YouTube has long been the place where aspiring singer/songwriters have uploaded videos of themselves performing in their bedrooms with the hopes of following in the footsteps of Justin Bieber and being discovered. A new series hosted by the platform itself is helping to give these wishful artists the recognition that they hope for. On Nov. 20th, YouTube will premiere Best.Cover.Ever., a global singing competition that allows musicians to submit cover performances to their favorite artists in the hopes of being selected to perform alongside their idols.
The show, which is executive produced by Ryan Seacrest Productions and Endemol Shine North America, put out a call to artists around the world, challenging them to cover a song by one of the Best.Cover.Ever. season one superstars: Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Jason Derulo, Charlie Puth, Keith Urban, Backstreet Boys, Flo Rida, Nicky Jam, Bebe Rexha and DNCE.
The established stars then sat down and helped to choose two finalists whose cover videos they were most impressed by. The finalists were flown to the YouTube Space in Los Angeles where they are given the chance to perform for their idol. The stakes are high, as the winner from each episode is given the opportunity to duet on the show with their favorite superstar.
According to Ludacris, the show’s official host, the premise is unlike anything we’ve seen from popular talent search competitions such as American Idol, The Voice, or America’s Got Talent.
“It’s an interesting way of bringing new talent, not only to meet their idols but also to put the spotlight on them so they can help further their career,” he tells Billboard. “You have the competition aspect, the music aspect, the finding a star aspect, and the people meeting their idol aspect.”
And the submissions, according to the rapper, were definitely unique. “Covers have long been popular but these artists are really stepping it up — playing with the arrangement of the song, melodies and everything,” he says. Ludacris cites a group that performed on the show as an example. “They took a Keith Urban country song and made it fit to their R&B style.” He adds that fans of the stars that the episodes center around will also enjoy watching the emerging talent challenge their idols to step out of the box and tackle new renditions of their songs during the winners’ collaborations.
The show is something that YouTube’s global head of original content, Susanne Daniels, has been wanting to make for some time. “Ryan Seacrest brought this pitch to me when I was at MTV, two and a half years ago,” she says. “We couldn’t work out the deal there but when I went to YouTube, Ryan was my first call and we realized the show works perfectly on YouTube for a myriad of reasons — fans love music on YouTube, fans love covers on YouTube, and the platform allowed for the submission process to be interactive — we could have them upload their covers on the site and enlist the artists to do call outs on their channels to inspire the fans to enter.”
Those call outs were well received. “We got submissions from tens of thousands of artists from all over the world,” Daniels discloses, noting that finalists traveled to the Los Angeles set from as far away as Australia, Latvia, and the Philippines to participate in the series.
Twenty-one year old Katy Perry fan, Riley Biederer was one of them. “I’m a YouTube cover artist. I’m fairly active on YouTube. I saw the video asking for submissions and decided to go for it,” she explains.
The Atlanta-based singer/songwriter’s acoustic cover of “Firework” was hand selected by Perry and she was then flown to California as one of two finalists competing to impress the star. While she’s hoping that the show will boost her exposure as an artist, for Biederer, the best part of the process was the chance to talk shop with her idol. “She gave me some cool advice — to stay true to the writing roots of where I cam from,” the contestant says, of meeting Perry. “It was really cool to have someone that you’ve looked up to and listened to for so many years tell you that they are inspired by your craft and are pushing you to continue to do what you love. I’m more inspired to push forward with my music now than ever before,” she proclaims.
Southern California’s Undecided Future, who call themselves a “future, funk, R&B band,” had an equally positive experience as finalists on the Jason Derulo episode. The band put their own unique spin on “Trumpets,” and were given the chance to perform in front of the song’s performer himself.
While he was unable to divulge how far they made it in the competition at this time, drummer Matisse Pasillas did reveal that meeting Derulo armed the band with a behind the scenes look at the business side of the industry as well as tips on how to perfect its stage moves. “He taught us how to be confident while performing and to have fun,” he says.
Undecided Future’s experience with Derulo will air on November 20th in the first batch of released episodes and the group is already preparing for the aftermath. “We’re releasing a song in December called ‘Intoxicated.’ We’re looking at the future now. We really want to continue to build on this exposure that this show has brought us and run with it,” says keyboardist/vocalist Nick Stone. “And it was all because of a cover song.”
Ludacris tells Billboard that aspiring artists should never underestimate the power of a cover tune. “I got my start doing covers of LL Cool J’s ‘I’m Bad’ in a talent show when I was 9 or 10-year-old,” he says, nothing that if Best.Cover.Ever. was around in his early career days, he would have jumped at the chance to partake. “I’d absolutely be submitting an LL or Outkast cover!” he exclaims.
“YouTube is one of the best places to discover new music and new artists from all over the world,” says Daniels. “Best.Cover.Ever. is designed to discover the next big artists only on YouTube. We hope that this is an opportunity for these emerging artists to take their careers to the next level, not only by giving them a worldwide audience through the show, but also by providing them with invaluable advice from the superstar artists.”
Best.Cover.Ever premieres with its first three episodes, featuring Jason Derulo, Demi Lovato, and Katy Perry, on November 20th on the show’s official YouTube page.