In partnership with Amazon Music
You don’t need us to tell you that Australian musicians make fantastic music. That goes not just for original material, but also covers of classic tunes by other artists. Sometimes it takes reinterpreting someone else’s song to truly showcase a musician’s talent – just ask Trent Reznor and Johnny Cash, or Natalie Imbruglia, whose unofficial Australian national anthem ‘Torn’ was originally sung by Danish artist Lis Sørensen.
So here are five great covers performed by Australian artists that you should check out today – these tracks have a certain je ne sais quoi thanks to the performer’s unique vision, and can all be found on Amazon Music Unlimited, which is now offering a three-month free trial. Sign up for yours today before January 11 and read on for the songs you should kick off your free trial with…
Tkay Maidza takes on an alt-rock favourite, ‘Where Is My Mind?’
Whether you encountered it first in the epic ending of Fight Club or halfway through the tracklist of Pixies ‘Surfer Rosa’, there’s no doubt about it: ‘Where Is My Mind?’ is an alt-rock song for the ages. From Kim Deal’s ethereal backing vocals to Black Francis’s imposing presence to the dirty, sawing guitars, it’s utterly singular.
But Tkay Maidza successfully puts her own off-kilter spin on it, slowing down its tempo and using synths to replicate the iconic riffs. The Adelaide rapper and producer takes a decidedly dreamier approach than the Pixies original, embracing the lighter side of the whole enterprise by injecting ‘yeahs!’ and ‘whoos!’ into its conclusion.
Angie McMahon’s devastating cover of ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’
Bonnie Tyler and Angie McMahon: two distinct voices. They both collide on the latter’s cover of the former’s signature power ballad, ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’. Where Tyler’s 1983 megahit embraced the blown-out dramatics of the ’80s with soaring diva vocals, keys and gated drums, McMahon – armed only with a guitar – takes all of that emotion and distills it into an acoustic slow-burner that’s no less powerful.
Released first in 2020 for bushfire relief, McMahon’s rendition of ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ is an Amazon Original that you can stream by heading to Amazon Music. The way she dips from a delicate falsetto into her lower register on the first chorus is enough to give anyone chills.
JK-47’s unforgettable rendition of a Tupac classic
triple j’s Like A Version segment is the great Australian font of good covers. One from last year you may have missed is JK-47’s incredible take on Tupac’s ‘Changes’. JK-47 is Jacob Paulson, a proud Gudjinburra man of the Bundjalung nation who made his solo debut in 2020 with the album ‘Made For This’. Accompanied by indie singer Bronte Eve and a full band, he put his own spin on one of Tupac’s greatest songs, the sociopolitical anthem ‘Changes’ – and smashed it out of the park.
“If we gotta do that song, we gotta do it right”: that’s how JK-47 described his band’s mentality going into the cover. It’s not easy to match Tupac’s passionate flow on ‘Changes’, but JK-47 not only pulls it off but also sings lines written in language specially for the cover. He transmits a message of mindfulness and community: when the sun’s going down, it’s time to go back to the fire and it’s time to go back to contribute. It makes for a stunning cover that even took its creator off guard: “I surprised myself,” JK-47 said, “every time I do something like this, a little bit of me comes out of my shell.”
Gang of Youths give an “underrated” Nick Cave song fresh polish
In 2018, Amazon Music commissioned ‘Made In Australia’, a playlist of all-time Australian songs covered by fellow Aussie artists. The entire thing is a goldmine, spanning the likes of Savage Garden, The Divinyls and Powderfinger, but special mention should go to Gang of Youths who stepped up to the plate with a daunting selection: a song by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Lyrically, ‘Straight To You’ is classic Cave: doomed, dogged, dramatic. But its pure romanticism and the Seeds’ jangling instrumental makes it one of their more accessible songs. Nevertheless, it remains “underrated”, frontman Dave Le’aupepe said. “‘Straight To You’ is, in my opinion, an underrated classic from an under-appreciated album – hopefully, anybody hearing the GOY version will find their way back to the original.”
Perfect for the season: All Our Exes Live In Texas’ ‘How To Make Gravy’
Now that December is round the corner, it’s time to throw on the festive classics. And there’s no better way to celebrate than the Aussie way: with Paul Kelly’s ‘How To Make Gravy’. The tale of Joe and Dan has been told by many a musician, but this 2017 rendition by folk-pop four-piece All Our Exes Live In Texas has a particularly lovely, Christmassy spirit about it.
Hannah Croft, Georgia Mooney, Elana Stone and Katie Wighton take vocal turns on the song, harmonising beautifully on the chorus and exemplifying the communal spirit of the season. Throw this one on as you break out the flour, salt, red wine and tomato sauce.