When BBC’s popular Radio 1 show started asking guest artists to perform an acoustic cover of one of their contemporaries in the Live Lounge in 2005, radio producers probably didn’t know they were embarking on a phenomenon. At the beginning the covers were incestuous in genre and style, I’m talking Arcade Fire covering the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps.”
Slowly but surely, the Live Lounge covers became more popular, encouraging artists to take risks in their performances. In the years that followed, British dudes began covering OutKast, Pharrell and Kanye West, and the cross-genre styling began. Female artists favored Beyonce, Britney, Rihanna, and other “guilty pleasures.”
Arguably, the Live Lounge covers helped foster this modern, post-iPod musical era, with indie artists unafraid of dipping their toes into the mainstream and while doing so, lending some credibility to some glorious pop songs with the best melodies money can buy. It can be said that the concept of “indie pop” was cultivated at Radio 1.
Today BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge not only hosts performances from up-and-coming artists doing big hits. No, now the Live Lounge has Miley Cyrus covering Lana Del Rey (which was ok…)
For a Live Lounge cover to be truly memorable, it has to have a distinct take and not be just a karaoke version of the original. Most often, the covers that shine feature sophisticated instrumentation and an emotional gravitas not found in most Top 40 hits. Except for maybe Rihanna’s. Listen to 10 awesome covers from Radio 1 Live Lounge.
10. 30 Seconds to Mars covers Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”
I’ve never heard a single 30 Seconds song, but the Jared Leto-led band has done three awesome covers on Radio 1, including Kanye West’s “Stronger” and Rihanna’s “Stay.” It’s their uber-gothic take on “Bad Romance” that truly transcends.
9. Ellie Goulding covers Rihanna’s “Only Girl in the World”
The UK singer is also a Radio 1 regular, having done renditions of The Knife’s “Heartbeats” and Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors.” Her take on Rihanna’s banger, however, was done right as she became a star of her own, so consider this pop princess-on-pop princess. Ellie’s thread-thin voice makes “Only Girl” sound a bit more fragile alongside the delicate piano. And you can never go wrong with violins in the Live Lounge.
8. Kodaline covers Macklemore’s “Same Love”
The Dublin-based rock group gets inspirational with this take on perhaps the most popular gay anthem by a white straight rapper. Delightful memories and more focus on the chorus originally by Mary Lambert makes this a winner.
7. Katy Perry covers Jay-Z & Kanye West’s “Niggas in Paris”
“This is about to get real embarrassing,” said Katy Perry, wearing a Yankees cap, before jumping on this Watch the Throne track. But seriously Perry has done far more cringe-worthy things onstage. If anything, way to prove that pretty girls can rap, too.
6. Tom Odell covers Katy Perry’s “Roar”
Under Tom Odell’s careful rearrangement, Katy Perry’s gleeful “Roar” becomes a different, albeit equally cheery, song featuring friendly percussion made for marching.
5. Jessie J covers Rihanna’s “We Found Love”
It’s pretty difficult to enhance Rihanna’s darn awesome “We Found Love,” but leave it to Jessie J to try. At first it sounds like this is going to be a basic acoustic rendition, but Jessie brings much needed energy and a flawless vocal execution to the already hyped chorus.
4. HAIM covers Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”
Overall, the HAIM sisters’ electric guitar-infused performance of Miley’s hit is a fresh work of art. Just when you think it can’t get any more glorious, you get to the restructured bridge, which HAIM stylizes to match their signature rock sound.
3. The xx cover Wham’s “Last Christmas”
Wham’s holiday staple has gotten the cover treatment from such diverse acts like Jimmy Eat World and Hilary Duff… but it’s The xx’s version that matches the original’s relatable but bittersweet ex-lovers’ tale.
2. Adele covers Cheryl Cole’s “Promise This”
Once Adele steps up to the mic, it’s impossible not to have something brilliant. She loves Cheryl Cole and her original run-of-the-mill pop tune “Promise This,” but under Adele’s distinctive vocal styling the song gets new layers.
1. Florence and the Machine covers Beyonce’s “Halo”
Perhaps the only woman in the world even more flawless than Beyonce is Florence Welch. And here she proves it once again with a cathedral-worthy rendition of “Halo.”
Florence and the Machine covers Drake & Rihanna’s “Take Care”
Florence might have open the doors for alternative singers to get comfortable in the R&B and hip-hop sphere with this super popular cover. It doesn’t hurt that “Take Care” was penned by the hip Jamie xx (of The xx).