Mariah Carey

Playlist: Throwback Christmas Performances

Despite what department stores tried to tell you two months ago, the Christmas season is finally here! Break out the eggnog, prepare the wrapping paper, and put up the tree. It’s time to get excited about the holidays and everything that comes with it, maybe except the family arguments. To help you get in the mood, let’s take a look at some throwback Christmas performances. Just try not to succumb to nostalgia overload.

“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” – Nsync

The baggy khakis. The frosted tips. Justin’s ramen noodle hair. It must be Nsync in the 90s! The boys perform “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” on the Kathie Lee Show to a crowd that politely claps along. It’s one of their earlier appearances since Lee holds a mini Q+A session to learn more about them. The boys revealing such titillating details like how old they are, what they fight about, and how they’re all “like brothers.” And if Justin’s hair wasn’t distracting enough, check out his gold “Nsync” chain. The whole thing is goofy, a little awkward, but a classic for Nsync fangirls. The boys also performed the song at the Disney parade, but it’s hard to get into the holiday spirit with little Christmas paraphernalia around. Also, apparently they had their own holiday special. Why am I just finding out about this now?

“Oi to the World” – No Doubt

If you’re not feeling Gwen Stefani’s latest holiday album, then check out this performance from 1997 instead. During their set at Live to Erase MS, the band pulls out this Vandals cover and it really makes you miss old school Stefani. She wiggles around without care, doing her weird dance in chunky shoes and flowing skirt. This song is perfect if you need a healthy dose of Ska this holiday season. Unfortunately, the video ends before the band finishes the song, but it still manages to get you fired up for the holidays. When watching this, you can’t help but think about how Stefani is now and how her younger self may not be a fan of the glamour pop star she is now.

“All I Want For Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey

It’s not Christmas unless you hear this song a million times before you put up the tree. But no matter how many times you hear it, you can’t deny how damn good it is. What makes this performance so enjoyable is this is Mariah at her peak. She sounds great, looks great, and looks like she’s having fun on stage. As you would expect, she struts out in a revealing Santa outfit before being carried off by her band of merry men. There’s not much to it, but it reminds you why Mariah is considered one of the greats, something that’s easy to forget in recent years. Let’s try to forget her New Year’s fiasco from last year.

“Funky, Funky Christmas” – New Kids on the Block

I feel like I talk about this song every year, but I can’t get over how bad this performance is. It’s so bad, I absolutely love it!

“Christmas In Hollis” – Run DMC

If you grew up in the 90s, this performance should send you into nostalgia overload. You have Run DMC, 90s Nickelodeon, Kenan and Kel all in one video. It’s almost too much to handle! The group performs what is probably the best Christmas song ever. Even though the kids are clearly excited (because producers told them to be) they don’t understand the magnitude of seeing Run DMC, rap legends. Can you imagine being that young and seeing Run DMC? Thinking about it, the show had some killer performances: TLC, Nas, Dru Hill, and even the Spice Girls.

“Let It Snow” – Boyz 2 Men

In the 90s, Boyz 2 Men could do no wrong. Their soulful harmonies and impressive vocal range made all of their songs a hit including this now Christmas classic. It’s hard to tell, but judging from quick glimpses of what looks like Kel Mitchell, this appears to be another clip from All That. Though Brian McKnight, who provides backing vocals, is missing from this performance the guys have no trouble holding their own. And this is good ol’ days of the group when Michael McCary was still around. While this live performance is great, many may prefer their performance of the track on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I mean that episode was pretty good.

“Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant” – Siouxsie and the Banshees

The Banshees buck tradition and perform a French Christmas tune for this performance. While Siouxsie Sioux looks like she’s having a good time the others just aren’t having it. Robert Smith in particular uncomfortably holds his cymbals either waiting for his cue or desperately needing a bathroom break. Or the most likely scenario, high out of his mind. Since I’m a huge Cure fan, Smith is such a distraction. I’m always intrigued when the camera pans to him.Still, Sioux sounds beautiful while singing this tune and it’s a cool alternative Christmas track if you’re already sick of the old standbys.

“Santa Baby” – Eartha Kitt

While I grew up with the Madonna version, I have to give credit to the vixen who made it popular, Eartha Kitt. In this live performance, Kitt shows she’s not afraid to let out the claws as she states “I used to have a lot of fun with this song, then Madonna sang it.” Whereas Madonna’s version is overly cutesy, as if Betty Boop were performing it, Kitt’s version is sultry. You can practically hear her purring through the lyrics coming off as quite the seductress. She shifts gears near the end sounding and looking a bit frightening. She’s kind of scary, yet sexy. If I were Santa, I’d make sure to get her everything on her Christmas list.

“Merry Christmas, Baby” -Hanson

Hanson’s Snowed In is another 90’s holiday classic with this being one of the best songs from the LP. While Hanson and the choir deliver a great performance, the crowd is pretty stale. It’s awkward seeing the camera shift between Taylor Hanson bobbing along to the music and the crowd just sitting there, most of them not even swaying to the music. You can tell there are a few Hanson fans in the crowd trying their best not to scream and cry. But it seems like everyone else isn’t really sure if they should be enjoying it or not. And in case you didn’t know, the Hanson brothers just released a new holiday album. Gotta say I’m pretty excited to hear it.

“This Gift” – 98 Degrees

I wasn’t the biggest 98 Degrees fan, but I absolutely loved this song when it first came out. During this performance at Disney’s holiday parade, they’re practically drowned out by all the screaming from the crowd. There are tons of fangirls, but it’s funny to see some boys in the crowd enjoying the band. It’s standard boy band fare: oversized cargo pants, awful sweaters, and lots of hair gel. I know the part where Jeff kneels at the front of the stage and sings to one lucky fan is supposed to be sweet, but it comes off as creepy for some reason. And similar to Hanson, 98 Degrees also released a new Christmas album. Does this mean Nsync is next? We can only hope.

“Christmas Time” – Christina Aguilera

Switching things up X-Tina gives up a festive, dance-infused song to get you in the Christmas spirit. Recorded around the time of her peak, she sounds excellent here and never misses a beat while dancing. Am I the only one who forgot she used to dance? But the best part of the performance has to be when Lil’ Bow Wow comes out. Yes, Bow Wow is featured here. Talk about a throwback performance. Even though the song isn’t as well remembered as other holiday classics, it’s a fun, upbeat way to get excited about the holidays. And it’s probably the best track from My Kind of Christmas. Seriously, that album is pretty bad.

“This Christmas” – Nsync, Shawn Colvin, Tatyana Ali

And how about another Nsync performance because why not? Let’s take a moment to appreciate Justin raising the roof at the end.

What are some of your favorite holiday performances? Let me know in the comments!


Playlist: Give ’em the remix

Remixes can be tricky to handle. In the wrong hands it can sound nothing like the source material it’ll put off listeners. Other times it sounds too much like the original making it pointless. But when done just right, a remix can turn a great song into an even better one. Whether it speeds things up to make it a dance hit or slows things down to place it in a new genre, there are a lot of remixes out there way too many to gather in this list. So this month’s playlist takes a look at some of my favorite remixes.

“19-2000” (Soulchild Remix) – Gorillaz

This is a remix of the Gorillaz’ second single and it’s much better than the original. Known for its simple hook of “got the cool shoe shine,” the version from the band’s debut album was very slow featuring sleepy music, lush beats, and very light percussion. The song got most exciting during the aforementioned hook. It’s not bad, but it sounds like the band are on the verge of drifting off while singing. But this remix by Soulchild wakes up the song, turning it into something fun, bouncy, and energetic. You can even hear bits of “The Humpty Dance” in the mix. Everything about it outshines the original and turns it into something you can’t stop dancing to.

“Heartbreaker (Remix)” – Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker” was already a success reaching the top spot on several charts. But the song blew up more when she dropped the remix in 1999. Featuring DJ Clue, Da Brat, and Missy Elliot this remix turns the Carey pop hit into an R&B/hip hop infused jam. Using a sample from Snoop Dogg’s “Ain’t No Fun (If Homies Can’t Have None)” the song is catchier than before with Carey singing even more breathless than she did in the original. It’s sleek and just the right amount of funky making it one hundred times cooler than original. The song was so successful Carey continued doing remixes for singles, like “Loverboy,” but it didn’t match the success of this one.

“Ignition (Remix)” – R. Kelly

I’ve never been a fan of R. Kelly, but even I have to admit this song is too damn catchy to hate. The song became so popular, charting at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, that it’s hard to remember what the original sounded like. Whereas the original was a slowjam meant to put someone in the mood, this one is all about partying. What really makes the song is irresistible hook. It’s one of those songs where you’ll know all the words after only hearing it three times. Apparently, the original version of the song was going to be on his then upcoming album Loveland, but the album was leaked causing R. Kelly to rewrite and remix most of the album and turn it into The Chocolate Factory. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

“The Way I Am (Remix)” – Eminem Feat. Marilyn Manson

In the late 90s/early 00s the two biggest controversial figures in music were Eminem and Marilyn Manson. Surprisingly, the two formed a friendship with Manson appearing at the rapper’s concerts and even making a cameo in the original “The Way I Am” video. This remix brings the world of rap and rock together. Eminem spits rhymes over the crunchy guitars and intense rock music taken straight from a Manson song. The music perfectly captures Manson’s creepy essence. To make things even better Manson sings the hook in his gravely voice. He also provides some eerie moans throughout the track. It’s a stellar remix that makes you wish the two continue working together. Maybe on the next album? We can only hope.

“Rock With You (Frankie Knuckles Favorite Club Mix)” – Michael Jackson

This mix takes this Michael Jackson hit and turns it into something you can actually dance to. Frankie Kunckles keeps the smooth R&B vibe of the original for the most part. He layers glistening pianos, some synth, and upbeat percussion on top of the track to get you grooving. There are even some further vocal arrangements from Jackson that aren’t found in the original. Clocking in at over seven minutes, it’s definitely something made with the club scene in mind, but the remix is so good you won’t find a problem jamming out to it in your house. The remix is actually quite popular and is often the basis of many Michael Jackson mash ups, which also prove to be great fun.

“Rope (Deadmau5 Mix)” – Foo Fighters

Deadmau5 flips this song on its head switching it from hard rock to an electronica dance hit. It’s not just a DJ adding some synths and bleeps over the Foo Fighters hit. He turns it into a completely different song only keeping Dave Grohl’s vocals in tact. It sounds like an unlikely pairing, but it works so well, breathing new life into this Foo Fighters song. With dripping bleeps, a pulsing beat, and wild music Deadmau5 makes the song his own. The two even joined forces to perform the track on the 54th Grammy Awards.

“More Human Than Human (Meet Bambi in the King’s Harem Mix)” – White Zombie

Rob Zombie never shies away from remixing his biggest hits, but this is the strongest remix to date. “More Human Than Human” was already a beast of a song, but this version makes it a hundred times creepier. The music is grittier, sounding like a record got scratched in the mix during the intense opening and Zombie’s vocals are distorted to sound more robotic and inhuman, which is a perfect fit for the song. The whining guitar riff of the original is still in tact, but the rest of the music is heavy, dirty electronic music that gets you groovin’. This does everything a good remix is supposed to do: keep elements of the original intact, but build on to make it better.

“No, No, No Pt.2” feat Wyclef Jean – Destiny’s Child

Before “Survivor” and “Say My Name” this was most people’s introduction to Destiny’s Child and Beyonce. When the song dropped in 1998, it received massive radio airplay and eventually reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100. But what about part one? The first version of the song, which was their debut single, is a slow R&B track that’s more sensual in nature. Think of it as a song to get busy to. Though it was moderately successful, it wasn’t until Wyclef Jean added an upbeat hip hop flavor and sped up the song that it became a hit. Listening to them both today, this version is still better than the original.

“Strangelove (Tim Simenon, Mark Saunders Remix)” – Depeche Mode

There are various remixes of this Depeche Mode single, but this one is among the best. This mix takes the mid-tempo song and turns it into a club hit. The music is more energetic and fast paced with additional synth and electronica elements added to the mix. There’s even a bit of a tribal vibe when the percussion kicks up. But one of the coolest things about the song is how there’s a nod to their song “People Are People.” It’s brief, but very satisfying for all Mode fans. It’s a great remix that plays around with the classic track, but still keeps everything that made it so good in the first place in tact.

“I”m Real” (Murder Remix) – Jennifer Lopez ft. Ja-Rule

Remember that time during the 2000s when Ja-Rule was popular and was featured in what felt like every song? Before he disappeared off the map, he joined forces with J.Lo for this slick remix of her pop single “I’m Real.” Whereas the original was a generic dance song with rapid beats and a forgettable chorus, this mix slows things down making way for a cool R&B/Hip Hop groove. Even though Ja-Rule’s singing is appalling, it doesn’t ruin the song. The track is from her remix album J to tha L-O! The Remixes and is actually the third best selling remix album of all time. The album also spawned successful singles “I’m Gonna Be All Right” and “Ain’t it Funny.”

“Happiness in Slavery (remix)” – Trent Reznor, Chris Vrenna, and P.K.

Trent Reznor is no stranger to remixes. Not only has he done them for other artists, but he leaves his music in the hands of others spawning several remix albums based off his studio releases. There are two different remixes of “Happiness in Slavery” on the Fixed EP, but this one is the best. It keeps very little from the original track aside from a bit of the guitar riff and Reznor screaming “Slavery!” in the background. Otherwise, the song is completely new and still just as terrifying. Though it’s more gritty and electronic centered than the aggressive original, this version still manages to be terrifying with the intense mechanical music and various screams heard in the background. There are very little lyrics, just a brutal continuation of this awesome NIN track.

“Tourniquet (Prosthetic Dance Mix)” – Marilyn Manson

This version of Marilyn Manson’s “Tourniquet” is very much in tune with the original even opening with the main scratchy riff from the original. This version keeps the same eerie vibe from the original, but amps it up with intense percussion and what sounds like gritty electronic music. Somehow it slows things down even more than the original making it a more drugged out experience. But what’s most notable about this remix is the new vocal take from Manson. He doesn’t unleash his scream on this version and lets his playful, growling vocals take over. It’s definitely the highlight of the forgettable Remix & Repent EP.

Which remix is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Boy Band Christmas!

Yes, it’s that time of year when Christmas music blares through speakers way before it’s appropriate and the lights have to be detangled yet again. There are tons of classic holiday songs to get you in the spirit around this time, but if you grew up in the 90s Christmas meant dusting off those boy band holiday albums. From 98 Degrees to Nsync, just about every boy band had a Christmas tune to offer. Plenty of them are cheesy or down right sappy, but they are sure to put you in a good mood and put the goofiest smile on your face. So here are some boy band holiday jams to decorate the tree and chug some eggnog to.

“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” – Nsync

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without this insanely catchy single from everyone’s favorite boy band. Sure, it’s a little cheesy (aren’t most xmas songs?) but with the upbeat music, simple hook, and overall good feeling, it puts a big ol’ smile on your face when you hear it. The thing that always gets me is how catchy it is. Few holiday songs manage to be as memorable or as fun as this one, but somehow Nsync pulled it off. “Kiss Me at Midnight” is another great holiday-ish track from the boys, but this will always be one of the best Christmas songs around. Even better, it has the cheesiest video. Horrible green screen, bad dance moves, and a cameo from Gary Coleman. How can all these corny things make something so great?

“Funky, Funky Christmas” – New Kids on the Block

This is a song I only discovered last year and it’s quickly become one of my favorites. Yes, it’s terrible. It may be the one of the worst Christmas songs I’ve ever heard, but something about it makes it likable. Maybe it’s the horrible rapping, the stupid chorus, or the bad singing. Either way it’s so corny and cheesy you can’t help but laugh when you hear it. And strangely enough it puts you in a good mood. Sadly, no video was made for the single, but there is this amazingly bad performance from The Arsenio Hall Show. They sound horrible, the dancing is a joke, and Joey McIntrye, who looks like he’s 13, is shaking his butt. It’s so bad you have to watch it if you want a good laugh.

“Santa Hooked Me Up” – B2K

Just like the popular boy bands before them, B2K released their own Christmas album in 2002. And since I was a massive fan at the time I bought a copy. Yes, it’s just as terrible as it sounds. This opening track finds each of the members rapping about all the “fly” shit they got for Christmas thanks to Santa. With lines like “more carrots than Bugs Bunny” it’s hard to take anything these guys say seriously. Not to mention all of them are pretty weak rappers. And to think this was once one of my favorite Christmas songs, if you can even call it that. It’s more like a list of expensive cars and jewelry with the mindless chorus of “Santa hooked me up this year.” As you will soon see the entire album is pretty bad.

“Endless Christmas” – 3T

Oh man! 3T were so great! Remember their hit song….uh…that one with Michael Jackson? Okay, so 3T were never that popular. The reason anyone is remotely familiar with them is because they’re Michael Jackson’s nephews. But since they’re a boy band, they’re required to have a Christmas song and this is their contribution. It’s pretty boring actually. It’s supposed to be one of those slow, sentimental numbers that talks about the magic and joy the holiday brings. In other words, like every other fucking Christmas song out there. It’s something you would expect to find on one of those lame Christmas compilations (not the Very Special ones. Those rocked!).

“This Gift” – 98 Degrees

98 Degrees were one of those bands that I liked, but never held a special place in my heart like BSB or Nsync. Still, when this song came out in 1999 I went crazy for it. Maybe it’s because when I first heard it on the radio it was snowing outside and the chiming bells in the song seemed appropriate. Either way, I thought it was sweet and a beautiful song. Finally, they did something that wasn’t cheesy and corny! Of course, now I realize the song is incredibly sappy and overly sentimental. Proposing to someone at Christmas? How sickening sweet! It also sounds like a bad idea; you risk ruin Christmas forever if it doesn’t work out. Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying this is one of the essential Christmas songs from the 90s.

“Last Christmas” – Human Nature

Thanks to Wham! this is one of the most popular songs that you’re guaranteed to hear until it makes you sick. That also means there have been numerous covers of it, including this one from Human Nature. Yeah, I don’t know who they are either. They’re Australian boy band who has actually toured with notable acts including Michael Jackson and Celine Dion. During this holiday performance they do an acapella version of the song and they actually sound pretty good. Yeah, it’s missing the breathless vocals of George Michael and it’s nowhere near as good as the original, but out of all the shitty covers out there this one is the most tolerable. Good job, boys.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” – The Jackson 5

The Jackson 5 Christmas album is actually strange since the band were Jehovah Witnesses, who don’t celebrate the holiday. But you can’t say no to the sweet cash streaming from teenage girls’ pockets I guess. Since this is one of the more traditional holiday songs just about everyone has covered it, but this has to be the most soulful rendition. Something about the way young Michael Jackson screams “Saaanta Claus is comin’ to town!” is so satisfying. As soon as those drums rev up and Michael hits that first note you know you’re in for a good time. For another Jackson 5 classic, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is good pick just to hear Michael utter “I did! I really did see her!”

“What Christmas Means to Me” – Hanson

Yeah, I was a Hanson fan, but never a fanatic, so I never picked up their Christmas album Snowed In. Listening to it now, they actually have some great renditions of holiday songs like “Merry Christmas Baby.” But if you’re looking for something more upbeat and jaunty then this is the perfect song. They don’t do much to change it from the original; they just sound really good while playing especially during this later performance since they’re voices have matured. The original version from their album isn’t so bad either. And just try to resist those catchy “oh-oo-oh-oo-woah’s” they toss in during the chorus.

“Lonely This Christmas” – Blue

The UK has a lot of boy bands that never make it to American shores and this is one of them. Formed back in 2000, this R&B group covered this Mud (yes, that’s the band’s name) holiday song and I guess it’s not terrible. Like most holiday songs that try to mix love and Christmas, it’s pretty sappy but at least the guys sound decent enough. Judging from this performance they had quite a following since the girls can’t stop screaming until they leave the stage.

“Stay Another Day” – East 17

Yet another boy band I’ve never heard of. East 17 were pretty popular over in the UK with this being their biggest hit. Thing about it it though is it’s not really a Christmas song. When you listen to the lyrics it actually sounds like they’re begging a their lover to stay with them. The song was actually written about one of the member’s brother who committed suicide. The marketing team then decides to add in chiming bells at the end to appeal to the holiday market. Profit! There’s even a winter themed video that features the members wearing white fluffy coats while mashed potato buds fall around them. When you think about it, the whole thing is kind of sad. Let’s take this sad song and tweak it to sell for Christmas! Charlie Brown was so right about holiday commercialism.

“It’s Christmas Time Again” – Backstreet Boys

Believe or not, BSB released this song in 2012 and it’s actually pretty damn good. Their five part harmonies are in check, there’s a mindless catchy hook you’ll catch yourself singing, and Nick Carter has his obligatory solo part that makes you swoon. It’s a sweet little tune that talks about the coming of Santa and a couple enjoying the holiday over the years. It’s fun, upbeat, and just puts you in the holiday spirit, which every good Christmas song should do. Who else thinks BSB should put out a Christmas album? Hey, both Hanson and Nsync did it. What are they waiting for?

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” – Big Time Rush

Sometime during the early 2010’s Nickelodeon started giving “bands” their own shows. Remember the Naked Brothers Band? Yeah, I wish I didn’t either. Anyway, Big Time Rush had their own series on Nick and even signed to Nick Records at the same time. And since it’s some sort of unwritten rule that every boy band must contribute at least one holiday song, the Rush guys decided to cover this Mariah Carey classic. Honestly, it’s not too bad. I’ve heard worse covers of the song, like the one Carey did with Justin Bieber. Otherwise, it’s a pretty tame and faithful version of the song. Of course the original is the best, especially since Big Time Rush aren’t that notable when it comes to boy bands.

What’s your favorite holiday song by a boy band? Is there one I missed? Let me know in the comments below!

Top 10 Michael Jackson Covers

This Sunday would’ve been Michael Jackson’s 57th birthday. Instead of dwelling over the fact he’s no longer with us, it’s a time to celebrate his wonderful music. No matter what you thought of him it’s clear his music has inspired artists across a span of genres from R&B to rock. Some artists have even taken it upon themselves to cover their favorite Jackson song. Of course no one does it better than Michael, but some artists have come close. There are a ton of terrible ones out there, but here are ten of the best Michael Jackson covers.

10. “The Girl is Mine” – Richard Cheese

Richard Cheese is known for making lounge style covers out of popular songs. He previously covered Jackson’s “Beat It,” but it’s his version of “The Girl is Mine” that’s unique and hilarious. The song starts out like a standard lounge tune and Cheese sounds smooth and silky. Just imagine him snapping his fingers to the beat while listening to it. After the first verse he introduces a special guest, which is supposed to be Stephen Hawking. Yeah, you read that right. Of course it’s not actually him, but hearing an automated voice singing this Jackson duet is weird, but is sure to put a smile on your face. It’s a bit silly, but you gotta admit Jackson’s tunes sound pretty good in lounge style.

9. “Billie Jean” – Nonpoint

This song has been speed up to be a punk rock anthem and tuned down to be a metal nightmare, but Nonpoint puts a different spin on it. They slow things down to make a brooding, melancholy song. Singer Ellias Soriano sounds vulnerable, broken, and hurt as he wails “but the kid is not my son.” Any ounce of happiness or fun is completely stripped away from the track. We’re left with the underlying angst and anger that was masked by the catchy beats. It’s not until you hear the song in this style that you realize how somber it can be.

8. “Dirty Diana” – Bruno Mars/Christina Aguilera

Both of these artists covered the sexy song during live performances and they’re both excellent. Mars’ version is very faithful to the original. In the clip, he plays the dirty riff while the synth soars behind him. He didn’t go too far from the source material, but he at least sounds really good while singing it. I’m sure he could release this as a single and it would sell well. The same goes for Aguilera’s version, which she sang at a Jackson tribute concert. But her impressive vocals matched with the steamy lyrics will give you chills.

7. “Speed Demon” – Xerath

It may come as a surprise to learn how many metal bands love covering Michael Jackson songs. “Beat It” seems to be the favorite track, but this British band went for one of the underrated tracks from Bad. Everything about this version kicks ass from the riff given a dirty make over to the intense vocals screaming “Speed demon!” that sounds like singer Richard Thomson is ripping his vocal cords. This track captures the dangerous and edginess Jackson tried to give off on the original. This track has the same spirit of the original, yet has its own flavor that makes it unique.

6. “P.Y.T.” – The Wood Brothers

There’s a good chance you may not have heard of this Americana blues band, but they know what makes a good cover song. As part of the A.V. Club’s project where artists choose a song to cover from a list, these guys choose this tune from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It starts out a little wonky with the jarring vocals and silly music, but it all falls into place by the time they reach the hook. They turn the song from an R&B dance track to a smooth, folksy tune that sounds just as silky as the original. The coolest part is during the refrain where instead of singing “Pretty young things/repeat after me” they freestyle riffs instead, but that doesn’t stop a chorus of people from responding with “Na-na-na-na.”

5. “D.D.” – The Weeknd

With comparisons to the late pop star, it’s no surprise that The Weeknd covered this sultry track from Bad. It starts out pretty faithful to the original, but once it gets to the chorus hard electronic beats take over creating a lush soundscape of pulsating rhythm. This version takes the grittiness and edge out of the song, but turns it into more of an atmospheric track that ends up sounding more sad than angry. It’s a subtle tweak to the song, but it’s effective at giving it a completely different vibe.

4. “Billie Jean” – The Bates

This German punk band, known for their cover tunes oddly enough, turns the R&B filled track into a raucous punk anthem made for moshing. Their version is pretty faithful to the original except when it comes to the music. Their gritty guitars and energetic vibe punches up the song and brings it into the rock realm. The best part is the chorus where you can picture them pogo dancing while singing “Billie Jean is not my lover.” Something about it is fun, upbeat, vibrant, and just really inviting. Whether you like Michael Jackson or not this song is sure to get you in the pit. They’re cover songs are pretty spectacular. Check out their version of The Cure’s “Wailing Wall.”

3. “I’ll Be There” – Mariah Carey

This Jackson 5 track was always kind of mushy and definitely got the feels going, especially when Michael performed it in concert. Carey does a very faithful rendition of the song that doesn’t hold back on the emotions. Her soft soaring vocals that made her a household name in the 90s, work perfectly with this slow track and turns it into something beautiful. She did such an amazing job with it that it became a regular in her catalog and many believe it surpasses the original. She was even nominated for a Grammy for the song in 1993. Of course it took on new meaning when she performed it at Jackson’s memorial service in 2009. Say what you want about Mariah now, but back in the day her voice was something out of this world.

2. “Smooth Criminal” – Alien Ant Farm

These guys proved it was possible to make a kick ass MJ cover without royally fucking it up. Jackson has always incorporated rock influences into his music and this proves how well his songs work when you replace the synth with gritty guitars. It turns this classic Jackson jam into a headbanger. What’s even better is the video filled with references to the singer’s videos from Bubbles to the “Thriller” ending. How many can you spot? Alien Ant Farm may not be remembered for anything else, but at least they gave us this awesome cover that shows how universal Jackson’s music is.

1. “Thriller” – Imogen Heap

Ever think the creep-tacular filled “Thriller” would work as a soft ballad? Somehow Imogen Heap makes it work. With a stark, beautiful piano accompanying her she sounds haunting, yet beautiful as she sings Jackson’s iconic tune. She sounds breathy and airy as she whispers “Cause this is thriller/thriller night.” It really catches you by surprise with how awesome it is. Who would’ve thought the song would work well at a slower speed and without Vincent Price’s eerie laugh? This is everything a good cover is supposed to be: a hint of the original, but different enough to grab your attention.

Which Michael Jackson cover is your favorite? Is there another great one I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: B-day Nostalgia

My music taste has changed over the years. Rappers replaced boy bands and rock bands replaced rappers. There are some throwback songs I still listen to on a regular basis, but there are plenty I’ve forgotten and haven’t paid attention to since I was 12. Since it’s my birthday this month I decided to look back at songs I was obsessed with at one point. These are songs I thought were so amazing I would listen to them forever. Get ready for a wave of nostalgia!

“Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” – Will Smith

If you asked me who my favorite rapper was in the late 90s, my response would most likely be Will Smith. All because of this song. Looking back on it, the whole thing is kind of silly, but I can get why I liked it so much. It’s fun, catchy, and still makes you want to copy Smith’s dance moves (even though they weren’t that great). This single, along with the equally fun “Miami,” is what prompted me to buy the album Big Willie Style. Though I haven’t listened to it in years, I remember thinking it was hella cool. Perhaps I’ll need to revisit it some day…

“All Star” – Smash Mouth

This was my top song for about two years. It was all over the radio and Nickelodeon and I loved every minute of it. I don’t even remember that it appeared on the soundtrack for the mediocre film Mystery Men. All I cared about was that it was catchy, easy to remember, and fun to sing. I don’t think the song is terrible now, but I definitely overdid it.  It makes me nostalgic for a time when Nicktoons ruled the airways and buying the latest Beanie Baby were my only worries, but I don’t listen to it so much anymore.

“Every Morning” – Sugar Ray

Honestly, any song by Sugar Ray would work here, but I think this one was my favorite. This was one of those songs I jammed out to in my mom’s car on the way back from my uncle’s house. No matter how shitty I was feeling, Sugar Ray were there to pick me right back up. There was even a point when I wanted their album (I never got it, btw). Not only were they cool, but frontman Mark MacGrath was hot or at least I thought so at the time. I still love their songs and they still know how to put me in a good mood, but I’ve moved on to better bands.

“No Diggity” – Blackstreet

I have no idea what it was about this song that made me dance and bob my head so much. Something about the intense piano riff and the chorus of “no diggity” stuck in my head. Even now it’s still one of my favorite throwback songs from the 90s. The “Hey-yo” part was infectious and the video with the puppets was just weird. (Why were they puppets?) Of course I had no idea what the song was about at the time and now I have no idea why my mom let me listen to it so much.

“Drive” – Incubus

This was one of my first forays into rock music or at least I thought so at the time. “Drive” was the first song I ever heard by Incubus and I was addicted to it. I just loved singing the chorus as loud as Brandon Boyd did. When I got older, it was this single that convinced me Incubus was worth getting into and I don’t regret it. It’s still one of my favorite Incubus songs and I still sing the chorus as loud as I can. Also, I had a little crush on Boyd. I should’ve expected that since he was shirtless in the video.

“No Scrubs” – TLC

As I revealed in my CrazySexyCool review, TLC were my absolute favorite girl group before the Spice Girls. I loved them even more when they released this snarky, catchy song. When this song hit, all the girls in my class sang on the school playground with the faintest idea of what a scrub actually was. Another reason I loved the song so much was Left Eye’s verse. She was always my favorite in the band, so I sat and practiced her rap to impress everyone at school. It’s still a great song and I’m glad I never got rid of my Fanmail album.

“All Day” – Lisa Loeb

The adorable Lisa Loeb is most remembered for her single “Stay ( I Miss You),” but I’ll always remember her for this song straight from the Rugrats Movie Soundtrack. I can’t remember where I first heard the song, but I went crazy for it. Not only did I buy the soundtrack just for it, I even started wearing my hair in loop braids like she does in the video. I even stole a pair of my mom’s glasses because they looked like hers. I was completely enamored with her and the song. I still think she’s adorable as hell and the song has aged rather well.

“Mambo No 5” – Lou Bega

I’m not even ashamed I liked this song so much. I even recorded it off the radio just to hear it daily. I can’t really explain what it was about it aside from it’s an earworm of a song. Even now it’s still a lot of fun. I remember there being a Disney version with Mickey Mouse, which was just ridiculous and couldn’t top the Bega version. And yes, I did try to fit my name in the song somewhere and it never worked. It’s probably better that I never figured it out.

“Bring it All” – Blaque

It seems back in the 90s I was a sucker for girl groups. I even had the terrible Dream album; I don’t even want to go there. But this was another one of those groups where I rushed to get the album. They had a good number of hit songs, like “808,” but this is the one I still love. And yes, it is because it features JC Chasez AKA my favorite member of Nsync. Honestly, he’s the best part of the song, which is why it’s a shame the video doesn’t feature him singing the verse. Similar to TLC, rapper Natasha was my favorite from the band and oddly enough Left Eye was her mentor. Unfortunately, she passed away also. Kind of weird.

“Heartbreaker” – Mariah Carey

Since my mom had all her albums at the time, I was a bit of a Mariah Carey fan back in the day. I was amazed she could hit those high notes and even asked my mom “How does she do that?!” There’s no doubt about the amount of number one hits she has, but this one captivated my young heart. The video was funny, Mariah sounded great, and the song was fun to dance to. This was another one of those times I begged my mom to get me the Rainbow album just so I could listen to this on repeat. In case you were wondering, no, I never got it. And just for the record, I don’t think Ariana Grande is the next Mariah Carey.

“Ride Wit Me” – Nelly

In the early 2000s as the boy band phase disintegrated, I got more into rap and Nelly was at the forefront. I actually followed his career up until Sweat/Suit. Though I don’t listen to him anymore this will remain my favorite song of his. This is another one I can’t explain aside from I thought Nelly was cool at the time. Plus, it was fun to yell “Ay, must be the money” during long car rides. Of course since I was used to the clean version of the song, I was in for a shock when I got the unedited album. Oops.

“Party Up (Up in Here)” – DMX

Before he got in trouble repeatedly for petty crimes, DMX gave us one of the best songs of the 2000’s. The song is just so damn infectious, especially with the memorable chorus of “Y’all gon make me lose my mind/up in here/up in here.” It’s funny the song became so popular since the clean version was made up of random sound effects, like DMX barking and for some reason I loved it. Every time it came on the radio, I cranked it up slightly annoying everyone in the car. It’s this song that made DMX one of my favorite rappers at the time, even though I didn’t really like his other songs. Listening to it now, it’s still a great track and one I won’t hesitate to turn the volume up.

“If I Ever Fall in Love” – Shai

I realize I was way too young to really understand what the song was about, but when I was 11 this song blew me away. I loved the harmonies, the singing, and the fact it was acapella. At the time, I didn’t know many groups who did that and thought Shai was pretty special. I still think it sounds good as hell years later, but as someone who was into bubblegum pop at the time, I don’t understand how this song became one of my favorites.

“Candy Rain” – Soul For Real

I think I first heard this song on Nickelodeon when they played the video between shows and it was too damn catchy not to fall in love with. Sure, they had dumb dance moves, weren’t the best singers, and seemed to be going for a Jackson 5 thing, but for a small time in the 90s, it was the best thing I ever heard. Since it was released in 1994 it foreshadowed my love of Nsync and BSB that would come later in the decade. Guess I’m a sucker for five guys harmonizing.

“Jump” – Kriss Kross

No matter what decade it is, the media is always floored by kids who can rap. In comes Kriss Kross, two boys who decided wearing their pants backwards was hella fly. This is another song I’m not really sure how I got into. Maybe it was the simple command of “jump jump” I found so intoxicating. It’s easy to follow and something I knew how to do. I’m sure part of the reason I liked the song was the duo made a cameo in Michael Jackson’s “Jam” video. If Michael Jackson thought they were okay, then they were okay in my book too. Now, the song reminds me of the loss of Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly, who died in 2013. R.I.P. Kelly.