It seems like everyone I know can name at least a few songs that have been totally revitalized after being covered by a different artist, so here are a few that I have gathered! This list includes seven songs which friends have recommended to me that completely changed my perception of the song or otherwise blew my mind, at least partially. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed compiling it!
Jennifer Saunders – Holding Out For A Hero (Bonnie Tyler)
This is the classic example that comes to mind when I think of covers that are better than the original. Featured in the 2004 hit film Shrek 2, this song really just jumps out at you — when the Fairy Godmother flicks her wand and transforms her garb into a sparkling red dress and busts out in song… it is a magical moment indeed. Not only is this an excellent background theme for the epic storming of the castle which Shrek and his band of misfits partake in at this time in the film, but the vocals send chills down my spine in a way that the original could never quite capture.
Miley Cyrus – Heart of Glass (Blondie)
Miley Cyrus broke the internet with her cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” earlier this year when her performance at the iHeart Festival went viral — and for good reason! The mature, strong, classic rocker style vocals will be sure to shock any audience by highlighting the immense range of genres that Cyrus can pull off. I feel like Blondie’s original version was more fitting for the popular style of music at the time of its release, but Cyrus’ version unites both modern and classic styles to provide the audience with a euphoric listening experience. Incredible!
Alex Aiono – Hasta el Amanecer (Nicky Jam) x One Dance (Drake)
Okay, technically this isn’t a cover but rather a mashup… but hear me out! Nicky Jam’s original recording of “Hasta el Amanecer” definitely has a vibe that suggests it should be played on popular radio stations, but feels a bit too wordy for clubbing or dancing at some points. Aiono’s mashup of this with Drake’s “One Dance” adds a bit more bass, incorporates his catchy chorus, and really just pulls in more “party” vibes and gets me grooving. Then again, I never really have been the biggest fan of Drake by himself so there may be some bias going on here. Seriously, though, give it a listen — you can thank me later!
Sam Smith – Fast Car (Tracy Chapman)
Sam Smith performed a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” on BBC Radio 1 in 2014 that adds a breathy, modern tenor lilt that Chapman’s original rendition was missing all along. This rendition showcases Smith’s unique and powerful, yet gentle, vocal trills also heard in their hit song “Stay With Me.” Between their unique vocalizations and crisper vocals, Smith killed this cover (unlike others who have tried it before, including Justin Bieber, and just couldn’t pull it off).
Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
I didn’t even know that Dylan was the original writer of this song, since I’ve heard Hendrix’s song so many more times! Not only is Hendrix’s version more popular, but it has a much more soul-ful vibe to it. The original is punctuated by a nonchalant harmonica and has a strong folk-like charm to it, whereas Hendrix’s cover transforms the song from slow and jaunty to vibrant electric guitar that brings emotional intensity and shifts the genre entirely over to rock. Another notable cover of this song can be heard in the Netflix TV series Lucifer — which features Tom Ellis’ gorgeous gravelly vocals and desperate, longing and emotional rendition.
Seu Jorge – Life On Mars? (David Bowie)
Just when I thought Bowie couldn’t sound any better, I discovered Seu Jorge’s Portuguese rendition of “Life On Mars?” There’s something to be said for Jorge’s deep, mesmerizing tone and the added mystery of familiar lyrics disguised in a foreign language. I prefer this rendition to Bowie’s original because the acoustic guitar and deeper register floods my body with a peaceful, restorative, almost meditative energy — nothing at all like the original version.
Ryan Adams – Out of the Woods (Taylor Swift)
Adams’ rendition of Swift’s album “1989” is unmatched, with every track bringing more surprises than the last. My favorite cover song from this album is definitely “Out of the Woods,” because it brings forward an acoustic, slow, almost melancholy vibe and understanding to the lyrics that Swift originally wrote to a quicker, synth-pop beat. Adams’ stylization forces the listener to take the time to really feel and empathize with the stabbing, trauma-filled emotions that Swift hid behind a radio-friendly musical score.