BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge: September 2015’s Covers Ranked From Worst To Best

BBC Radio 1 decided to do something a little different this month, launching a full thirty days of their popular Live Lounge sessions, with everyone from The Vaccines to Muse stopping by to cover other artist’s hits. Here’s all of them, ranked from bad to brilliant…

28 Nero – ‘Little Monster’/’Relax’ (Royal Blood/Frankie Goes To Hollywood’)

Points for ambition to dance floor fillers Nero, who aim high with this take on the meaty, mighty crunch-rock of Royal Blood hit single ‘Little Monster’, taking in also a chunk of heady ’80s pop anthem ‘Relax’. Unfortunately, its a reinvention too far for the dance masters, whose electro-pop spin on the Brighton boys results more in novelty than in anything truly worthwhile.

27 Frances – ‘What Do You Mean?’ (Justin Bieber)

“You know what the world needs?” presumably thought ballad-ready piano favourite Frances one September morning. “A super-serious, piano-led reinterpretation of Justin Bieber’s recent world-conquering chart-buster ‘What Do You Mean?’. By me.” The fun, free Atlantic glow of the original doesn’t quite sound the same delivered by this still-rising 21-year-old from Berkshire.

26 Gabrielle Aplin – ‘Money On My Mind’/’Rather Be’ (Sam Smith/Clean Bandit)

A mash-up of two recent, successful British exports,Bath native Aplin’s finger-picking acoustic version of the Sam Smith smash hit is packed with pizzicato violin and svelte vocals but lacks a little edge, truth told.

25 Coasts – ‘Glitterball’/’Hold Back The River’ (Sigma ft. Ella Henderson/James Bay)

In which Bristol rockers Coasts mix Sigma’s UK singles chart number 4, a poppy vehicle for X Factor contestant Ella Henderson, with James Bay’s number 2 breakthrough hit ‘Hold Back The River’, adeptly, but with few fireworks.

24 Rhodes – ‘Love Me Like You Do’ (Ellie Goulding)

Once a Sam Smith support act, Rhodes is a fragile crooner, which makes this song choice – a kind of S&M anthem, remember, soundtrack to 50 Shades Of Grey – weirdly telling, and kinda hilarious. ‘Touch me like you do’, he chants. Whatever floats your boat, pal.

23 Selena Gomez – ‘Rude’ (Magic!)

There’s little that energises less than lacklustre reggae. Gomez spends most of this Magic! cover in a mid-register rut. It’s ok – but that’s kind of the problem.

22 Nothing But Thieves – ‘Wings’ (Birdy)

Birdy made her name doing sparse, piano-led covers of the likes of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes – it’s a sure a sign of her success as any that she’s now being covered herself. Southend alt-rock crew Nothing But Thieves’ version of Birdy’s earnest original is a little too noisy to charm in the same way though.

21 BØRNS – ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ (The Weeknd)

We’ve got a certain amount of respect for BØRNS taking an explosive summer anthem and turning it into a languid, beach-set ballad. That takes cojones. The tropical vibe is pretty cool, but it’s difficult to really love this in the blazing glare of the original.

20 John Newman – ‘Run Away With Me’ (Carly Rae Jepsen)

This could be the largest group of backing singers ever seen in the Live Lounge – the force of their combined finger-clicks is like someone chirpily tapping your skull from the inside – but his Carly Rae Jepsen cover, perked up with jazz piano and richly developed vocal harmonies, is endearing and fun.

19 Jess Glynne – ‘Let It Go’/’Umbrella’ (James Bay/Rihanna)

Glynne recently recovered from a surgery related to issues with her vocal cords. But here the chart-topping pop singer shows no signs of vocal restraint, putting a dancey spin on James Bay’s acoustic ballad. Needless to say, it’s way more fun. She even adds in a bit of Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’. Maybe this is what Bay would sound like if he took off that hat and let his hair down.

18 Charlie Puth – ‘How Deep is Your Love’ (Calvin Harris)

It’s the ‘See You Again’ guy! Doing Calvin Harris! Puth’s in-tune, on-point, funky version of Harris’ house-by-numbers song was an undoubted belter.

17 James Bay – ‘Shake It Out’ (Florence + The Machine)

A whispery reinvention, revelling in the dark, shadowy flip side of Flo’s bellowed original. Welch would approve, no doubt.

16 Ellie Goulding – ‘Weathered’ (Jack Garratt)

Ellie Goulding makes a credible return to her folk-cover roots by taking on this track by bearded troubadour Jack Garratt. She stays surprisingly faithful to the instrumentation of the original, but here the deep bass of its synth pulses counterbalances her fluttery voice brilliantly.

15 The Vaccines – ‘Cheerleader’ (OMI)

Not so much a cover as a note-for-note reproduction of OMI’s reggae fusion track, this nonetheless looks like it was a lot of fun for everyone in the band but Justin Young. It’s way outside their comfort zone, on paper at least, but perhaps that’s the point – their last album ‘English Graffiti’ was a statement about their intention to reinvent themselves as a pop band, an intention they appear to be totally committed to here.

14 Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘King’ (Years & Years)

Years & Years’ ‘King’ was a huge hit in the UK and proved similarly infectious in the US. This minimalist, synthy version is remarkably restrained, and perfectly in line with the sophisticated bubblegum pop of Jepsen’s latest LP, ‘Emotion’.

13 Jack Garratt – ‘Latch’ (Disclosure)

If Live Lounge covers are judged by ambition and the sheer scale of transformation, this’d be up there with the best you’ll hear all year. Stripping back the song that shot Sam Smith and Disclosure to superstardom to its barest bones, the clinginess and emotion bubbling under the Lawrence brothers’ original is brought harrowingly to the fore.

12 Sigala & Craig David – ‘See You Again’/’Black Magic’ (Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth/Little Mix)

What do action star Vin Diesel and X Factor winners Little Mix have in common? Craig David and Sigala, that’s what. The Fast and Furious 7 theme ‘See You Again’ gets a funky, tropical house remix and mashup with Little Mix’s recent UK chart-topper ‘Black Magic’ here, and benefits from vocals from majestic forgotten prince of ’90s UKG, Craig David.

11 Naughty Boy feat. Little Simz and Tom Prior – ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ (Arctic Monkeys)

Arctic Monkeys made no secret of the fact that ‘AM’ had big hip-hop influences. Fresh from collaborating with Beyonce, ‘Runnin’ producer Naughty Boy connected those dots explicitly on this Live Lounge cover, weaving the keys from ‘Still Dre’ into this ‘AM’ single and giving a platform to brilliant rising emcee Little Simz, whose guest verses sit between Tom Prior’s competent Alex Turner impersonations. Class.

10 Demi Lovato – ‘Take Me To Church’ (Hozier)

Mug-lover Lovato’s on-point cover of Hozier’s anti-homophobia anthem is full of soul and grit. This video’s already got a cool 5 million YouTube views; it isn’t hard to see why.

9 Rudimental – ‘Body On Me’ (Rita Ora ft. Chris Brown)

Drum’n’bass crew Rudimental’s frenetic, unpredictable and reggae-tinged take on Rita Ora and Chris Brown’s collaboration is arguably more interesting than the overpolished pop of the original. The singers’ sass is brilliant – this is how you do Live Lounge.

8 Chvrches – ‘What Do You Mean?’ (Justin Bieber)

Chvrches have quite the canon of covers, each one more chilling than the last – they’ve taken on songs by everyone from Arctic Monkeys, Lorde and Paramore to Janelle Monáe and Justin Timberlake. They can now add another Justin to that list. This is very much a Chvrches take on ‘What Do You Mean?’, but actually the glittery electro glitchiness of their own music fits the song perfectly.

7 Florence + The Machine – ‘Where R Ü Now’ (Jack Ü ft. Justin Bieber)

Yep, another Bieber track. The fact that 10% of this month’s Live Lounge covers have been renditions of his recent output shows quite how well his new material is going down with the biggest and best of the music world. Of course, this being Florence Welch, little of Jack Ü’s blockbuster production remains – its lush synths are stripped away in favour of gossamer xx-lite guitar and, of course, Welch’s hefty bellow.

6 Muse – ‘Lies’ (Chvrches)

Glammy rockers Muse and sprightly synth elves Chvrches – not exactly two peas in a pod, eh? Despite operating a whole other end of the spectrum to the Glasgow trio, Matt Bellamy’s lot make light work of instilling Cvhrches’ original with manic guitar shredding and prog pomp aplenty.

5 Disclosure & Sam Smith – ‘Hotline Bling’ (Drake)

Sam Smith’s accomplished vocal might seem the main draw on this Drizzy cover, but it’s Disclosure’s gleaming production that truly elevates it, recreating the Canadian’s 2015 summer single with loose organ blips and dance floor-ready atmos.

4 Hozier – ‘Lay Me Down’ (Sam Smith)

Here’s Hozier, just holding a mug, for a little bit, and then casually turning a Sam Smith song into something gospel-tinged and fun. Exactly the kind of clever repurposing that Live Lounge is for.

3 Wolf Alice – ‘Steal My Girl’ (One Direction)

There’s a delightfully weird intro to this grungy cover of One Direction’s 2014 smash, before the North Londoners spill into satisfyingly woozy, reverb-heavy territory, lining the original’s crisp pop with dark, delirious shades.

2 Slaves – ‘Go’ (The Chemical Brothers)

Tunbridge Wells boys Laurie and Isaac, having made waves with their last Live Lounge cover – a brash-as-you’d-expect spin on Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’ – returned with this Chemical Brothers reworking, reaching every bit the dizzy highs of before. ‘Go’ is an absolute stormer, Isaac’s rasped vocals duelling with Laurie’s beefed-up guitar to create a furious version that wouldn’t feel out of place on their own recent debut.

1 FKA Twigs – ‘Elastic Heart’ (Sia)

Having topped off a successful festival season with a daring new EP of spectral, skeleton sounds, Twigs dropped by the Live Lounge this month to prove she’s more than capable of big pop moments as well as experimentation with this arresting rendition of Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart’. Points, too, for bringing her beautifully choreographed dance moves to a session largely reaching people via radio – now that’s dedication.