While we were wasting away our lockdown taking part in countless Zoom quizzes and binge-watching Tiger King, Arlo Parks was keeping busy. Throughout the months the globe was self-isolating, the Londoner started to upload covers on her YouTube channel as part of her “lo fi lounge”. Here she reimagined already great songs by the likes of Phoebe Bridgers, Frank Ocean and Clairo and transformed them into gorgeous, stripped-back cover versions.
The results have been hugely impressive, and another indicator of the recent NME Big Read star’s massive talent. With so many to choose from — Parks already loved a cover before coronavirus came to stay — let’s take a look back at Arlo Parks’ best cover songs to date.
Who’s it originally by? Phoebe Bridgers.
Why it’s so good? Bridgers has been a long-time source of inspiration for Parks, and, because of this cover, it looks like the respect is now mutual. “I was literally listening to her first album, ‘Stranger In The Alps’, as the notification came up that she’d retweeted it and said it was sick,” Parks recently told NME. “It’s so cool to have those full-cycle moments of acknowledgement from people that you look up to.” Bridgers’ approval is no surprise to us, though, as Parks’ cover is a gorgeous interpretation of the former’s equally moving grunge-flecked folk tune.
The best bit: The quietly powerful delivery of the opening line “you asked to walk me home”. From that moment, you’re hooked.
‘Cranes in the Sky’
Who’s it originally by? Solange.
Why it’s so good? ‘Cranes in the Sky’ is a masterpiece of a song – one that many artists wouldn’t be brave enough to touch. But by swapping the soulful instrumentation of Solange’s version for nothing but the occasional guitar lick, Parks does a majestic job of injecting it with new life. The only problem? It’s only 68 seconds long.
The best bit: Parks’ ethereal vocals.
Who’s it originally by? Drake.
Why it’s so good? For this one, Parks teamed up with Glass Animals as part of their ‘Quarantine Covers’ series. Dropping in to help frontman Dave Bayley take on Drake’s almighty summer anthem, they reinvented it as a hazy, psych-pop tune.
The best bit: The slowed-down delivery of “I know when that hotline bling” accompanied by Bayley’s woozy harmonies.
Who’s it originally by? Radiohead.
Why it’s so good? Settling down behind a grand piano in the below video, Parks proceeds to deliver an astonishing version of ‘Creep’. There are a lot of covers of the Radiohead classic around, but here Parks makes it her own. Stripping it back to only impassioned vocals and a modest accompaniment, it’s an affecting listen — made even more impressive when you remember that Parks is only 19.
The best bit: The simple piano accompaniment that twists and turns to support Parks’ vocals.
Who’s it originally by? Frank Ocean.
Why it’s so good? There’s a magic in Arlo Parks’ music. Through her lyrics and lilting delivery she manages to convey the sweeping spectrum of human emotion – just look at her recent single ‘Black Dog’, a musical gut-punch that was written for a friend struggling with depression. This magic is also conveyed in her covers, particularly in this rendition of ‘Ivy’. Over the course of five minutes, the ‘Blonde’ track explores past mistakes that caused a relationship to unravel — and it’s made all the more heartbreaking when stripped back, the full focus drawn to Parks’ delivery of the poignant lyrics.
The best bit? The final chorus where Parks sings: “I thought that I was dreamin’ when you said you love me”. No you’re crying.
Who’s it originally by? Clairo.
Why it’s so good? A short-but-sweet rendition, Parks’ gorgeous vocals fully convey the agitated lyrics that Clairo wrote about falling for a close friend. Over skittering beats and twinkling guitar licks, it’s a beautiful reimagining.
The best bit? The rippling guitar line that runs underneath the entire thing.
Who’s it originally by? The Internet.
Why it’s so good? Gone is the rich production of the original — filled with slinky basslines and strutting beats — as Parks instead excavates a sweet indie-pop song that was hidden underneath it all along. Coupling her vocals with sparse acoustic guitar riffs, it’s a beauty.
The best bit? Parks’ earnest vocal delivery.
Who’s it originally by? Hayley Williams.
Why it’s so good? For this one, Parks reimagines the brooding alt-pop of ‘Roses / Lotus / Violet / Iris’ by turning it into a stripped-back ballad. Accompanied only by a shimmering electric guitar, the full focus is put on Parks’ emotive vocals and her delivery of Williams’ poetic lyrics.
The best bit: Midway through when Parks pauses her soaring vocals and transforms one of the original pre-chorus sections into a goosebump-inducing piece of spoken-word.