There is something about hearing a cover song — when one band or artist interprets the song of another — that seems to appeal to all of us who love music. Maybe the cover is of a song that takes us back to a time in our lives for which we feel great nostalgia. Maybe the cover reminds us that the original song exists, as we had somehow simply forgotten about it. Or, maybe the cover version is even better than the original, and the song is therefore re-introduced to us in a whole new guise.
Whatever the reason, a great cover song hits two separate but equally satisfying notes: It provides us with a fresh take on a beloved song, and it makes us appreciate the original version anew and want to revisit it. That is a true win-win. Music is, after all, a balm for the tribulations of the soul, and every chance we get to apply it, the better.
And now, relish the below 10 outstanding cover versions of great original songs.
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‘Dancing on my Own,’ Kings of Leon (original by Robyn)
Robyn’s original version of this song was a huge, synth-propelled worldwide club hit after it was released back in 2010 when it was hailed as the song of the decade. Rolling Stone magazine named it the 20th greatest song of all time in its 2021 version of that list. The song’s genius rests in its bittersweet yet euphoric feel, which has made it a frequently-covered number by lots of artists and bands. My personal favorite of these is the version Kings of Leon performed on BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge back in 2013. Stripped down to a mid-tempo rock ballad, the cover version maintains its plaintive and uplifting feel, and minus the synth comes across as a simply great rock song. Their performance has been viewed 28 million times.
‘You Can Have the Crown,’ Post Malone (original by Sturgill Simpson)
During the hellish lockdown days of 2020, rapper Post Malone demonstrated his rock and country chops by covering both Nirvana and Sturgill Simpson (among others) in a series of livestream videos. This version of one of Simpson’s early songs, which Malone performed with members of Dwight Yoakam’s backing band, is pretty damn great. I am sure it made the sometimes-irascible Simpson chuckle to himself in appreciation.
‘Go Your Own Way,’ NOFX (original by Fleetwood Mac)
From their 1989 album, S&M Airlines, NOFX’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way was one of the earliest of the pop-punk covers of many to come in the next couple of decades. It would even pave the way for Me First & the Gimmee Gimmees, a punk supergroup that put out albums of only cover songs. Oozing the irreverent style that would characterize the first wave of pop-punk covers, as typified by altered lyrics like, “If I could baby, I’d give you my socks,” NOFX’s cover is pure pop-punk bliss.
‘No Quarter,’ Tool (original by Led Zeppelin)
What better song is there than No Quarter — Led Zeppelin’s 1973 foray into prog-rock nirvana — for new school prog-metal lords Tool to reinterpret with their signature sound? Tool’s version is heavier (of course), and overlays the band’s propulsive and menacing sound on top of Zeppelin’s exquisitely drawn-out classic. It is an 11.5-minute simmering volcano and one I would kill to see live.
‘Desperadoes Under the Eaves,’ Dawes (original by Warren Zevon)
In 2015, David Letterman was retiring from his late-night television show and he invited the band Dawes to perform a song that Letterman’s old pal and regular guest, Warren Zevon, would never agree to play for him whenever he came on the show prior to his death in 2003. What resulted was an elegiac and emotional tribute, beautifully performed by a band who were both doing Letterman a solid by performing it, and paying tribute to one of their great musical influences. The performance did not end up airing on the show but this great cover song has been viewed half a million times on YouTube.
‘Across the Universe,’ Fiona Apple (original by The Beatles)
This version of John Lennon’s classic Let it Be track was recorded by Fiona Apple for the 1998 movie, Pleasantville. In the video, Apple’s beautifully rendered vocals and dreamy composition are transposed against images of chaotic mayhem swirling all around her, and the thrashing of a perfectly good diner. It really is the perfect video for Apple’s trippy and lovely version of the Lennon classic.
‘Thunderstruck,’ Steve’n’ Seagulls (original by AC/DC)
This one has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Watch it on YouTube and marvel at the backwoods Finnish hillbillies who crank out a wild American bluegrass version of the AC/DC rock classic. The video has been viewed 142 million times on YouTube, probably because most viewers had to watch it twice to fully process what they were seeing and hearing. It is worth it just to see the opening licks — played on banjo instead of guitar — by a Finnish dude who looks like he is straight out of an early 20th-century Tennessee moonshine family.
‘Out of the Woods,’ Relic Hearts (original by Taylor Swift)
There are a lot of punk covers in our list of great cover songs. There are also a lot of Taylor Swift punk covers floating around in the music sphere. This is likely because Taylor writes great, melodic songs that translate well to a punk format. This version of Out of the Woods, by Relic Hearts, is a pop-punk cover done right. It is a tight recording, delivering a crisp sonic punch and putting some punk heft behind Swift’s melody and lyrics.
‘Forty Six & 2,’ O’Keefe Music Foundation (original by Tool)
There have been a lot of great Tool covers over the years. Some musicians (especially drummers) find the challenge of covering the band to be a satisfying and worthwhile one. Here we have kids covering Tool! Even though it takes like nine of them to get it done, that in no way takes away from their badass accomplishment. Well done kids, and well done O’Keefe Music Foundation. The video has been viewed 26 million times.
‘I Would Rather Go Blind,’ Dua Lipa (original by Etta James)
Not always appreciated for her singing voice, given how catchy and great her songs are, Dua Lipa flexes her vocal muscles on this spare cover of the Etta James classic. Along with an acoustic guitar accompaniment, Lipa’s stripped-down 2017 version of the song does great service to the original. It is no wonder she would go on to become a worldwide pop sensation.
I hope you enjoy all of these great cover songs, and maybe even go enjoy the originals again, too.
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laser cutter says
Along with an acoustic guitar accompaniment, Lipa’s stripped-down 2017 version of the song does great service to the original. It is no wonder she would go on to become a worldwide pop sensation.