have developed a sort of trademark sound around the instrument. The band uses it intelligently in this cover to give some life to a lyrically unimpressive song.
2. “Hold on We’re Going Home” — Arctic Monkeys (Drake)
The Arctic Monkeys have proven their versatility time and again, as their discography divides itself into individual eras for each album. The most recent AM era showed a more seductive side of the band, a fact they took into consideration when choosing this song to cover.
Alex Turner transformed himself from rock star to lounge singer, crooning each lyric with heartfelt emotion. While Turner’s lead vocals are (not surprisingly) flawless, drummer Matt Helders’ backing vocals stand out. This Drake single is performed with such conviction that it almost feels like one of the notorious Monkeys’ own tunes.
3. “Lay You Down” — Hozier (Sam Smith)
Hozier is one of those incredible artists whose live vocal sounds almost identical to, or maybe even better than, his recorded album vocals. This is one of my favorite performances because of the way Hozier uses the natural grit of his voice to his advantage.
This somber Sam Smith ballad has been transformed into an upbeat anthem that demonstrates an affinity for classic soul music. Hozier never fails to impress in the “Live Lounge.” His simple performance style and unexpected song choices prove the exceptional power of his artistry.
4. “Lonely Boy” — Matt Corby (The Black Keys)
For this cover, Matt Corby transforms a song that became popular for its intensity into the exact opposite. Corby’s voice is unique in its power and vulnerability; his versatility in both high and low ranges is extraordinary. Something about this “Like a Version” performance is so captivating and almost haunting that it makes me want to hit replay for hours. By performing acoustically, Corby offers a beautifully emotional rendition of the Black Keys’ original, which exudes a brash arrogance.
5. “Read My Mind” — Catfish and the Bottlemen (The Killers)
Though Catfish and the Bottlemen remain under the mainstream radar, they gained a massive cult fanbase after their successful debut, “The Balcony.” This appearance on Like a Version solidified the band as more than just an electrified arena-rock group.
As lead singer Van McCann says in the clip, performing the song acoustically puts more emphasis on the brilliance of The Killers’ songwriting. Van makes a mistake halfway through but carries on like a true professional. Though Catfish and the Bottlemen may not be widely known, they have a certain confidence that allows them to perform as if they are the greatest band in history.
6. “Re: Stacks” — Oscar Isaac (Bon Iver)
This is the only track on this list not performed on a radio show. Instead, this is a simple video posted online by Oscar Isaac, who apparently just happens to be one of those people who is amazing at everything. While Oscar doesn’t do a lot to transform the sound of this Bon Iver classic, he showcases his beautiful vocal range in ways that might surprise those who only know him for his acting work.