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The 15 Best Cover Songs of 2013

December 18, 2013  |  10:55am
The 15 Best Cover Songs of 2013
Although 2013 was one of our favorite years in recent memory for original music, there were also plenty of surprises in the realm of cover songs. From Fiona Apple’s surprise appearance in a Chipotle commercial to cover Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination” to Tame Impala’s spot-on (but still unexpected) cover of OutKast’s “Prototype,” it was a fun time keeping an ear toward the Internet for re-imaginations of our favorite tracks.

Below, we’ve listed our 15 favorite new takes on old favorites in 2013. Share your own in the comment section.

7. Arctic Monkeys – “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (Drake)
One of 2013’s biggest rock bands takes on its biggest rapper for Arctic Monkeys’ disco-friendly cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Trading Drake’s silky auto-tuned lines for Alex Turner’s cool-headed howls, Arctic Monkeys made this modern pop hit their own without upsetting fans in the process.

6. The Flaming Lips – “All You Need is Love” (The Beatles)
This beautiful, spacious cover of a Beatles classic takes on all the haunting production quirks of The Flaming Lips’ latest, The Terror: slow-burning (and anxiety inducing) synths, dollops of reverb and Wayne Coyne’s reassuring croon. It’s not an easy task to take on songs by one of the most beloved bands of our time, but reassigning that song’s tone to a specific point in your career is another accomplishment entirely.

5. Over the Rhine, The Lone Bellow – “Slip Slidin’ Away” (Paul Simon)
We could have expected that combining two harmony-driven folk acts for a take on a Paul Simon classic would be good, but The Lone Bellow and Over the Rhine’s take on “Slip Slidin’ Away” for NPR’s eTown radio had epic results.

4. Haim – “Strong Enough” (Sheryl Crow)
Haim has had enough comparisons to late ‘80s/early ‘90s pop artists for us to see this one coming, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. This percussion-heavy take on Sheryl Crow’s hit has been played all over, but the Lorde-featuring version for VH1 was particularly fun. Maybe it won’t make you dig out your old Crow CDs, but it’s a fine slice of work from a decade that Haim was a product of.

3. Diogo Mello and His Dad – “Don’t Let Me Down” (Beatles)
Think of something cute. This beats it: an adorable child just shy of two years old wailing out The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” with a ukelele in hand. Meet Diogo Mello and his father, our father/son duo of the year and possibly ever. During the three days after it was posted online, the video racked up almost 300,000 views, and it now sits at over 7 million. Don’t be the last one in on the adorableness.—Patrick Filbin

2. Tame Impala – “Prototype” (Outkast)
We had no doubt that Tame Impala would do OutKast right when covering “Prototype,” but we never thought this retro-rooted outfit would pull out a cover so true to the song’s roots. This echoing tribute to the ATLiens gets it all right: the tight, funky bass flow, sandpaper guitars—and you can’t deny that Three-Stacks impression.

1. Fiona Apple – Pure Imagination (Gene Wilder)
Say what you will about Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” campaign—many complained of hypocrisy within the now-huge burrito chain when painting itself as a clear-cut alternative to current food-production methods. But one thing that was untouchable about the ad was Fiona Apple’s inspiring take on “Pure Imagination,” a song sung by Gene Wilder in the screen adaptation of 1971’s Willy Wonka the Chocolate Factory.

Apparently Apple did the ad out of pure respect for Wilder. She said the following in a Pitchfork interview last October:

Chipotle was in a big rush and they initially wanted Frank Ocean, but he screwed up his voice. And they wanted to use “Pure Imagination,” a song I wanted to do in a show when I was 18 but was too afraid to. I didn’t want Gene Wilder to be upset about that song being sung by some idiot. I thought that I had the best chance of doing it well. This is the absolute truth: The only person that I care what they think of the Chipotle commercial is Gene Wilder.

And there you have it. What we’re left with is a classic song with Apple’s staples—beautiful instrumentation, her voice in top form. It’s stunning, dark, and even though it’s a familiar tune that I’ve known by heart for decades, it’s one of the more feeling-stirring things I’ve heard all year.

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