Amber Mark’s Cover Series is a Bright Spot in Quarantine

The rising R&B star has stayed busy with her pandemic project: a new demos and covers EP

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Amber Mark’s Cover Series is a Bright Spot in Quarantine

If you don’t already know about Amber Mark, it’s not too late.

The 26-year-old is a self-taught singer and producer based in New York City. Her genre-spanning music contains hints of bossa nova, R&B, hip-hop and pop.

Mark’s 2017 debut EP 3:33am deals with grieving the loss of her mother as a young adult. On “Monsoon,” the record’s central track, Mark sings over rain sounds, which represent the monsoon season in India (where Mark lived as a child)—as well as her tears. “I wish there was something I’d done more of,” she sings. “Knocked you out and dragged you there myself / Maybe then, you’d be here. You’d be here.” This EP, and her music in general, are both heavily influenced by growing up on the move with her mother (an artist), traveling internationally from Berlin to Miami to India, before eventually settling in the West Village.

In March, Mark released “Generous,” a preview of a new album, which has no verified release date yet. But, during quarantine, Mark has been busy creating a different project to keep us satisfied while we wait: COVERED-19, which is, of course, a play on COVID-19, but it is also a series of self-recorded, self-produced covers and original demos. All five songs in the series have an accompanying homemade video.

Mark launched the series with a cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.” She announced on Instagram: “Y’all wanted it so bad, so I had to put it out! Here it is…a little Heart-Shaped Box cover to keep you going through these crazy times.” Mark distinguished this version from the original with her layered vocals tracks and loose synth lines posing as the bass. This is not your average quarantine cover attempt— it’s an incredibly executed reinvention of a Nirvana classic.

Mark’s second release was an original titled “Waiting.” This slow-tempo song is about how the pandemic has separated us from people we love and long to be with. “I’ll stay waitin’ for you / Anything, I’ll do it all for you,” Mark sings in the chorus. “Waiting” is short and sweet; you might just want to play it on repeat.

“1894” is another Amber Mark original, but this hip-hop inspired track is more upbeat. Mark admitted via social media that she was a bit tipsy when writing this sassy song. “Come at me, I come back harder / If I want sex, I’ll ask for it, this ain’t 1894 / Get out my way,” Mark sings while dancing alongside her sister and her friend (in sweatpants and masks, of course).

A couple of weeks later, Mark shared “My People,” a rendition of “My People…Hold On” by the Temptations’ co-founder Eddie Kendricks. Mark’s powerful and timely cover was featured in Michelle Obama’s playlist celebrating #BlackGirlMagic. At the end of the video for this track, Mark stands alongside four Black dancers with their fists in the air as “justice now” is chanted in the background and fades into the outro. All profits from “My People” go to organizations dedicated to developing Black agricultural land ownership.

Mark finished off the series with a cover of the 1999 hit “Thong Song” by Sisqo. “It originally started out as a little joke to myself and then I loved it too much not to put it out,” Mark said via Instagram. In the video, shot on an iPhone by her sister, Mark is exuding confidence and loving herself, as she should. This smooth house version of “Thong Song” will fill you up with energy and leave you wanting more.

If you’re looking for new music in the quarantine or just need a song to brighten your day, Amber Mark has got you COVERED.

Paris Rosenthal, a Chicago native, is an editorial music intern at Paste. You can usually find her listening to music, practicing yoga, writing, or organizing.