I find cover songs, on the whole, super-interesting; many of them are slices of various musicians and bands at their worst or most outright bizarre (see Nickelback’s cover of “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” by Elton John) or their best (see below). Love ‘em or hate ‘em, covers seem to be a perennially-discussed topic amongst fans of music and popular culture. There is even a website devoted to covers.
This post collects just a few of my favorites, because a post of all of my favorite covers would be entirely too long. Lyrics for each song are linked via the song title.
Garbage did an absolutely stunning version of “Candy Says,” originally by the Velvet Underground, a while back:
Next up is Tori Amos, about whom I should probably just write a whole blog entry because she is so prolific with cover songs (TAKE NOTE, me). Anyway, she covered a bunch of songs written by men about women for her 2001 album Strange Little Girls, but two of the arguably best tracks from those recording sessions did not actually make it onto the album.
“After All” (David Bowie):
“Only Women Bleed” (Alice Cooper):
This doesn’t mean that Strange Little Girls was a bad album, however. Check out her piano and voice cover of Joe Jackson’s “Real Men” — a searing indictment of traditional masculinity that is still pretty damn relevant in the present moment, even though it was recorded in the early 1980s:
Covers have also been a unique part of Tori’s live shows. I would be remiss not to include her absolutely gorgeous organ-and-voice version of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” recorded in 1996:
Then there’s her version of Radiohead’s “Karma Police,” performed on tour in 2005:
Speaking of Radiohead covers, roots/Americana musician Gillian Welch has been known to cover “Black Star” in concert; in many ways, her version surpasses the original:
Again surpassing the original (which may equal blasphemy to some Dylan fans, I know): Nina Simone sings Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’“:
I am including Antony and the Johnsons’ b-sided take on Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” because it is so radically different from the original song (check those string arrangements), but still awesome:
Patti Smith’s album Twelve is a collection of covers; if you’ve ever wanted to hear Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” interpreted as a folk tune WITH BANJO, this is an album worth picking up:
And lastly, recently-departed R.E.M. once recorded an amazing cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale.” Michael Stipe’s quiet falsetto is, in many ways, an intense counterpoint to original VU vocalist Nico’s monotone:
Feel free, as always, to link your favorites in the comments.