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Take Cover: Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’

Rolling Stone’s Jenny Eliscu grades the YouTube stars covering the hit song

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Rhianna performs live on the last show of her tour at New Orleans Arena on November 15th, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Jade Novah

Usually when a YouTuber goes to the trouble (and expense) of producing a proper music video for their cover, it's to distract from an overproduced, generic, Autotuned-beyond-recognition musical performance. Jade Novah is the welcome exception – a singer with vocal chops that give Ri-Ri a run for her money, and with enough of her own bright-eyed personality to come across like an artist in her own right, not just a karaoke singer. The Cleveland singer-songwriter describes her sound as a fusion of R&B and Broadway, and she's got the theatricality to prove it. You can tell from her delivery, her facial expressions, and from the video itself that Novah has a sense of humor, but for further proof/LOLs, check out her "Beyonce Impersonation: The Untold Story of Keyonce Bowles" video.

Performance: A

Presentation: A

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Riley Biederer

Not that the acoustic guitar part she's strumming is all that difficult, but Biederer gets points right out of the gate for playing her own instrument, while many other young women covering the song have a male accompanist join them on guitar. Mainly, though, the 16-year-old Atlanta native offers a refreshingly unaffected performance of the song, the power of her voice carrying the clip. Like Jade Novah, she imparts her own personality in the places where she lets herself deviate from the original – when she cuts loose and freestyles vocal runs near the end, her smile widening as she goes, it's a little bit of magic.

Performance: A

Presentation: B+

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Crash Boom Bang

Just when I was hoping to find a version of the song that wasn't another young female singer mimicking Rihanna's every inflection, I came across Washington, D.C. alt-pop wannabes Crash Boom Bang – a couple of bros wearing sunglasses inside, performing a wonky rendition of "Diamonds" that makes it sound like a Crazy Town b-side. [sad trumpet]

Performance: C

Presentation: C-

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Joel Brandenstein and Jona Selle

Although the actual execution feels a bit overwrought, Brandenstein and Selle's approach to the Rihanna tune is refreshing – a somber acoustic version with just piano, cello, a bit of guitar and shared vocals. Brandenstein's dramatically raspy voice and Selle's smooth counterpoint give this performance an intriguing blend of machismo and tenderness. It almost sounds like it could have been a duet between Jonathan Davis and Enrique Iglesias.

Performance: B

Presentation: B+

In This Article: Rihanna

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