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Alessia Cara, Feist, Shawn Mendes, more: 10 best cover songs of 2017

Andrea Warner

There’s so much to love about a great cover. If you already worship the song, a wonderful treatment or reinvention is basically an invitation to fall all over again. If you weren’t a fan of the original, a wildly different take can offer a new way in.

This past year has been a uniquely great one for incredible covers, particularly those with a Canadian hook. With a host of wonderful musicians tackling everybody from Neil Young and Drake to Shania Twain and Leonard Cohen, scroll down to check out CBC Music’s list of the 10 best covers from 2017.

Song: “Helpless” by Neil Young
Artist: k.d. lang

It’s no surprise that lang’s version of this Neil Young classic is stunning. After all, we still have goosebumps from hearing her sing “Hallelujah” for the first time in 2006.

Song: “Drew Barrymore” by SZA
Artist: Alessia Cara

This is just a collision of excellence. Cara’s treatment of this perfect single from SZA’s critically acclaimed 2017 album, CTRL, is exquisite.

Song: “I’m Your Man” by Leonard Cohen
Artist: Amanda Shires

Spare and simple, Shires’ cover isn’t radical reinterpretation, but rather subtle reinvention as tribute. The singer-songwriter’s vocal performance is thoughtful and there’s a powerful warmth even at the cover’s most brittle. It’s hard not to tear up when a small quaver enters Shires’ voice, an injection of tenderness into the wry heart of Cohen’s lyrics.

Song: “All we Got” by Chance the Rapper
Artist: Shawn Mendes

This piano-based cover mixes in low-key soul elements and though it lacks the urgency and vibrancy of Chance the Rapper’s brilliant original, Mendes’ version has a charm all its own and is an obvious testament to the young pop artist’s love of the source material.

Song: “That Don’t Impress me Much” by Shania Twain
Artists: Haim

The Haim sisters’ rendition of Twain’s pop-country chart-topping hit is restrained and cool in all the right ways, because it fully illustrates how much time they’ve spent considering the original — and how much they seem to genuinely adore it.

Song: “Passionfruit” by Drake
Artist: Paramore

This love note to Drake’s smash hit trades in the song’s sad-boy swagger for a more chilled-out vibe and it works really well.

Song: “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Artists: Jon Batiste, Leon Bridges and Gary Clark Jr.

Jon Batiste, Leon Bridges and Gary Clark Jr.’s decision to turn CSNY’s anti-war song into a broken-hearted and bruised blues hymn is one of the most quietly radical, artistic acts of protest in 2017 that also happens to be a beautiful song.

Ohio - John Batiste, Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr from fahtheo on Vimeo.

Song: “Hey, That’s no Way to Say Goodbye” by Leonard Cohen
Artist: Feist

This luminous tribute laps and swells like the moon calling in the tide, its reflection dancing across the waves, mimicked in the interplay between the creak of the acoustic guitar, the echo-y shimmer of a small chorus and Feist’s incredible voice.

Song: “Stolen Land” by Bruce Cockburn
Artists: William Prince and Elisapie Isaac

Cockburn’s song is made all the more powerful in this tribute by Prince and Isaac, Indigenous artists who know all too well the consequences of stolen land. Their devastating duet aches and breaks and rises up, and the collaboration between these two talented people is nothing short of genius.

Song: “Sorry” by Justin Bieber
Artist: Lydia Loveless

Loveless grips every word of Bieber’s pop gem like she’s hooking her fingers into the belt loop of lover’s jeans and pulling them towards her, begging them not to go. It’s a wonderfully gritty reinvention, and a hundred times hotter than the original.

Hang out with me on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner

More to explore:

The year in protest music: radical hope, resistance and rising up

10 Canadian artists who shaped 2017

Missy Elliott, Black Thought, Anne Murray, more: the best music quotes of 2017

The 17 best Canadian albums of 2017

100 best Canadian songs of 2017