Sometimes when an artist releases a song, there’s something missing. You like the song, it has some good qualities, but it just isn’t all there.
That’s what makes covers so great. It’s a do-over. We get another chance at the song. When the right changes are made, it can make an alright song sound incredible.
Granted, covers can kind of suck, but that’s not why we’re here. BBC Radio 1 is famous for their Live Lounge, in which artists perform an original song and a cover. Today, we’re combing through Radio 1’s YouTube channel to bring you the 12 best BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge covers of all time.
1.) ‘Starboy’ – Panic! At The Disco (The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk cover)
It seems like a weird mix, Panic! At The Disco and The Weeknd, but it’s one that works. Actually, it works so well that I can now find “Starboy” to be palatable, just as long as Brendon Urie is the one singing it (along with Kenneth Harris and Dallon Weekes on backup, of course).
2.) ‘Green Light’ – All Time Low (Lorde cover)
Lorde’s version of “Green Light” was pretty great, not gonna lie. Do you know what might be even better? Alex Gaskarth and the boys bringing it to you pop-punk style. You never knew you needed this cover in your life, but now that you’ve heard it, it may very well be the only version you’ll listen to.
(I’ve written a different post solely about this cover if you’d like to read it.)
3.) ‘We Can’t Stop’ – Bastille (Miley Cyrus cover)
It’s quite possible you’ve already seen/heard this one, as it’s one of the most watched Live Lounge covers ever with over 23 million views. That’s more views than the band’s actual music videos typically get, Pompeii aside (no hate, though. Still one of our favorite music groups).
There’s a reason this video garnered so many views: Bastille are the kings of covers. In fact, one of their biggest hits, “Of The Night,” is a mashup of “The Rhythm Of The Night” by Corona and “Rhythm Is A Dancer” by Snap!, and it’s done so well. Much like this cover of Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop.” Bastille outdid themselves by seamlessly blending the song with Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart,” and “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from The Lion King. Yep.
4.) ‘Life On Mars’ – Patrick Stump (David Bowie cover)
Okay, so this isn’t technically a Live Lounge cover, but it’s still a cover on BBC Radio 1, so we’re including it anyway. Once you listen to it, you’ll understand why we’re giving Patrick special treatment.
It’s hard to compete with David Bowie, but the Fall Out Boy singer gives it his best go and it works very well. With just a guitar in his hands, Patrick delivers a performance you won’t soon forget.
5.) ‘Passionfruit’ – Paramore (Drake cover)
Unpopular opinion: the writer (me) is not a huge Paramore fan. Aside from a few songs, I could never really get into them. I also don’t care for Drake’s music.
Even if I don’t like the band, I can admit that Hayley Williams has a nice voice. This version of “Passionfruit,” a song I didn’t know existed before watching the video, is light and chill. It’s a little sad given the timing of this recording and Hayley’s divorce from Chad Gilbert. As unfortunate as it sounds, the best performances often come from a personal connection to the song. There’s no faking the connection here.
6.) ‘Don’t Tell ‘Em’ – Lorde (Jeremih ft. YG cover)
This is yet another case of “I don’t like the original, but this cover makes it listenable.” Surprising to me, Lorde got some criticism for her take on Jeremih’s hit, especially about her movements while performing, because – surprise surprise – that’s what the internet cares about: appearance, not music.
Lorde’s enjoying the song and getting into it with her, albeit quirky, body movements. I dig it. Clearly she does, too.
7.) ‘Slide’ – Disciples (Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean & Migos cover)
Big Calvin Harris fan over here, but even I have to admit, Disciples hit this cover of “Slide” out of the park. It’s more soulful, taking out the piano, adjusting the bass line and bringing in great harmonies from the backing vocals.
What results from these changes is a sort of sleepy feel, but not the boring kind. We live in a chaotic world. Chill out and regroup with the Disciples for a few moments.
8.) ‘Stay’ – Thirty Seconds To Mars (Rihanna cover)
Who better to cover Rihanna’s voice than the multi-talented Jared Leto. The man has an Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG award, plus a handful of MTV and other music related accolades. Musicians often try their hand at acting (and vice versa), like Rihanna herself in Battleship, but it’s usually a train wreck. That’s not the case for Mr. Leto (Joker aside).
Okay, enough backstory and praise. After all, he’s not the only member of Thirty Seconds To Mars, who together created a very chilling performance that you need to hear right now. I mean it.
9.) ‘Budapest’ – OneRepublic (George Ezra cover)
Ryan Tedder could make any song sound beautiful. I’m a big fan of the guy, and not just because of his voice. Honestly, I’m more impressed by his songwriting, as he’s written for countless artists, helping to create some of the biggest hits of the 2000s and 2010s.
This is OneRepublic’s answer to George Ezra’s cover of their single “Counting Stars” earlier that year. While Ezra’s voice didn’t quite mesh well with the tune, Tedder’s perfectly blends into the other’s song. If you didn’t know better, you might think it was a OneRepublic original.
10.) ‘Sing’ – Kodaline (Ed Sheeran cover)
Irish band Kodaline decided to take on Ed Sheeran’s “Sing” for this Live Lounge appearance, while sneaking in some of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” Their mashup of hits may not be as elaborate as, say, Bastille’s, but it’s impressive all the same.
I’ve said it time and again: there is absolutely no way to explain why Kodaline is not more popular. Seriously, if you like Coldplay and Keane (or just good music in general), you’ll love Kodaline.
11.) ‘Champagne Supernova’ – The Pretty Reckless (Oasis cover)
If you’ve been a reader of this blog for a while (or if you know me at all), you’ll know my stance on the whole Blur vs. Oasis thing. Even so, “Champagne Supernova” is an okay song. I don’t seek it out, but I’ll listen to it. However, since hearing The Pretty Reckless’ cover, I may actually seek this version out on occasion. The band slapped a 90s grunge filter on the track and added a verse from The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” to take this song to the next level.
12.) ‘Take Me To Church’ – Demi Lovato (Hozier cover)
A pop artist like Demi Lovato is making a rare appearance on Alt Echo, mostly because if I had let this rendition of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” off a list of best Live Lounge covers, I’d have to retire from my incredibly lucrative job as an unpopular music blogger.
Say what you want about her songs, but you can’t deny that Demi has some of the best vocal chords in the industry, and her performance on Radio 1 highlights how seriously talented she is.
A final note
The world of covers is hard to navigate. Some will be terrible. Some will be awesome. BBC Radio 1 has a wealth of covers and other live performances for you to dig through if you disagree with this list or want to hear more. You can check out their YouTube channel by clicking here.
Which of these performances is your favorite? Did we miss one that absolutely should appear on this list? Let us know in the comments below.
Featured image taken from “Lorde covers Jeremih’s Don’t Tell ‘Em in the Live Lounge” and “Panic! At The Disco cover Starboy by the Weeknd/Daft Punk in the Live Lounge” via BBC Radio 1. BBC Radio 1 logo via Wikimedia.