From KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox:
Arguably the greatest cover song ever done was Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect”. She took Otis Redding’s lover’s quarrel and transformed it into a women’s movement anthem, a generation-defining moment.
The trick to a great cover song is 1/2 creativity and 1/2 context… to filter a vision through a new lens. To take a meaningful song and give it new meaning.
Below are my 10 favorite, most memorable covers songs from 2010, in no particular order:
1) John Legend & The Roots “Hang On In There” — Possibly the most obscure cover from the remarkable ‘Wake Up!’ album is also the best, as this Mike James Kirkland song from 1972 serves not only as an all-too-real reckoning for the year 2010 but also a necessary pep-talk.
2) Band of Horses “Georgia” — Cee-lo Green’s joyous ode to his home state sounds even better backed up by the UGA Redcoat Marching Band, cementing its timelessness as a perennial football-stadium shaker.
3) Mechanical Bride “Sound + VIsion” — There were so many possibilities from the exceptional David Bowie tribute album ‘We Were So Turned On’, but my favorite turned The Thin White Duke’s drug-damaged tale of loneliness and paranoia into a playful barnyard stomp.
4) Beck “Mediate (feat. Liars & St. Vincent)” — In June, Beck’s Record Club took on the INXS album ‘Kick’, which seemed like an unusual choice until you heard their new free association lyrics to the centerpiece “Mediate”, which rhymed “vaccinate”, “808″, “rape an ape” and “Jon & Kate”.
5) Aloe Blacc “Femme Fatale” — I always assumed the Velvet Underground original was meant for Nico to sing to herself in the mirror, but Aloe Blacc flips the script with the pain of every girl that every crushed his heart.
6) The Bird & the Bee “Rich Girl” — This duo’s album of Hall & Oats covers was an absolute guiltless pleasure, and I was particularly drawn to Inara George’s subdued delivery on “Rich Girl”, which turns the song from a hateful kiss-off to a piece of just-between-us-girls advice.
(The Bird & the Bee debuted this project on Morning Becomes Eclectic, performing “Sara Smile” as part of an earlier performance before the album release. Check it out as part of their archived performance here)
7) Black Dub “Ring the Alarm” — The uplifting, anthemic rush of this take on the Tenor Saw reggae classic sounds less like the original’s shanty town dancehall rocker and more like a hang-glider ride high above it all.
8) Paul Weller “Time of the Season (Live on MBE 11-4)” — If this classic from The Zombies was the ultimate paean to the Swinging 60′s, then Paul Weller’s startling acoustic blues version from MBE is a paean to a man approaching his 60′s, warning its never too late to live for now.
9) Ozomatli “Love Comes Down (Anne Litt Mix)” — Although technically a remix, this version with new vocals provided by the sublime Sonos is pure harmony heaven, as if The Free Design had been produced by Curt Boettcher.
10) Mayer Hawthorne & the County “We Are The People (live at The Music Box)” — After an exhilarating soul revue-style show, Mayer Hawthorne surprisingly ended his final encore of the evening with a stunning, progged-out rendition of this Empire of the Sun gem, which was like watching the band turn on a dime from The Stylistics into ELO.
Check out the original: