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In 2016, artists like Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Kings of Leon, Shawn Mendes and more released incredible original music and new albums. They also slayed a few covers along the way.
From tributes to some of the heroes we lost too soon to the most popular tracks of the year, here are the biggest and best covers of the 2016.
Original Artist: Adele
Cover Artist: Bruno Mars
Why It’s Amazing: Adele is an intimidating artist to take on for any singer, but if anyone is up to the task—it’s Mars. The two singers wrote the ballad together for Adele’s 2015 album 25, a recording session where literal magic took place. Days before the release of his highly anticipated third studio album 24K Magic, Mars and his band performed a cover of Adele’s song on the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge. The showman concluded the pitch perfect performance with a rapid pace shout-out, saying, “We love you, Adele. We love you, BBC. Go pre-order the album right now, it’s called 24K Magic. I’m Bruno Mars. These are the Hooligans. Goodnight,” before literally dropping the mic. Just another move in the long list of things that only Bruno Mars can pull off.
Original Artist: Adele
Cover Artist: Walk Off The Earth
Why It’s Amazing: Speaking of Adele, the singer’s 2015 single “Hello” still had legs in 2016. Notoriously creative and inspiring cover artists Walk Off the Earth never disappoint with their covers, both for bringing emotional performances and for utilizing the most surprising instruments. Are they using pant zippers? Hell-o yes.
Original Artist: The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey
Cover Artist: Boyce Avenue feat. Sarah Hyland
Why It’s Amazing: FYI, Modern Family actor Sarah Hyland can SANG. Working with musicians Boyce Avenue, Hyland uploaded a cover of The Chainsmokers and Halsey’s duet “Closer” and wracked up 6.6 millions views on YouTube in just three days. Does this mean Hyland is ‘closer’ to releasing her own album? Okay, that was bad, but she has a great voice.
Original Artist: Beyoncé
Cover Artist: Local Natives
Why It’s Amazing: Beyoncé’s Lemonade ruled the charts and award shows this year, with LA band Local Natives just as susceptible as the rest of us to the album’s emotional veracity and haunting guitar licks. Covering a Beyoncé track is akin to throwing on pointe shoes and trying to replicate Swan Lake, but Local Natives do an admirable job paying homage to Queen Bey on her track “All Night.” Taking the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach to the emotional track, Local Natives deliver a simple yet stunning cover, with undershot vocals adding to the earnest mood of the song’s lyrics.
Original Artist: Beyoncé
Cover Artist: Stars
Why It’s Amazing: Like we said above, Lemonade was everywhere in 2016 and that includes on Montreal band Stars’ monthly cover series. The band upped the reggae influence and softened the track, giving it new life that is still worthy of a few Louisville Slugger swings.
Original Artist: Selena Gomez
Cover Artist: Kings of Leon
Why It’s Amazing: From the band that broke onto the music scene with the sexually charged “Sex On Fire” came an equally sexy cover of Selena Gomez’s “Hands To Myself.” Kings of Leon slow down the beat and pick up the sensuality with their solid rendition of Gomez’s track, which has us hitting repeat.
Original Artist: Drake
Cover Artist: Shawn Mendes
Why It’s Amazing: Drake has yet to drop his More Life mixtape and has already been covered by fellow Toronto artist (the 6ix Prince?) Shawn Mendes. Mendes slows down the track and rather than attempting Drizzy’s style of rapping, makes it his own by giving a raw and emotional singing performance. Drake, time to put your Taylor Swift collab aside and called Mendes.
“Life On Mars”
Original Artist: David Bowie
Cover Artist: Lorde
Why It’s Amazing: Following David Bowie’s devastating passing in January, the tributes for the late British singer began pouring in. “Life On Mars” seemed to be a favourite, with Lorde, Trey Songz, Jimmy Fallon and Chris Martin and singer Aurora all taking on the dreamy 1971 hit from Ziggy Stardust.
Original Artist: Prince
Cover Artist: Mac DeMarco
Why It’s Amazing: Much like Bowie, Prince’s passing also inspired a number of covers from his fans. Canadian singer Mac DeMarco took an inventive approach and even a few risks with Prince’s 1979 track, and it paid off.
Original Artist: Tame Impala
Cover Artist: Rihanna
Why It’s Amazing: Rihanna didn’t do too much to change up Tame Impala’s “Same Old Mistakes” for her album Anti and we don’t blame her. Why try to improve on transcendental awesomeness when you can just sing it and chilllll?
Original Artist: Zayn Malik
Cover Artist: Conor Maynard
Why It’s Amazing: Brit pop singer Conor Maynard has produced some smash singles in the past five years that somehow haven’t propelled him to Bieber-status. What does get a whole lot of YouTube views are Maynard’s goosebump-inducing covers, like this one of Zayn Malik’s “Pillowtalk.” Who knew such a sexual song could totally be used as the first dance at a wedding?!