Taylor Swift is a rare pop megastar. She has the attention and respect of the indie world, especially after her righteous recent scrap with Apple Music over musician royalties, who counts Lorde, Grimes, Kendrick Lamar and Fleetwood Mac among her high-rolling admirers and collaborators. Ryan Adams gave us a whip-smart spin on ‘1989’ – but what about the indie artists before him who’ve already tackled Taylor’s tunes?
Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks – ‘Blank Space’
Swift famously struck back at an indie snob ex in ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’. If he’s anything as snobbish in real life as that track made out, he must have felt pretty wounded by this this cover, by The Indiest Of Them All – Pavement poster-boy for all things American alternative, Stephen Malkmus. Filmed here live at a teenage cancer charity benefit at Portland venue the Crystal Ballroom, it apparently came about at the request of Malkmus’ daughter, a massive Taylor fan. Cue a plaid-embellished slacker-rock restructuring of ‘Blank Space’, complete with plinky-plonky piano and Malkmus’ trademark deadpan vocals. We’d pay seriously good money to hear Swift doing ‘Cut Your Hair’…
The Vaccines – ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’
The Vaccines’ Justin Young has written for One Direction in the past, so obviously knows his way around a pop hit. This cover, though, debuted as part of a Radio 1 Live Lounge session, adds guitar licks right out of the Jimmy Page book of chug to the bubblegum charm of the original. Young snarls theatrically, in a kind of monotone spoken-word growl, while his band mates crash around him. Nothing short of awesome.
Screaming Females – ‘Shake It Off’
Cult New Jersey punks Screaming Females’ scrappy, abrasive sound is about a million miles removed from Taylor’s, but that didn’t stop Marissa Paternoster and co taking on ‘Shake It Off’ last year, for the AV Club’s Undercover web series. A powerful, no-holds-barred rendition that rips up Swift’s original, douses it in petrol and maniacally sets it alight – Paternoster roars her vocals like a bullet train, before a guitar wig-out that may just make you fall at her feet.
Drenge – ‘Bad Blood’
Another Radio 1 Live Lounge cover, this time courtesy of Labour MP Tom Watson’s favourite swamp-rock duo, Drenge. In this heavy-studded reincarnation, ‘Bad Blood’ sounds even truer to its namesake, shoved through the wringer only to reappear in a cloud of doom metal and fuzz-soaked surf guitar. The duo really sink their teeth into this track, delivering the lines “Salt in your wounds/Like you’re laughing right at me” with the kind of potency that only Drenge know how, totally making this song their own.
Gengahr – ‘Blank Space’
Gengahr retreated to the green room at Eurosonic Festival to film this weird and wonderful, stripped-back version of ‘Blank Space’. Embracing the wonders of technology, one bleep at a time, this falsetto-heavy, 8-bit sounding makeover is a delicately delivered avant-pop swooner.