Associate editor Duncan Cooper and art director Harry Gassel share a special fondness for amateur YouTube covers—songs sung solo in someone’s bedroom, shot through their webcam and into the world. In their new column, Cover Art, Duncan and Harry each share a favorite recent find.
Keeping with the do-it-yourself spirit, we’d like your help.
Every week, we’ll use a new version of the words “cover art.” This week’s is by Justin Rodier. You too can illustrate the column by writing, illustrating, or just typing the words “cover art” in whatever style you’d like. We’ll pick our favorites to use for the column art, and send the winners copies of our last three issues and link to their sites. Artwork must be black and white and at least 1000 pixels wide. If it’s a vector graphic, send the original file. Please send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barnaby Thomas, “Burn (Ellie Goulding Cover)”
Based on what I’ve found, it’s really hard to sustain a compelling cover of Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” for the full duration of the song. So much of the original’s power comes from the dramatic changes in production—producer Greg Kurstin uses sweeping filters as if they were behemoth clouds, slowly parting in the wind to trickle in sunlight as trance synths; his drums appear from nowhere with the force of lightning—and a lot of cover artists just can’t capture that energy. Barnaby Thomas, from the small city of Wells in the southwest of the UK, employs just enough tricks to pull it off (not least of which is having a video with a really compelling frame, with him sitting, folded up, on his bed in a colorful corner). He plays a retro pocket synth, smacks his microphone for percussion and sings through a loop pedal, using it sparingly. My favorite part comes five minutes in, when he starts to experiment with the pedal a bit. He does this vocal bass line, then turns his to the side, slack-jawed, thinking about what he’s done and deciding what he’s going to do next.
Maddy Storm and Emma Corbett-Usher, “Falling (Haim Cover)”
On the YouTube page of Maddy Storm and Emma Corbett-Usher’s rendition of current FADER cover stars Haim’s “Falling,” commenter Lisa Lavelle writes “great cover but PLEASE REMOVE the black lipstick.” I could not disagree more—she’s trying something. At the 1:12 mark, Maddy (right) adjusts her fluffed-out, coven ‘do, using the webcam as a mid-performance mirror in the way that a singer might pay special close attention to a melody line on her headphones. Now, Maddy watched a playback and decided to post this to her YouTube page. She is letting us see her nerves and self-doubt, her fidgets and quarks in a way that is entirely un-self-concious. Maybe that commenter feels uncomfortable because she sees herself in Maddy’s powdered face and black lips. Because who doesn’t remember a time they tried a new style in the hopes that it would make them better, cooler, more specific and defined.
And Emma acts as a perfect foil to Maddy’s raw nerve. Cooly poised, she plunks at her keyboard, singing her parts with obvious but dialed-back feeling, raw in an entirely different way. The harmonies are light, and the vocal arrangements are casual but spot on. The pair channel Haim—another group of young women who made music in their bedroom—making the vulnerability and self-reliance of the song their own. And I’ll never look back, just hold your head up/ And if it gets rough, it’s time to get rough. There’s a point when Emma sees her reflection in the computer screen, too; she cracks a smile. Ultimately, they’re two friends having fun. When the song ends, there’s a cut, and we see them dancing.