People say that every good song has already been written, and all we can do now is come up with weak copies.
People say that every good song has already been written, and all we can do now is come up with weak copies. Maybe you think it’s cheating, that artists are copping out by including covers in their live sets and as bonus album tracks.
But sometimes covers can make you listen to a song in a completely different way, with artists adding layers of meaning and emotion to the songs that inspired them that were never there before.
I think the best covers are ones that take a great song as a base and add their own twist of sound and melody to make a different song entirely. These are some of my favourites.
Hurt – Johnny Cash (Original: Nine Inch Nails)
I honestly can’t decide which version of Hurt I like more. NIN’s icy downward spiral of self-loathing or Cash’s dejected reflection of all his regrets. Even the chords that melt behind the words are equally beautiful in totally different ways.
Cash builds the tension throughout the chorus, rising and rising until it falls away on “hurt” leaving you just that little bit breathless, but the original pulses miserably towards the crashing disharmony of the ending leaving you feeling unsettled.
One of the most covered songs ever written, you’ll find country and western, heavy metal and pop versions all clamouring to eclipse the original. But this African choral version is perhaps one of the best. We lose the bluesy tone of the Withers’ song, the softly twanging bass and guitars are replaced by heartbeat drums and backing vocals that crash like waves over the top of the melody.
Des’ree’s soulful voice is enchanting and powerful, giving this song a passion and sadness that the other versions can’t quite capture.
I Feel The Earth Move – Shinedown (Original: Carole King)
With Brent Smith’s melted chocolate voice over the seventies’ upbeat piano vibe this song takes on a desperate, moody aggression and the extra layers of guitars and drums push the song forward towards the ground-shaking climax midway through. It’s wild, loud and growls to a close with a knee-shaking gasp of satisfaction.
Replacing the funk and soul of Stevie Wonder’s original with a rock and roll edge, this was arranged for the soundtrack to California biker drama Sons of Anarchy, it adds to the show’s collection of fantastic and unique covers – The White Buffalo’s House of the Rising Sun is also wonderfully haunting.
Wicked Game – Stone Sour (Original: Chris Isaak)
It’s true there are thousands of covers of this song (the HIM version is one of the most famous versions and its brilliant) but Corey Taylor just has a voice that gently slides into your ears and breaks your heart. The desperation of the final line is so soft and lonely, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved.
If you ever listened to the Stone’s version and thought “What the hell is Jagger going on about?” then your questions are answered in this slowed-down, laidback cover by the kings of New Jersey cool. Hazy city summers, silky jukebox guitar curls and a delicious earnestness that screams of late night poker are everything the Stones would have wanted this cover to be and it delivers perfectly.
What’s your favourite cover of a classic song? Let us know in the comments below!