Rave: Best Cover Songs

Let’s just preface this whole thing by making two things
clear. The first thing is
 when we say we love covers, we don’t mean you should attempt to perfectly
imitate your favourite artist or song 
(we are looking at you, guy at a house party with an acoustic guitar and a roster full of DMB). Second thing, Glee doesn’t count and if you’ve
ever said “I like the Glee version more” then we’re going to have to clear our
schedules for a little sit-down music appreciation talk. So while it’s true
that we aren’t
we are a little picky about  them. We like to think of a well-executed cover as an homage: a piece that honours the integrity of the original
while still putting a unique or personal spin to it. That’s why these are some of our
favourite cover songs.

Hugo – 99 Problems

If you’ve ever needed a sexy banjo, boot stomping anthem
about the problems you may or may not have, this bluegrass Jay Z reinterpretation is
exactly what you’re looking for. While it may not exactly be considered a
“cover” by some since it only shares a chorus, it is one example of how
well a song can translate across genres.

Civil Wars – Billie Jean

One does not simply do
a Michael Jackson
cover. To try and emulate the King
of Pop
would be a mistake. Instead, the folk duo took the iconic tune and
spun it into a sultry, harmonic acoustic jam that is more like the Chris Cornell version
than the original. It’s the most fun we’ve had with questionable paternity
since, well, any episode of Maury.

Ben Taylor – I Try

Macy Gray’s signature raspy voice is what made the song
famous, but is nearly impossible to replicate without giving yourself a vocal
polyp. When Ben Taylor’s pretty lullaby version appeared in a Cheerios commercial, the world was finally able to sing along.

Hey Ocean! – Sprawl II

If somebody came to us and said “You’re going to love this cover of an Arcade Fire song” we’d
probably be like “Yeah, and you’re going to love
this over the top eye-roll” but Hey Ocean! pulls it off with a goose-bumpy,
harmony-layered version with a full band (including horns!) that they filmed in somebody’s basement.

Ray Lamontagne – Crazy

“I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind” because we could not have listened to the radio for more than ten minutes without hearing this Gnarls Barkley song and by the end of it, yes, it did make us
crazy. But along comes ol’ rumbly voice Ray with a soulful, bluesy rendition
that we have yet to get enough of. 

Did we miss anything? If you know of any cover jams that are as good as (or better) than the originals tweet them @rockitpromo for our next instalment!

Media, Darling: Kevin Sweet

Kevin Sweet is the arts reporter and theatre critic for Le Téléjournal Ontario, Radio-Canada’s nightly television newscast.
He is also featured every Thursday on
CBC News Toronto at 11.

In 2006, a documentary he co-produced about the
Rwandan genocide earned him a national journalism award as well as an
international broadcasting award from the New York Festivals.

Kevin has been with the nation’s public broadcaster for the
past 10 years. Six of those were spent as an arts reporter and theatre critic in
Edmonton, Alberta.

An Anglophone from Québec, he is fluent in both French and English.

Twitter: @sweetonarts

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other
careers were on
the horizon?
I always knew that I’d do something artistic and related to
performance, but 
what shape that would take didn’t clearly articulate itself
university. As a child I remember at one point wanting to be
a teacher;
 would always set up a mock classroom in our garage. Then as I got older,
I became 
fascinated by choreography. Like most people my age I remember
Michael Jackson videos and trying to recreate his dance
moves in our 
basement.  And then I
became obsessed with watching figure skating.
 Kurt Browning and Kristi Yamaguchi were childhood heroes of mine.
But I never 
became a dancer or a skater. Then, when college came around, I thought I’d follow in my sister’s steps and become a psychologist. But
I’ve never been 
good in math or sciences, two pre-requisites for the
 So, in university I decided to do a bachelor’s degree in communications. It was a
wide ranging enough 
program that I was able to touch on a lot of things,
including broadcasting. 
And, well, as they say…the rest is history. Through hard work and opening myself to being guided by the right people and their advice,
here I am. So 
now, even though I never knew that I wanted to be a
broadcaster, I couldn’t 
see myself doing anything else. (PS – I still sometimes
dance to Michael 
Jackson music by myself, in my living room. Believe me, I
can still bust a 

Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’ve always dreamed of having my own talk-show, either on
TV or radio. 
Anything that allows me to interview people and get to know
them well. 
Sometimes TV news is so rushed and fickle. A sound-bite
never allows you to 
go in-depth.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Work hard, but remember to make time for yourself and friends
– someone who’s 
happy in life will be happy at work. Be curious. It’s not always about who you know but WHAT you know. Constantly ask for feedback, be open to constructive criticism and then challenge yourself with it.
Offer feedback 
to people who are working with you. Say yes to every single
opportunity that 
is offered to you, even though it seems like grunt work that
doesn’t quite 
match your goals. Be yourself. People watching or listening
at home can tell 
when you aren’t. Always apologize when you screw up –
character is built by 
successes and mistakes. Take time to recognize when someone has done a good job, they in turn will validate someone else’s work. Know what you want, and say it – people will always align with a vision that is
clearly. A French producer once told me “organize yourself, before someone else does it for you.”

What are your
favourite media 
outlets, not including your own? 
On a daily basis I read the arts sections of the Toronto Star, the Globe
and Mail
, the 
National Post, the Huffington Post and La Presse. At night,
before bed, I’ll 
usually go back and skim through the headlines (because in
some shape or 
form, news informs art). And I gotta vouch for my own team here: I can’t start my
morning without 
Matt Galloway, The Current and Jian Ghomeshi’s daily

Best interview you’ve ever had? 
Adele. She said she found
herself talking 
about things she wouldn’t even tell her mum.

Norah Jones. Yes, really! I was surprised too!

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
From my mom: Be a nice person, see every day as a gift, and
make sure that 
whatever talent you’ve been given is used to accomplish
something good. And 
from a university professor: When you want something done,
give it to 
someone who’s already busy.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Curiosity and empathy. When we are curious about others, we learn more about them and the easier it becomes to empathize. Honesty: mean what you say, and say what you mean. Be responsible for your own
actions and your 
life. Listen: to others and yourself.  Be self-aware: self-awareness is the first step to self-accomplishment. Be on time.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
I am not your mouth piece. You are not my bitch. We work together.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear
about #wins.
I vividly remember getting out of bed one night at midnight
to answer an 
email. I didn’t know who the bigger loser was: me for
answering, or the 
person who was still at work at that hour. But because you develop a friendship and respect for one another, it isn’t something
you mind doing. 
It’s like getting a text message from a buddy. And, all the peeps at TIFF are pros. Class all around, grace
under fire. A 
huge event, but they make you feel like family.

I hate?
People who can’t communicate properly.

I love?
Debating ideas.

At the
moment I’m reading Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth
It’s my third attempt at reading this mammoth 975-page novel
about the 
building of a cathedral in the 12th century.

Best place on earth? 
Anywhere there isn’t cellphone
reception and time to do 
nothing but get lost in a book.

Dinner guest?
I’d love to sit down with Alanis Morissette and God.

My mother. For
raising three kids alone and not letting them stray 
off the right path.

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)? 
“Camera +”…a nifty little app that allows you to edit your pictures in
your iPhone. You
almost feel like a professional photographer.

Pool or ocean? 
Ocean, always. As long as there is a beach close by. I’m terrified of being out in open water, especially at night.

Voicemail or email? 
Email. The written word is beautiful.

Theatre show in the fall season you’re most looking forward
Honestly, all of them. Always go into a play with no expectations, and
allow yourself 
to be surprised. It’s one of the only art forms where you
are really an 
important part of the process.