Two years ago, we looked at the Best R.E.M. songs of all time, but today we look how some of those great songs have been interpreted by others.
As we’ve done with similar lists of Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Leonard Cohen covers before, no song or artist appears more than once.
We noticed three things while compiling this list: 1. Everyone wants to slow down R.E.M. with the exception of folk supergroups. 2. It’s refreshing to understand the lyrics of those early songs. 3. There aren’t tons of R.E.M. covers out there. Here are the 20 best we could find:
Okay, so we really just like this one because it’s in Italian. Off the sub-par tribute album Surprise Your Pig.
Dr. Dog make R.E.M. sound like late-era Beatles on Stereogum’s Drive XV: A Tribute to Automatic For The People.
Runner-up: Annie Lennox & Alicia Keys.
Another Surprise Your Pig entry.
With nothing but a loop pedal on her vocals, Michaelson recreates most of the instrumental parts. Runner-Up: The Wrens.
Another song from the Stereogum tribute. And yes, they’re all this slow.
Sounds a lot like a 10,000 Maniacs song.
Symphonic renditions of pop music often struggle not to sound like emasculating elevator music, but this one has enough unbridled joy to keep from plunging down the shaft.
Loud! Fast! Thank you!
Folk trio Jeffrey Foucault, Kris Delmhorst and Peter Mulvey offer a loose take that sounds like three friends around a fire with a bottle of whiskey.
The mandolin licks are a nice touch.
Just when you think they’ve just slowed down R.E.M. like everyone else, the British quartet takes it back up a notch.
Pavement slows “Camera” way down, making it a little spooky and off-center.
Off the No Word From Tom album, Hem offers the prettiest vocals an R.E.M. song has ever been blessed by. Runner-up: Grant-Lee Phillips
Hansard played this mandolin-only version on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon back in 2009.
Runner-up: Sufjan Stevens’ own version is equally lovely.
Runners-up: Anouk and ">Tori Amos
Leave it to folkies Dar Williams, Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky to rock out an R.E.M. cover.
From the Mimeograph EP
After inviting Peter Buck to play guitar on The King Is Dead, the Portland band covered R.E.M. for KEXP.