Cover songs have to be the highest form of a compliment in the music world (unless the new version completely butchers the original – then it’s sacrilege).
I happen to enjoy a good cover, and I love it when an artist takes someone else’s song and completely reworks it. Sometimes, it can be just as creative as writing your own music.
Since we Insomniacs can’t seem to make a decision to save our lives, we split the list down the middle gender-wise, in order to fit more of what we love into each category. Let’s take a look at some great covers by male artists:
1. Greg Laswell – “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (Cyndi Lauper cover)
Mr. Laswell did an interesting thing above: He took an incredibly feminine anthem of the eighties and gave it a masculine touch. Not only did he do that, but he removed all the glam and fun of the original (in a good way) by going acoustic and singing about girls wanting to have fun as depressingly as possible. Without changing any of the lyrics, he managed to completely morph the meaning of Lauper’s original work.
2. Barbara – “Pursuit of Happiness” (Kid Cudi cover)
Another victim (once again, in a good way) of going acoustic, Kid Cudi’s song was transformed by Barbara. While Barbara’s original work is actually much more in line with Cudi’s version, a mix of chill electronic and light hip-hop, the band opted for a more laid-back approach that really paid off. The end result is a much more introspective take on Cudi’s song.
3. Sieff, Sacha, and Manuel Armstrong – “Heroes” (David Bowie cover)
David Bowie, while pretty experimental (okay, very experimental), managed to turn out a relatively quirk-free track on this one. In what is turning out to be a trend for me, Sieff, Sacha, and Manuel Armstrong’s cover goes mostly acoustic, but it also mixes in a little electronic flair. Their take on the song is a little more whimsical than Bowie’s original, and that’s great.
4. Javier Dunn – “Animal” (Miike Snow cover)
I should probably stop bringing up the acoustic aspect of all these covers, since it doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, but I’m going to keep mentioning it (because I can). This one’s also been stripped down. It goes for a slow, percussion-heavy build-up, as opposed to Snow’s original, manic electro version.
5. Nada Surf – “Where Is My Mind?” (Pixies cover)
This one is probably the closest to the original work you’ll find on this list. Nada Surf sticks with the same style, but makes things a little more lively than the Pixies’ original. Mainly, the newer version plays up the best parts about the original song.
6. The Airborne Toxic Event – “Boots of Spanish Leather” (Bob Dylan cover)
In a strange turn of events, Bob Dylan’s version is already stripped down. The Airborne Toxic Event adds instrumentation. That’s crazy for a cover, right? Right? Right. Anyway, the new version adds all the bits and bobs that make up an average Toxic Event song. The end product is pretty freaking awesome.
7. Bombay Bicycle Club – “Swansea” (Joanna Newsom cover)
Joanna Newsom is… how shall I say it? She’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I happen to like her, but not everyone likes the… hell, I don’t even know how to describe her voice. Just listen to one of her songs and you’ll see what I mean. Bombay Bicycle Club’s cover sticks pretty close to the original substituting guitar for harp, making for a more accessible version for people who might like what the song has to say but not the original singer who says it.
8. Johnny Cash – “Hurt” (Nine Inch Nails cover)
In a rare case of cover enjoyment, I hate the original song. Something about Nine Inch Nails just annoys the hell out of me, yet it’s nice to know that the lyrics in their songs can be enjoyable even when their instrumentation is the antithesis of that for me. Add in the fact that Johnny Cash completely made this one his own, and you’ve a golden track of awesome.
9. Ryan Adams – “Wonderwall” (Oasis cover)
Both of these songs are such cliches now, but that doesn’t make them bad. Ryan Adams’ cover is another stripped down one, even most of the original version is pretty acoustic, as well. However, Adams also opts to slow things down, which results in his cover being even sadder than the original.
10. Boy Least Likely To – “Faith” (George Michael cover)
This one does a good job of killing the image of George Michael dancing with a juke box, a very unfortunate result of watching the original version’s music video on YouTube. Plus, banjos! If I could, I would add a banjo solo to every song ever recorded. Then, I’d invent a time machine and use it to go back in time and give Mozart a banjo.