Singers, why limit yourself to one genre? Many artists have produced amazing cover songs to put their own spin on tunes, even those not in their particular genre. Here, St. Augustine, FL voice teacher Heather L. shares six covers worth a listen…
There are some cover songs that are just so much better than the original. Sometimes, it’s the singer’s own spin on the song that makes it so great. Other times, it’s the arrangement or the new lyrics that make a cover stand out from the original. Whatever the reason, these are cover songs you need to hear.
Check out some of our favorites below!
What Are the Top 10 Most Covered Songs?
Here are 10 of the most common cover songs:
- “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
- “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley
- “The Weight” by The Band
- “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by Dropkick Murphys
- “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson
- “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
- “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
- “Shine” by Collective Soul
- “Jolene” by Dolly Parton
- “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver
Of course, what might be a popular cover song to you might not even make someone else’s list – which is why it’s so important to learn as many cover songs as possible! If you’re a singer, take singing lessons to find out which cover songs are right for your voice type – plus, you’ll learn everything you need to know about singing, like what you see in the video below:
What is the Most Popular Cover Song?
How amazingly awesome is it to hear a song re-sung by a singer in a way that’s totally unlike the original version? The correct answer? Really amazingly awesome! Sometimes it can change the way we hear the lyrics completely, sometimes it’ll make us laugh or cry, and sometimes, it’s just plain mind-blowing! Some songs might just showcase another artist, while others bend genres and provide a whole new sound and feel. If you’ve ever heard metal covers of pop songs, you know what we mean!
Below are some of the best cover songs ever — enjoy!
1. “I Will Survive”
Originally performed by Gloria Gaynor, covered by CAKE
This may be the weirdest, most unexpected cover song of all time. Gloria Gaynor sang the original survivor ballad with elegance and soaring melody, and CAKE pretty much just reads the lyrics. And it couldn’t be cooler!
Originally performed by Collective Soul, covered by Dolly Parton and Nickel Creek
Post-grunge band Collective Soul had a big hit with “Shine”. But in this cool cover song, iconic country singer Dolly Parton jams with progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek and takes it to another planet. And she’s smart enough to cut out a couple of the superfluous “yeahs” that Collective Soul’s lead singer belts before the chorus.
3. “Rather Be”
Originally performed by Clean Bandit, covered by Pentatonix
The British electronic group Clean Bandit got their first number one hit in the U.K. just last year with “Rather Be”. And the a cappella supergroup Pentatonix has already covered it and made it a hit of their own by using their voices in amazing ways to create the electronic sounds of the original. Listen and try to hear how the vocalists make the drum, scratch, and bass noises!
Originally performed by Dolly Parton, covered by The White Stripes
Jack White is a huge fan of classic country, and his cover of “Jolene” is a real tribute — sung and played with love. Dolly’s original is sweetly sung in her honey-coated voice, and Jack pretty much yells it. At least he plays the guitar intro the same way.
5. “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
Originally performed by John Denver, covered by Toots and the Maytals
Even the most die-hard fans of John Denver, arguably the most popular country/folk singer of the 1970s, have probably never heard his music played by a reggae band. It’s even more happy-go-lucky and smiley than the first one.
6. “Nothing Else Matters”
Originally performed by Metallica, covered by Tori Amos
Metallica is the ultimate metal band of the 1990s, and Tori Amos is the ultimate girl-on-a-piano. What happens when she covers them? Cover magic! The words really shine through when you’re singing them at half the tempo. And listen, she does.
Best All Time Cover Songs
Still not satisfied? Here are a few more of the best cover songs of all time. Whether you’re looking for Beatles cover songs or cover songs better than original hits, you’ll find them all in this massive list.
So if you’re looking for a new cover song to practice, this list of the best songs to cover should give you a great place to start:
- “Against All Odds” – The Postal Service (Phil Collins)
- “Baby Got Back” – Jonathan Coulton (Sir Mix-A-Lot)
- “Blue Monday” – Orgy (New Order)
- “Caldonia” – Mos Def (Cab Calloway)
- “Chelsea Hotel” – Lloyd Cole (Leonard Cohen)
- “Don’t Give Up” – Willie Nelson & Sinead O’Connor (Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush)
- “Easy (Like Sunday Morning)” – Faith No More (The Commodores)
- “Eleanor Rigby” – Thrice (The Beatles)
- “Enjoy the Silence” – Lacuna Coil (Depeche Mode)
- “Glamorous Life” – The Fever (Sheila E.)
- “Hazy Shade of Winter” – The Bangles (Simon and Garfunkel)
- “Hurt” – Johnny Cash (Nine Inch Nails)
- “I Shall Be Released” – The Band (Bob Dylan)
- “I Will Survive” – Cake (Gloria Gaynor)
- “Imagine” – A Perfect Circle (John Lennon)
- “Jackie Blue” – Smashing Pumpkins (Ozark Mountain Daredevils)
- “Jimmy Loves MaryAnn” – Josie Cotton (Looking Glass)
- “Just” – Mark Ronson with Alex Greenwald (Radiohead)
- “Live and Let Die” – Guns N’ Roses (Wings)
- “Love Hurts” – Nazareth (The Everly Brothers)
- “Low Rider” – Drunken Boat (War)
- “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” – Elton John (The Beatles)
- “Nothing Compares 2 U” – Sinead O’Connor (Prince)
- “Personal Jesus” – Johnny Cash (Depeche Mode)
- “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” – Muse (The Smiths)
- “Proud Mary” – Ike and Tina Turner (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
- “Rock el Casbah” – Rachid Taha (The Clash)
- “Satisfaction” – Devo (The Rolling Stones)
- “Sex (I’m A)” – Peaches (Berlin)
- “Showroom Dummies” – Señor Coconut & His Orchestra (Kraftwerk)
- “Since U Been Gone” – Ted Leo (Kelly Clarkson)
- “Smooth Criminal” – Alien Ant Farm (Michael Jackson)
- “Stairway to Heaven” – Dolly Parton (Led Zeppelin)
- “Stop Your Sobbing” – The Pretenders (The Kinks)
- “Tainted Love” – Soft Cell (Gloria Jones)
- “Turn, Turn, Turn” – The Byrds (Pete Seeger)
- “Under Pressure” – My Chemical Romance and the Used (Queen and David Bowie)
- “Venus” – Bananarama (Shocking Blue)
- “Wasted” – Camper Van Beethoven (Black Flag)
- “Wicked Game” – H.I.M. (Chris Isaak)
- “With a Little Help From My Friends” – Joe Cocker (The Beatles)
What Cover Songs Are Better Than the Original?
When it comes to music, there are countless artists and songs that have made a lasting impression on listeners around the world.
And while many of these songs are considered classics, there are times when they are given new life through cover versions. Whether it’s an up-and-coming artist putting their own spin on a favorite song, or an established musician reinterpreting a classic tune, cover versions can often be better than the originals in some way.
For starters, artists who cover older songs typically have much more experience under their belts than those who originally recorded them.
This allows for a level of skill and artistry that is sometimes lacking in tracks dating back several decades. In addition, cover songs can take on new meaning as times and trends change, turning what was once just another catchy tune into an anthem for social movements or an expression of political frustration.
And finally, with the aid of technology and modern recording techniques, today’s musicians have access to an array of production tools that were simply not available to their predecessors. Whether it’s adding loops or layering vocals over a beat, covering a well-loved track can lead to truly unique sounds that capture our imaginations like nothing else.
Why You Should Learn Cover Songs
As a musician, there are countless benefits to learning cover songs. For one, it can help you to better understand the structure and arrangement of a song. By studying how a song is put together, you can learn new ways to approach your own songwriting. Additionally, playing cover songs can also help you to develop your improvisational skills.
As you learn to experiment with the melody and chord progression of a song, you’ll find yourself becoming more confident in your ability to improvise on your own. Finally, learning cover songs is simply a great way to broaden your repertoire and keep your audience engaged.
By mixing up your setlist with both originals and covers, you’ll keep everyone guessing – and coming back for more. So whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been playing for years, don’t underestimate the power of a good cover song.
If nothing else, awesome genre-bending covers teach us that anything is possible in our craft and your creativity is only limited by your imagination. Einstein taught us that imagination is more important than knowledge. Well, here’s hoping he was right!
Readers, what do you think? What’s on your list for the best cover songs ever? Leave your favorites in the comment section below!