Earlier yesterday, two songs featuring Drake were leaked. One was a song called "Controlla," and the other was a cover of Jackson Browne's "These Days" with Barf Troop's Babeo Baggins. The cover will appear as "Things I Forgot to Do" on Baggins' upcoming album Love Songs For Tough Guys.
You can probably guess which one the internet freaked out over. Sadly, before the day was out, the song had been pulled off of Bandcamp, though it would appear that neither Babeo nor Drake were the ones that did the pulling.
If you didn't get a chance to hear it, I feel pretty confidant telling you that it was okay. A good cover should be more than an excellent karaoke performance; it should bring something new to the song, and let you hear it and appreciate it in a whole new way.
By this measure, I'm not sure I would call the Drake/Babeo Baggins cover of "These Days" "good," but it's definitely not bad. It's soothing, and the vocals are sound pleasant, but it feels a little thin, especially when compared to Nico's gorgeously haunting version.
Obviously, this got me thinking about the covers that surprised me with how good they are. There are quite a few. These aren't necessarily the best covers in the history of covers (you'll notice that Jeff Buckley's rendition is missing "Hallelujah" is missing, simply because it's so obvious) but the ones that I didn't expect to be so wowed by.
Madonna's "Borderline," as covered by the Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs
I've never had super strong feelings about Madonna, but I've always really liked "Borderline" for the juxtaposition of super sad, desperate lyrics with a pop-y, dancy melody and beat. In this cover version, Wayne Coyne and about twenty other dudes really lean in to the vulnerable sadness of it all, letting the whole thing slowly build into something grand and frantic.
The Cure's "Just Like Heaven," as covered by Dinosaur Jr.
I encountered this version on a Record Store Day side-by-side a couple of years ago. As I was unpacking my newly-acquired wares, I popped this on and really cranked it, which made for a very startling chorus. Usually I don't enjoy a ton of yelling in my music, but this is just the right amount.
Daniel Johnston's "Somethings Last a Long Time," as covered by Lana Del Rey
I love, love, love Daniel Johnston's original version of this song, but sometimes it's almost a little too sad. To me, Lana smooths out some of the rough edges (know that I mean emotionally rough, not aesthetically) and lets me listen to the song without sobbing the whole way through.
The Temptation's "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," as covered by The Rolling Stones
Okay, maybe it's not that surprising that I like this cover because, as I type this, I am wearing a tongue and lips shirt that I have owned literally half of my life. It is, however, my idea of a truly great cover. The Stones pay homage to the Temptations while putting their own, Stones-y spin on it. (Though I will admit that the guitar solo is not Mick Taylor's greatest work.) Keith's background wailing really makes this for me.
The Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers," as covered by Kesha and many friends
This cover was brought to my attention by Tynan, who claims this is the "only Rolling Stones song he knows." (Mr. Sinks sealed a very specific fate for himself with that claim, and will be educated on the finer points of old/dead white dude rock, should he ever actually come visit me.)
I have a lot of "favorite" Stones songs, and I have to break them into categories. For example, this one is my favorite "Stones Country Song," of which there are more than you might think. As such, I was more than a little resistant to giving it a listen, but was pleasantly surprised by Kesha's ability to capture the vulnerability of the lyrics.
What are your qualifications for a "great" cover? Did you get to hear "Things I Forgot to Do" before it was cruelly ripped from the web? What is your favorite version of "These Days"? (There are so many!)