Intern Picks of the Week – Favorite Covers

Intern Picks of the Week- Covers
Intern Picks of the Week- Covers

Your favorite interns are back with their favorite covers! We may be biased, but covers are truly an underappreciated part of the music industry. There’s something so special about listening to your favorite artists reimagine songs that you love. Picking a song to cover (and in our case to write about) isn’t an easy ask. As always, these picks come from Madeleine, Emily, Brooke, and Benni! 

Madeleine’s Pick: Fiona Apple’s cover of “I Want You” by Elvis Costello

I should start by saying that Fiona Apple is my all-time favorite artist, and I could write her praises for hours. Her songwriting capabilities are unmatched, and I’m continually amazed by the unbridled intensity of her lyricism. Her passionate vocal delivery is what elevates her music and makes her artistry so impactful. When Apple sings, it’s clear that she viscerally feels every single word, and when she covers songs, she takes this vitality with her. Apple breathes new life into the songs that she didn’t write, somehow making them even more intense and heartbreaking than they were before.

My favorite Apple cover is her rendition of “I Want You” by Elvis Costello. Performed onstage with Costello by her side, Apple gives the song a new meaning through a bold female voice. Beginning with a gentle piano riff and Apple’s haunting, fragile vocals, listeners are immediately drawn in. The song transforms when the band kicks in. Any remaining fragility in the arrangement is shattered by Costello’s electric guitar and Apple’s sharp, smoky delivery. Apple sings about yearning for a past partner and pointing jealousy at the person who’s with them now. Every note that Apple sings echoes like a bullet. Her sustained belt and passionate growl propel the song’s emotion to a higher place. The song steadily builds to the climax, where Apple screams “Did you call her name out as she held you down? / I want you, oh no my darling, not with that clown.” No matter how many times I watch this video, that moment always gives me chills. It takes a very special kind of artist to surrender all barriers and express raw emotion in its most unfiltered form. Apple’s unmatched ability to channel passion and anger through her voice makes this one of my favorite covers of all time. 

Listen to “I Want You” below!

Emily’s Pick: 5 Seconds of Summer’s cover of “Killer Queen” by Queen

This cover is a gift to humanity. As someone who started following 5SOS while they were touring the world with One Direction, their sonic abilities have evolved and matured so much over the years. There is not a song this band has written, produced, or covered that I haven’t listened to one hundred times over. Their cover of “Killer Queen” highlights their musicality  in an unimaginable way. The track was recorded in 2018 in collaboration with the release of the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody

The band released a Youtube video detailing the making of the song- a short documentary look into its creation. Seeing the behind the scenes vocals only makes you appreciate the cover even more. 5SOS followed in the footsteps of the original 24-track recording that Queen did. They multi-tracked their vocals each layer at a time in unison; it was a three hour process- the four band members around one microphone singing each harmony one by one. The melodies are inherently unconventional and weird, but it stayed true to the original artform of “Killer Queen.” 

Their commitment to creating the track as close to the original as possible while still leaving their mark is beyond commendable. Also, all net profit from the song benefits the Mercury Phoenix Trust, an organization Brian May, Roger Taylor, and manager Jim Beach started to support the fight against HIV / AIDS. This cover of “Killer Queen” is one that continues to amaze me with every listen. 

Listen to “Killer Queen” below!

Brooke’s Pick: The White Stripes’ cover of “Jolene” by Dolly Parton

There’s definitely an art to covering a song, and one of my favorite covers is The White Stripes’ rendition of “Jolene.” Hailing from Detroit, Jack White made his mark in Nashville with Third Man Records, and despite any initial reluctance, the allure of country music eventually captures us all. And once it does, it’s only fitting to pay homage to Tennessee icon Dolly Parton.

My favorite covers are those where bands truly make the song their own. Taking one of the most iconic country songs and transforming it into The White Stripes’ classic garage rock sound achieves just that. Whenever I listen to this rendition, I can’t help but crank the volume up as loud as it can go.

Countless artists have tackled this song, but The White Stripes’ version holds a special place, endorsed by Dolly Parton herself. With its hard rock genre twist and Jack White’s plaintive vocals, you experience a new level of heartache as he sings about losing his love. The driving guitar and drums convey all the anguish and desperation of the situation, making this rendition loud, angry, and utterly compelling.

Listen to “Jolene” below!

Benni’s Pick: Roberta Flack’s cover of “Killing Me Softly” by Lori Lieberman

There have been many renditions of “Killing Me Softly,” but none as well-regarded as Roberta Flack’s. Transforming a lonely acoustic track into a smooth yet heart-wrenching power ballad, Flack crafts an arrangement and performance that perfectly embodies the energy and emotion of longing that the song describes. The lyrics take us through the experience of a young music fan falling in love with a performer at a show. I love this as a lyrical concept…it evokes such a unique yet familiar sense of momentary euphoria and intimacy, a pleasure that is juxtaposed and exaggerated creatively through darker and more intense phrases like killing me softly/strumming my pain.

On top of the song’s memorable lyrics, Flack’s confident R&B-flavored vocal delivery and instrumental arrangement are what set her version apart from anyone who has covered it since. One of the most notable elements of the mix is the chamber of choruses that accompany most of the song’s sections. These harmonies add endless amounts of depth to the chorus melody and give it newfound melodic movement and nuance, while leaving space for the verses to feel lighter and more pensive. The engineering on the vocals makes them sound like they’re filling a massive concert hall, adding to the grandiosity of the song, especially Flack’s lead vocal, which sways over the verses and soars through the cascading chorus melody. The song moves gently on top of a rolling bassline and steady drum beat, providing a great foundation for the soft, comforting chords of the guitar and electric piano. The song’s atmosphere reminds me of the sound of many familiar power ballads from the 80s and 90s, despite being recorded as early as 1973. It effortlessly captures a niche, relatable energy musically and emotionally that remains often imitated yet never replicated.

Listen to “Killing Me Softly” below!