The only thing better than a great song is a great cover and in 2018, we had plenty of both. From country artists covering country legends, to rockers giving pop tracks a Gospel feel, 2018 had some major contenders for Best Covers Songs. We couldn’t pick one, so we went with 10. Choosing a favourite is so 2017.
Folk-pop singer Maggie Rogers put her own spin on Taylor Swift’s early hit “Tim McGraw,” reworking the song to give it a retro 1980s vibe that could act as a B side for Swift’s 1989 album. Rogers was inspired to cover the song, a longtime favourite, saying “This song is classic songwriting at its finest and has meant so much to me for the last 10 years.” Swift was quick to return the praise, including Rogers’ version in her Instagram stories and calling the cover “heavenly.”
If Dua Lipa’s haunting cover of fellow Brits Arctic Monkeys and their gritty “Do I Wanna Know” doesn’t make it into a movie, it’s a huge missed opportunity. Grizzly murder scene? Brutal heartbreak moment? Lipa’s cover is so cinematic that it would be a loss to not see it used in film.
The music world suffered a devastating loss this year with the death of The Cranberries frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan. Canadian rockers Arcade Fire fittingly paid tribute to O’Riordan during their concert in her home country of Ireland, mashing “Linger” up with their own “Everything Now” to create a beautiful musical moment.
What do you do when you weirdly score a huge hit with a cover of Toto’s “Africa”? Up the ante on the weirdness by enlisting the help of Weird Al Yankovic. That’s exactly what Weezer did for the video of their surprise hit cover of ’80s tune. The cover came after the Twitter handle @WeezerAfrica began an online campaign requesting that the band cover the famous earworm.
Weezer uploaded a cover of Toto’s huge 1982 hit “Africa” in May and then played it live in June while appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Striking a chord with music fans who want to hear something old and something new all at once, Weezer’s “Africa” is now the band’s first song to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Rock Airplay Chart and their first song to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in over a decade.
Only a few days after Drake released his Grammy-nominated album Scorpion, fellow Canadian musician Lights dropped a stunning cover album of the record’s B-sides. Unfortunately, Lights was forced to remove the album from streaming services for legal reasons, but we’re still counting it.
In 2017, we got a stellar cover of Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much” by sister trio Haim. In 2018, Harry Styles and tour opener Kacey Musgraves continued the country tradition, covering Twain’s “Still The One.” More like, “Still A Jam.”
Cover king Shawn Mendes got the cover treatment this year himself thanks to fellow pop singer Charlie Puth. For his rendition of Mendes’ huge 2018 single“In My Blood,” Puth slowed down the explosive track, keeping it simple with a piano and a lot of heart.
Of course, Shawn Mendes still dropped his own cover in 2018. Continuing his tradition of turning rap records into pop songs (see: Drake’s “Fake Love“), Mendes took on Post Malone’s “Psycho,” adding a softness to the Ty Dolla $ign collaboration.
Famous for her emotional and oftentimes haunting covers (we still get shivers from “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”), Lorde paid homage to Frank Ocean this year by covering the singer’s 2016 track “Solo.” Lorde performed the song during the Milwaukee stop of her Melodrama Tour, later attributing much of her sound on the 2017 album to Ocean.
Speaking to The Spinoff, Lorde said “It’s just like this big dumb joy and it’s intense—and I feel like the instrumentation in that song kind of helped it get there. In this sort of post-‘Blonde’ landscape, we can all sort of do whatever we want in terms of instrumentation,” she said. “It’s exciting. I can use guitars and I can get a big gnarly Flume beat and throw it under water.”
Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” was arguably the biggest song of 2018, which is even more impressive considering it was released so late in the year. Grande is known for her soulful, R&B sound, but went with a more pop sound for her huge hit. So, it was fitting that British band The 1975 gave the song a Gospel makeover. Thank you, yas.