10 cover songs that are better than the original


    by · July 17, 2015

    Photo by roger Kisby/Getty Images

    A good cover song has the potential to change an artist’s career. Well, maybe two artists. If done right, both artists can get recognition. That’s usually the case when it comes to these kinds of songs. The chances of a song being covered so well that it comes off as the cover artist’s own is rare. And yet, it happens. Dolly Parton has been a victim of this at least twice in her career, and so have The Postal Service. Iron and Wine completely made “Such Great Heights” its own, and perhaps Sam Beam’s somber music project will do the same when its covers album with Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell Sing Into My Mouth drops July 17. But before all that, let’s revisit 10 of the best cover songs out there.

    Artist: Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson
    Song: “Valerie”
    Original Artist: The Zutons
    The studio version of Winehouse and Ronson’s version is great, but listen to this acoustic version. You’d think she wrote it herself.

    Artist: Iron and Wine
    Song: “Such Great Heights”
    Original Artist: The Postal Service
    You can blame Zach Braff’s 2004 indie flick Garden State for this one. The success of its soundtrack brought “Such Great Heights” out of college-radio hell and into the mainstream. The Postal Service’s version is great, but the melancholy of Iron and Wine’s version goes straight for the heart. 

    Artist: Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, Pink
    Song: “Lady Marmalade”
    Original Artist: Labelle
    The 1975 original is big, but “Lady Marmalade” needed to be bigger. And what better way to do that than have four of the biggest contemporary voices duke it out for four minutes or so? 

    Artist: Björk
    Song: “It’s Oh So Quiet”
    Original Artist: Betty Hutton
    Like “Lady Marmalade,” “It’s Oh So Quiet” needed to be bigger and Björk makes it explode with shrieks and tense silences. 

    Artist: Jeff Buckley
    Song: “Hallelujah”
    Original Artist: Leonard Cohen
    Where Leonard Cohen’s version did with synths, Buckley’s version did with an aching spirituality. This is how “Hallelujah” was meant to be heard.

    Artist: RUN-DMC
    Song: “Walk This Way”
    Original Artist: Aerosmith
    Okay, okay, so Aerosmith is still technically featured in RUN-DMC’s cover of “Walk This Way,” but “Walk This Way” just isn’t “Walk This Way” without RUN-DMC. 

    Artist: The Fugees
    Song: “Killing Me Softly”
    Original Artist: Roberta Flack
    Flack’s original track is timeless, but this is the track that made The Fugees The Fugees. 

    Artist: Daughter
    Song: “Get Lucky”
    Original Artist: Daft Punk
    The U.K. group’s slowed down cover of the song of summer 2013 is sensual. The message is less flirty than the original and puts the listener into a trance. Yes, it seems to say, tonight you will get some.

    Artist: Johnny Cash
    Song: “Hurt”
    Original Artist: Nine Inch Nails
    Trent Reznor of NIN has gone on record to say that “Hurt” isn’t his song anymore. Listening to Cash’s version made him feel like he “just lost [his] girlfriend.”

    Artist: Whitney Houston
    Song: “I Will Always Love You”
    Original Artist: Dolly Parton
    Do we really have to explain this one? Really...?

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    Last updated: 2015-07-17T10:30:29-04:00
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