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. The semi-regular column Cover Art collects their favorite finds.
Future, “Honest (Ice JJ Fish Remake)”
Daniel McLoyd, aka Ice JJ Fish, has been releasing possibly trolling covers for a while now. His pitch-imperfect voice can sound kind of like a helium’d Lil B singing in the shower, and like Lil B, McLoyd has attracted a fair share of World Star hits and ire. A lot of his covers are enjoyable because it’s fun to hear goofily amateur retrofits of hyper-polished pop and R&B, like “Adorn” and “Hold on We’re Going Home,” but none yet, as far as I’m concerned, has reached the creative heights of this #nofilter, #noautotune remake of Future’s “Honest,” complete with original lyrics (If this was a race, best believe bitch you lost it/ I hit the weed once, best believe I lost it… fuck youuuuuuuuuuuu). The joke here—and I don’t know if it’s even funny, or just makes me really happy—isn’t on McLoyd or his voice, as it seems to be in some videos, but the way that going pitch-crazy like Future makes McLoyd’s tone seem actually normal. Like, maybe everyone could fit in if we just shifted the center. There’s an extremely enjoyable non-a-cappella version too, complete with ad libs and backing vocals, if you want to take it to the next level. And if you’re truly truly down for Ice Fish, he actually just released an album of originals, Joy, which I’ve been listening for the first time while writing this and can heartily endorse. DC
Built to Spill, “Car (onyourwings Cover)”
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I remember cutting high school to go to Central Park, mellow out and listen to Built To Spill on my discman. There was always something about the direct sentimentality of this song specifically, the idea of finding someone, a car and a new, separate place in the world. As a teenager in New York City I didn’t know much about cars or falling in love for that matter, but I found comfort in Doug Martsch’s sincere optimism and curiosity.
The field of YouTube cover artists is a mixed bag. A lot of it seems to come with an agenda, Hollywood hopefuls like Lennon and Maisy Stella who parlayed early YouTube cover success into regular roles on ABC’s “Nashville.” I’m not saying I don’t like these performers—a good cover is a good cover—but it is certainly a different beast than the bedroom musicians who just have something they’d like to try. The girl who runs the onyourwings account posted roughly 20 songs between 2011 and the end of 2012, starting with this rendering of Built to Spill’s “Car.” And there is something about this version that captures for me the exact feelings I had when I first heard this song. She sings quietly, almost apologetically over a lightly strummed nylon string acoustic. Some of her phrasing is off. It just seems like she means it, whatever that means. The descriptions on her other videos include “I left my TV on,” and “If you listen closely you can hear bird chirps :)” which in a world of Zooey Deschanel or even Taylor Swift’s performative modesty could come off as insincere, but it doesn’t here.
That’s partly because of something I read on her About page, where she talks about why she’s put her YouTube cover days behind her: “i’m not going to pretend it didn’t get to me at times to have strangers making inferences about my motivation for doing what i did and judging my character along the way … i have no intention of pursuing music (nor do i think i’m suited for it) – this channel was merely my way of showing my appreciation for the kind of music i listen to in a way that makes me happy.” And I was back in that aching mix of heartbreak and promise that you can only really feel between the ages of 16 and 20 when I first heard and fell in love with this song. HG