The best cover songs
…and the worst
Love them or hate them, the best cover songs ever can really divide opinion. Some people love a refreshing new take on an old favourite tune, while others abhor the mere thought of anyone doing something different with a classic.
Personally, I feel that the best cover songs of all time always bring something new to the table. Otherwise, what’s the point? Just re-recording the song with the vocalist of the moment doesn’t quite cut it for me. To begin, here are seven of the best cover songs ever…
The best cover songs
Valerie – Mark Ronson & Amy Winehouse
The first of my best cover versions was certainly one of the quickest covers that I can remember. Amy Winehouse’s version of The Zutons’ 2006 tune Valerie made it to number two in 2007.
The newer version is more uptempo, yet – thanks largely to Winehouse’s vocals – more soulful too. I love it. I also love the original, and own the Zuton’s album, Tired of Hanging Around, from whence it came.
Live and Let Die – Guns ’n’ Roses
It takes a brave man to mess with a Beatle, surely? Yet it didn’t stop Axl Rose and his fellow long-haired guns having a go. The result is one of the best cover versions of songs from the Bond films.
I love both versions of this tune – both the original and the somewhat grungier version – and turn up the radio whenever either appears on the airwaves.
Smooth Criminal – Alien Ant Farm
Speaking of grungier versions, Smooth Criminal is one of my favourite Michael Jackson tunes. While I still marginally prefer the Wacko Jacko recording, I do also really like what Alien Ant Farm have done with it.
Whatever else Jackson may be infamous for, he sure did make some cracking music, and for those who would choose not to listen to the former King of Pop at least this cover provides another option.
Respect – Aretha Franklin
From the King of Pop to the Queen of Soul. It may surprise some to learn that Aretha wasn’t the first to record Respect. The ditty was actually penned and released in 1964 by none other than the mighty Otis Redding, several years before Aretha’s version hit the charts.
An absolute soul classic: Aretha certainly succeeded in making it her own.
Don’t leave me this way – The Communards
This smash hit landed right in the middle of the dance floor in the mid-1980s, and Jimi Somerville’s high-pitched vocals hit just the right chord, even with fans of the original Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ version.
If ever a song could be described as joyful and triumphant, then surely this is it. The Communards cover even made it onto the Soundtrack of my Life.
Step On – Happy Mondays
What? The Happy Mondays didn’t record this first? No, indeed they did not. A little-known South African artist called John Kongos released the original in 1971, under the title He’s Gonna Step on You Again.
Madchester faves the Happy Mondays certainly reinvented this tune, and the ‘twisting melons’ were all their very own. Reminds me so much my student days in THE city of the 1990s.
Get Lucky – Daft Punk
Fast-forward from the hazy days of the nineties right up to 2013, when Daft Punk made a masterpiece by recording their version of Get Lucky. And I don’t very often like recent music, really.
The concise, impassioned lyrics are a highlight, as are the subtle percussion and perfectly-pitched synthesisers.
The worst cover songs
So we’ve listed the best cover versions ever. It’s not all good, however. Some may have indeed offered a new take on a an old melody, but they do have to sound pleasing as well. Here are the 7 cover versions worst cover songs of all time. I would never have let any of these make it as far as the recording studio…
You’ve got the love – Florence + the Machine
Controversial choice this, but I far prefer Candi Staton’s recording. #sorrynotsorry
Uptown girl – Westlife
No, no, a thousand times no. The Billy Joel original is a cracker, this is a total car crash.
Careless Whisper – 2Play & Thomas Jules
How. Dare. They. That’s all. Don’t mess with my George Michael.
American Pie – Madonna
Oh come on Mads. You can do, and have done, so much better than this.
I love rock ’n’ roll – Britney Spears
If you truly love rock ’n’ roll, Britney, then you should have left well alone.
Fairytale of New York – Ronan Keating & Moya Brennan
Dire doesn’t cover it. It’s supposed to be edgy, Ronan, and as for when Moya kicks in… I hope this hasn’t made it to the other side for Kirsty MacColl’s (RIP) sake. ‘Happy Christmas your arse’ indeed.
Unchained Melody – Robson and Jerome
OK. So I am a Geordie. That’s not enough, though, to excuse Robson Green (and Jerome Flynn) this travesty. And if that wasn’t enough, it had the sheer cheek to stay at number one for seven weeks.
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