‘I abhor the words ‘classical music.’ Few things satisfy me more than a really good cover version’ – Charles Hazlewood
The charts seem to to be awash with cover versions at the moment. Particularly popular seems to be whimsical floaty guitar lead versions of classic dance songs (a fan of Sam Feldt’s Show Me Love, I am not). And it’s not that I don’t like cover versions, I do, I love them. In fact, I used to spend hours writing out the track listing to the covers album I could release if I were a singer. I just don’t think any of the covers I’ve heard recently have been all that good.
To me, a good cover version shouldn’t just be a carbon copy of the original (I’m looking at you Matt Cardle), there should be a new spin or twist that’s unique to the artist doing the covering, but not change it too much that it’s unrecognisable. It’s a fine line that few seem to get right. Here’s my top 10 of artists I think have nailed it:
Placebo – Running Up That Hill
Originally by: Kate Bush
I’ve never been a massive Kate Bush fan, she’s a little quirky even for me, but have always loved a bit of Placebo and this cover is just exquisite. It’s so atmospheric and I know it’s been used on many a soundtrack. Brian Molko’s voice makes it sound way more current and makes an appearance in almost every live set they do.
Mandy Moore – Umbrella
Originally by: Rihanna
I never really listened to the words of this song properly until I heard this version. Hearing it sang as a ballad gives the song a whole new meaning and for someone who started her career as a bubblegum Britney wannabe, Mandy’s actually got a pretty decent set of pipes on her. Thes a lot to be said for a great song sang well.
Bootstraps – I Wanna Dance With Somebody
Originally by: Whitney Houston
First heard on the Greys Anatomy soundtrack this is SO different from the original that it’s not until they get to the chorus that you realise what song it is. Again hearing such a famous pop song sang as an acoustic ballad gives the words different meaning, and this version changes a cheesy upbeat floor filler to a heartbreaking song about loneliness.
Alanis Morissette – Crazy
Originally by: Seal
I’ve always been more partial to the extended version of this song (which is over 5 minutes long) over the radio edit but either way both are worth a listen. Alanis absolutely puts her own spin on this making it a rockier version whilst still staying true to Seal’s brilliant original. The video for the single edit is pretty cool too.
Eels – Get Your Freak On
Originally by: Missy Elliott
To say Eels were quirky would be like saying One Direction as slightly annoying. So for them to cover a rap song like this seems to fit them to a tee. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Mark Everett does a sterling job at singing the lyrics as oppose to rapping them, I bet it sounds amazing live as well.
Chantay Savage – I Will Survive
Originally by: Gloria Gaynor
This was quite a big hit when it was released in 1996 and seemed to be the only hit she had (in the UK at least where it reached number 12) I love that such an iconic disco song has been made to sound so soulful and modern.
Everclear – Brown Eyed Girl
Originally by: Van Morrison
Everclear have taken an absolute belter of a song, put their own spin on it and made it even better (in my humble opinion) this is without a doubt my favourite cover version of all time. Art Alexakis has a very signature ‘hey’ that he puts on most of his songs so to cover this seems very fitting. It’s the exception that proves the rule that cover versions are never as good as the original.
Gym Class Heroes – Good Vibrations
Originally by: The Beach Boys
Speaking of the ‘hey’, the thing I love most about this song is the little ‘hey hey’ they sing in the chorus. I also like that Travie has decided to sing the song and not rap all over it, while also keeping its laid back summer vibe. It was played during the meal of my wedding reception as well fact fans.
Gun – Word Up
Originally by: Cameo
Released in 1994 and Scottish rock band Guns only top 10 single this takes what was already a brilliant song anyway and adds some drums and guitars to give it a distinctive 90s britpop feel. As far as cover versions go, it ticks all the boxes for me, which is more than can be said for Mel B’s God awful attempt.
HIM – Wicked Game
Originally by: Chris Isaak
Probably my second favourite cover version of all time, this was introduced to me by the Finnish pen pal I had in the 90s who was a heavy metal fan and whilst I was trying to get him to see the beauty of the Backstreet Boys, he tried to educate me on all things Scandanavian Rock. I think this was the closest we ever got to common ground; hearing this cover certainly made a lasting impression. And we’re still friends so that’s cool!