Some Good Songs: Covers > Originals

Some Good Songs: Covers > Originals
Joe Cocker

This Week’s Playlist: Covers > Originals

Last week, I spent some time rewatching footage from Woodstock after getting “The FISH Chant” stuck in my head. It made me realize something I’ve known (and everyone probably knew) all this time: Joe Cocker’s version of “With a Little Help from My Friends” is infinitely better than the Ringo one.

That’s how this week’s playlist came to be. Here are a dozen or so songs that, in your curator’s humble opinion, are as good if not better than the original versions. (Before you ask, yes, there are two tracks from This Mortal Coil.)

Note: Spotify playlist is missing a song due to Neil Young’s absence on the platform.

On Beyoncé

A week or so ago, I was ready to shit on the new Beyoncé record. I even made this note:

The name of this newsletter is called Some Good Songs, and since there are no good songs on the new Beyoncé record, I’ll forgo reviewing it here.

We want our pop stars to simultaneously be pop stars while challenging pop norms. Beyoncé and her sister do a damn good job at this, and the self-titled [s] [am] and Lemonade [s] [am] albums are some of the most listened-to albums in recent years with somewhat experimental approaches to melody and structure.

Renaissance is not pop as in catchy, but pop as in accessible — kind of? There are few if any songs on the record featuring a halfway-decent hook, forgoing traditional Beyoncé songs for homages to house, jersey club, bounce, and a boatload of other dance genres. As a dance record, it doesn’t do anything revolutionary sonically, other than borrowing the trappings of other artists who did revolutionize music.

That said, for Beyoncé to make a record as a history book or “explainer” of very queer electronic genres by incorporating them as her own for a moment is pretty great, as it brings exposure to these artists and genres on a scale that eventually reaches your mother or your aunt. Around the world, many will now have to explain Big Freedia at the dinner table because her adlibs and vocals are playing in every department store, every Peloton, and every streaming playlist. As a person who saw The Queen Diva when she was playing in front of indie rock bros and broke as hell, that’s a pretty amazing feat.

This doesn’t make for a great album, but an interesting one. I personally don’t feel the album gets into its groove until “Church Girls,” which is a new favorite track of mine by “Queen Bey.” The interpolation of “I Feel Love” at the end is not the best use of that particular sample in music history, but who cares, honestly? I’m probably the complete opposite of the album’s target demo, yet I’ll still listen to it in the future. It’s fine, but it’s also not my place to make that assessment.

What is pretty amazing is how a new Beyoncé record serves as a lite version of Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music, opening the door for millions of listeners to new genres beyond the pop spectrum. With that aspect, it’s less of an event album than it is, in my opinion, a public service, which is why it’s more than worth a listen.

Some Good Albums

Sun’s Signature — Sun’s Signature

I spent way too much of my 35-plus years wishing for more Cocteau Twins. Yet when you dig into the end years of the Cocteau Twins, you realize why they broke up in the first place. (Hint: toxic masculinity and drugs, kinda sorta.) When Elizabeth Fraser and her partner, Damon Reece (Spiritualized, Massive Attack) announced an EP under the name Sun’s Signature, I realized I really just wanted more of Fraser’s voice. You not only get that in spades here, but you also get some new stylings in the background that I never thought I’d love. (Fancy a Hawkwind-ish sound with Fraser’s vocals in the foreground? It actually works!)

As a good friend of mine said after discussing this EP, this release is better than I could’ve imagined after all these years.

Flo Milli — You Still Here, Ho?

I started watching Rap Sh!t on HBO Max recently, which highlights the struggle of female hip-hop artists who are actually good at their craft vs. their super-popular contemporaries who have absolutely nothing to say and little to no flow. Flo Milli is good at the craft and on a pretty grand stage — or at least should be. Brash and confrontational, the MC’s wordplay shows dedication to rhyme and meter while talking a whole lot of shit and backing it up in sparse, loud tracks.

Also Worth a Listen:

Ian Sweet — STAR STUFF [S] [AM]

Loraine James [NTS]

Kelly Lee Owens [RA]

Albums Releasing This Week

Panda Bear and Sonic Boom — Reset
Rat Tally — In My Car
Lumenete — All Around My Head
Kiwi Jr. — Chopper
Tony Molina — In the Fade
Black Thought and Danger Mouse — Cheat Codes