This is the second playlist in a multi-article feature that we will run over the next few weeks (and possibly expand upon later). Each playlist will contain 10 cover songs that “rocked” the original version, either by turning it into a loud rock song or by “rocking” it — that it to say, surpassing it in genius. Each playlist will be compiled by a different writer; Michelle Thompson picked her 10 earlier in July, and now it’s my turn. Enjoy! -ed.
I’ve had a love affair with cover songs ever since the first album I bought (Smash Mouth‘s Astro Lounge…shhhh…) contained a cover of “Can’t Get Enough Of You, Baby,” a song penned by songwriters Denny Randell and Sandy Linzer and originally recorded in 1966 by The Four Tops and in 1967 by ? And The Mysterians. When I found out it wasn’t an original, I was entranced — I’d never heard the term “cover songs” — and after Everclear‘s “Brown-Eyed Girl” cover got me re-addicted to a song I’d grown up with, I started searching them out. I haven’t stopped since, and have almost 1,000 in my iTunes library. And those are just the ones that make the cut, as I keep my iTunes spick and span. Here are 1% of those covers…my 10 choices for covers that ROCKED the originals.
There have been countless covers of this popular synthpop song by everyone from Marilyn Manson to The Pussycat Dolls to Rihanna‘s samples of the song on her worldwide hit “SOS”, but many people don’t know that the “original” is actually a cover, too! “Tainted Love” was recorded by soul singer Gloria Jones in 1965 and re-recorded by her in 1976 after the song became increasingly popular in the underground music scene, but it failed to chart both times and only became popular after Soft Cell slowed the song down, changed the key, and replaced traditional instruments with synthesizers. Thus, Soft Cell completely rocked the original — not by turning it into a rock song, but by recording a cover that became a top 10 hit, a popular karaoke song, and a staple of ’80s compilation albums.
According to cover-vs-original.com, 70% of people think The Guess Who‘s original 1970 version of this ubiquitous tune is better than Kravitz’s funk-rock cover. I disagree. Kravitz succeeded in maintaining the original’s cockiness, but removed the bluesy intro and turned the guitars up. His vocal stylings fit the track perfectly, supplying an in-your-face sexiness that the original attempts and misses. No matter which version you prefer, however, there’s no doubt that Kravitz turned the dial to 11 and ROCKED “American Woman.”
While some of you may still be reeling from my claim that Lenny Kravitz upped the ante on a hallowed classic rock song, don’t worry… I’m not about to claim that The Ataris’ version — or any other — can top Don Henley’s original. But pop-punk group The Ataris definitely ROCKED it with loud guitars, nasal vocals, and an ambiance that turns a midnight drive into a midday summer drive. Replacing “Deadhead sticker” with “Black Flag sticker” was pure genius, exchanging a disappointment in counter-culture hippies’ turn to materialism with a disappointment in counter-culture punks’ turn to materialism.
I had a musicgasm when I realized that the violin-led pop-punk group Yellowcard had covered this deep track from John Lennon’s genius 1971 album Imagine. Instead of lonely piano, a melancholy guitar begins the song, accompanied by a violin. Before long, the cover erupts into a soaring rock song of gigantic proportions — and somehow, “Oh My Love” seems like it was always meant for this destiny. Put this on the next playlist you make for your girlfriend.
The comedy value of this cover is as high as you are if you think it’s better than Jay-Z’s classic rap track. But when Hugo break out their bluegrass and shorten the song into a 2-minute stomper, you may understand just how it rocks the original — by pwning it with a banjo.
Yeah, it’s another off-the-wall cover of a famous rap song. Neon Hitch — her real name — has written songs for Ke$ha and 3OH!3, and she’s now starting on her solo career with this cabaret/piano cover. The only way it could possibly be better is if there were a few “snooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOP!”s thrown in, but alas, like “99 Problems,” this is a shortened 2.5-minute version of the original.
I keep excusing my choices by picking covers that are louder and bigger than the originals, rather than better — possibly because most covers exist merely for the novelty value. However, this Foxes In Fiction + Weed version of the Katy Perry monster hit actually does ROCK the original. It’s much more listenable, replacing the club feel for an indie pop one. Between the muddy vocals and the druggy quality of the cover, it actually sounds like a “teenage dream,” as opposed to the titular Katy Perry version… which is more like a nightmare.
It’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on a fucking ukulele. Seriously. You’ll never look at the instrument — or the song — in the same way again, and I think that qualifies for ROCKING the song.
You might be deceived by the organ for the first few seconds, but when the crunching power chords hit, it’s quite obvious how the Finnish metal band rock the title song from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s 1986 rock opera. Appearing as a track on the band’s 2002 release Century Child, this cover is even more listenable than the original.
Another cover that doesn’t measure up to the original — but hell, what could measure up to the song that I named “The Best Song Ever Written“? Certainly not a German Gothic metal group, even if they have put out two whole albums full of cover songs. Nevertheless, this version utilizes a European doom vibe that fits the song’s apocalyptic lyrics deftly. The gorgeous strings and male/female vocals drive the song even higher — this is one you’ll definitely want to play with the lights off and the volume up, preferably sometime in midwinter.