Cover Me: Covers That Are As Good (or Better) Than the Original Song

When I shared some of my favorite sad love songs back in February, I didn't think I'd want to share another music-related post for a while ... So I kind of surprised myself by continually coming back to this idea when I was trying to come up with post ideas for this week.

As I mentioned in that February post, I used to make monthly playlists on my old blog.  That wasn't something I wanted to carry over to The Book Life, but I did keep an old list of playlist theme ideas in case I wanted to either make one for myself or for my blog.  

One of my favorite playlist themes is the one I'm sharing today: covers that are as good (or better) than the original song.  

I know that some people hate it when a band/artist covers one of their favorite songs.  I don't.  If they can inject new life into the song, offer a unique spin, or just make it sound amazing, I don't see the issue.  

That's not to say that I love every cover of a song I like -- this may be an unpopular opinion, but I stand by my feeling that the original "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails is superior to the Johnny Cash version.  I'm not annoyed or angry that Johnny Cash chose to cover the song ... I just don't care for it.  That's fine.  That's just my opinion.

When it comes to some other songs, though, I sometimes prefer the cover to the original.  Several of those are included on this list (Tool's version of "No Quarter," for instance).  And then there are covers that I love just as much as the original (like City and Colour's cover of "Nutshell").  

Basically, if I think a cover is as good or better than the original, it's on this list.

"No Quarter" by Tool (Led Zeppelin cover)

This song gives me chills every single time I hear it.  The guitar solo has actually made me cry because it's so beautiful.  (And yes, I know how weird that sounds.)

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Tori Amos (Nirvana cover)

I love the original Nirvana version, but Tori Amos really gets to the heart of the song and makes it sound more like it probably should: dark and haunting.

"Nutshell" by City and Colour (Alice In Chains cover)

I listened to the original on repeat after Layne Staley's death way back in 2002.  It has always been one of my favorite Alice In Chains songs, and it seemed incredibly fitting for that particular moment.  When I discovered that Dallas Green (better known as City and Colour) covered the song, I was beyond excited.  It was just as beautiful as I'd hoped it would be.

"I Want You" by Fiona Apple ft. Elvis Costello (Elvis Costello cover)

Is it considered a cover if you're performing it with the original artist?  I'm going to say yes. (And I really love this song, so it needed to be shared here).  This is one of the most powerful performances I've ever seen/heard, and it just reinforces my belief that I need to see Fiona Apple live.

"Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" by Marilyn Manson (Eurythmics cover)

I'm not an Annie Lennox/Eurythmics fan, so I would never have fallen in love with this song if this version didn't exist.  It's also the song that first put Marilyn Manson on my radar, and I still love listening to it.

"Turn the Page" by Metallica (Bob Seger cover)

This is another song that I likely would never have heard had it not been covered by a band I like.  I love Metallica's version, and I always thought their take on the story of the song (as seen in the video) was really interesting (and sad).

"One" by Chris Cornell (Metallica/U2 cover)

This goes above and beyond just putting your own unique spin on a song.  Mixing the music of U2's "One" with the lyrics of Metallica's "One" (two very different songs, if you're not familiar with them), Chris Cornell created his own, very distinct version of "One."  Amazing.

"Because" by Elliott Smith (Beatles cover)

Elliott Smith was a huge Beatles fan (and therefore did a lot of Beatles covers during his lifetime), but this one is probably my favorite.  It's beautiful in its simplicity, and, if I didn't know it was a cover, I would believe it was an Elliott Smith original because it very much becomes his song.

"Fiddle and the Drum" by A Perfect Circle (Joni Mitchell cover)

I know this is the second Maynard James Keenan cover to make this list, but at least this is with another band.  (And, trust me, it was hard to choose just one A Perfect Circle cover to include!)  This version of the song makes me all teary every time I hear it -- it's so beautiful and powerful.

"Tonight, I Am Going to Wash the Hippy" by Alexisonfire (Moneen cover)

If I can have two Maynard James Keenan songs on this list, I can have two Dallas Green songs as well.  (Again, different projects.)  The title of this song is a silly play on the original title ("Tonight, I'm Gone ...") and a nickname for one of Moneen's band members ("Hippy"), but don't write the song off based on that.  The song itself is awesome, and is actually one of my favorites.

"Baba O'Riley" by Pearl Jam (The Who cover)

I've had the pleasure of experiencing this song live, and it definitely gets the crowd going.  I love a song that you basically have to sing along with when it's played live, and this is one of those songs.  The Who version is great, of course, but I've always loved the energy Pearl Jam brings to it.  (A very close second favorite Pearl Jam cover is "Rockin' in the Free World," originally by Neil Young.)

"The Headmaster Ritual" by Radiohead (The Smiths cover)

More than anything, I'm impressed that Radiohead completely nailed this song.  They may not have made a ton of changes, but it's a hard song to do well.  (Though I guess if anyone could pull off those vocals, it's Thom Yorke.)

"Feeling Good" by Muse (Nina Simone cover)

I actually had to do a little research to determine where this song originated.  (I just knew it was a cover.)  The song actually debuted in a musical called The Roar of the Greasepaint - the Smell of the Crowd, but it was first recorded by Nina Simone in 1965.  (There's your music trivia for the day.)  I've just always loved Muse's version of this song, and I'm not too embarrassed to admit that I love singing it at the top of my lungs in the car.

"Red Right Hand" by Arctic Monkeys (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds cover)

Like my admission about "Hurt," this may be an unpopular opinion: I'm not a huge fan of the original version of this song.  It just doesn't do it for me.  This cover, though?  It's perfect.  If I'd never heard the original, I would assume this was how it was supposed to sound.

Would any of these songs make your list of best covers?  I'd also love it if you shared some of your favorite covers in the comments!

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