There is nothing in this world better than hearing an amazing cover of your favorite song. The only thing that comes close at all is realizing that your favorite song is in fact a cover and the original is terrible. Some incredibly popular songs have in fact been covers—such as Cyndi Lauper’s take on “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” and even Aretha Franklin’s version of “RESPECT.” Covers are the greatest musical tribute there is, and when done well, they are done oh so well.
1. “Wicked Game”—James Vincent McMorrow
Originally written by Chris Isaak, this is one of those songs that just can’t be sung badly. While I’m admittedly not a Chris Isaak fan, “Wicked Game” is one of my favorite songs of all time. I adore McMorrow’s version, but other amazing covers include London Grammar and Gemma Hayes.
2. “Heart It Races”—Dr. Dog
I’ve known this song for awhile, and it without fail makes me have to dance whenever I hear it. Very recently someone pointed out to me that it is actually a cover of an Architecture in Helsinki song. Maybe it’s one of those things where you need to be a fan of AIH first, but sweet merciful baby Jesus did Dr. Dog save this song.
3. “These Days”—Tallest Man On Earth
This is one of my favorite covers of one of my favorite songs, “These Days” by Jackson Browne. This song was actually made fairly popular by the artist Nico, and was on “The Royal Tenenbaums” soundtrack. Tallest Man On Earth takes a classic and beautiful song and just completes it with his wonderful raspy Swedish magic.
4. “She’s Always A Woman”—Fyfe Dangerfield
Throughout my high school experience, Billy Joel’s “She’s Always A Woman” was a bit of a personal soundtrack. When I first heard Fyfe Dangerfield’s cover, at first I thought it was in fact my boy Billy before I listened closer. I found this cover via a John Lewis commercial of all things (side note—John Lewis adverts are a great source for finding amazing covers). I love this version—simple, honest, and true to the original.
5. “Make You Feel My Love”—Billy Joel
Like “Wicked Games,” this classic Bob Dylan song has been covered a dozen times, and it never goes wrong. It is the quintessential and perfect love song. I dare any cold hearted bastard out there to listen to this song and not melt. My favorite version is Billy Joel’s, because I have a sick and weird obsession with circa 1983 Billy Joel (I even had a poster of him in my high school locker). The most popular version by now is Adele’s beautiful rendition, but let us not forget the admirable version done by Garth Brooks as well.
6. “Hurt”—Johnny Cash
I knew Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt” for a long time before the Man in Black recorded this. I was too young to appreciate it at the time, but it’s one of those songs that hits you harder and harder as you age. Johnny Cash, a man who made his career on covers, put his own spin on “Hurt” mere months before he died, and it’s a gorgeous and fitting tribute to the man’s greatness and turbulent life. Trent Reznor wrote the song, and Cash gave it meaning.
7. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”—Greg Laswell
As previously mentioned, Cyndi Lauper’s version is in fact a cover, but covers of covers count too! I love Greg Laswell’s version of this song. It’s kind of like the perfect recipe. How do we cover an uptempo, poppy girl-power song? Let’s slow it down and make it a piano ballad. Suddenly this feel-good fun time song seems a lot heavier.
8. “Valerie”—Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson
This jazzy number was an instant success, due to Amy Winehouse’s pipes and Mark Ronson’s talent for making super catchy beats. This cover was done almost less than a year after the original version by Brit alt/rock band The Zutons was released. Both versions are fab in my opinion—both give me delusions of being able to dance.
9. “Creep”—Macy Gray
If you have never imitated Macy Gray while singing “I Try,” then you are lying. If you have never imitated Macy Gray while singing other non-Macy Gray songs, then you are still lying. Macy Gray’s version of Radiohead’s “Creep” is pure perfection. And will get stuck in your head infinitely quicker.
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Mark Ronson! Yes! Version is a brilliant album, start to finish. And I’m so happy to see Bob Dylan credited for “Make You Feel My Love” — I feel like many of his songs are so ubiquitous that it’s common to credit them to other songwriters.