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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Uncovering the art of the song cover

It’s a well-established tradition for artists to cover others’ songs, so let’s take a look at some of the best out there 


By ANGIE CUMMINGS — arts@theaggie.org


Covering an already beloved song is a risk almost every artist takes, whether they are already a household name or just coming onto the scene. While many covers are nothing special, some have truly succeeded in making something amazing out of someone else’s song. The beauty of a cover is varied, with some outshining the original and others just bringing a whole new experience to the song. Today, we will dive deep into some of the best covers out there for your listening pleasure — while this list encompasses a variety of genres and time periods, it is not at all exhaustive, but instead provides a solid footing in the world of iconic covers.

 It is worth saying that this is not in any way an objective list of the world’s most iconic covers (although some are included), since that article can be found with a simple Google search. Instead, today I am providing you with a curated mix of classic covers, essential auditory experiences and some hidden gems by smaller artists (all but one are available on music streaming services). While I could have easily gone into extensive detail about each song, I’ve picked out the highlights that really deserve some special attention.  


“Doin’ Time” by Lana Del Rey (2019) (Originally by Sublime)

In all honesty, this song is probably one the main reasons this article even exists. My deepest apologies to Sublime fans, but Lana Del Rey breathed new life into this 1997 hit and made it the song of the summer in 2019. Regardless of how you feel about Lana (I personally have a drought relationship with her), there is no denying that this song is basically perfect. 

“Same Ol’ Mistakes” by Rihanna (2016) (Originally by Tame Impala)

Thank you Rihanna for introducing me to Tame Impala. Great cover, everyone agrees.

“Africa” (Originally by Toto), “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” (Originally by Eurythmics) and “Billie Jean” (Originally by Michael Jackson) by Weezer (2019)

My top three songs from their album of covers, “Weezer (Teal Album)” from 2019. 

“Bad Religion” (Originally by Frank Ocean) and “White Mustang” (Originally by Lana del Rey) by Cat Power (2022)

Cat Power’s rugged and soulful voice brings something you didn’t know you needed to both of these already beautiful and solemn songs. They are both from her cover album that came out earlier this year — which itself is a beautiful listen at any time. While her rendition of “Bad Religion” is undoubtedly amazing, “White Mustang” is the one that really stands out to me, usurping Lana’s much softer original recording. 

“I’m A Believer” by Smash-Mouth (2001) (Originally by The Monkees)

It’s from “Shrek,” everyone knows it, everyone loves it. Probably more culturally relevant than the original.

“Baby I’m Yours” by Arctic Monkeys (2006) (Originally by Barbara Lewis)

While this is one of those songs covered countless times over the years, I feel very strongly about what the Arctic Monkeys made of it. 

“All Along The Watch Tower” by Jimi Hendrix (1968) (Originally by Bob Dylan)

Apparently, this is not an original song by Jimi Hendrix, sorry Bob. 

“Make You Feel My Love” by Adele (2008) (Originally by Bob Dylan)

It kind of seems like Bob Dylan made songs for other people to sing them. While I can be known to enjoy listening to Dylan’s hits, his unique twang just cannot compete with Adele’s divine voice singing this beautiful song.

“Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds (1965) (Originally by Bob Dylan)

Again, no denying that Dylan is an incredibly talented artist and songwriter, but for most of my life I really did believe The Byrds had ownership of this song, and many of the other Dylan songs they have covered. 

“…Baby One More Time” by The Marias (2019) (Originally by Britney Spears)

So different from the (iconic) original, and so incredibly good. You should definitely check  this one out if you want to feel cool and indie while listening to a Britney Spears song.

“Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” by Paris Hilton (2006) (Originally by Rod Stewart)

This cover is so incredibly fun and perfect, it really does make you feel like a blonde, rich, gorgeous socialite. Paris somehow took a song beloved by (usually annoying) old men and transformed it into an anthem for confident cool girls who know what they want. Definitely better than the original, no doubt about it. 

“Across The Universe” by Fiona Apple (1998) (Originally by The Beatles)

We have finally made it to the Beatles covers, perhaps the most covered band of all time (not fact-checked, just a strong feeling). In my eyes, Fiona Apple wrote this song. 

“What Goes On” by Sufjan Stevens (2005) (Originally by The Beatles)

Good song, really just sounds like another Sufjan Stevens song. 

“I Want To Hold Your Hand” by Al Green (1995) (Originally by The Beatles)

If I was The Beatles I’d be pretty embarrassed that someone sang one of my most famous songs so much better than me…

“Because” by Eliott Smith (2000) (Originally by The Beatles)

Just admit that this song is perfect and move on.

“In My Life” by Johnny Cash (2002) (Originally by The Beatles)

Again, it must be embarrassing to be The Beatles. Johnny Cash really blew those brits out of the water with this one. 

“I Will” by Allison Krauss (1995) (Originally by The Beatles)

In my heart, this is an old folk song that Allison Krauss found and introduced to the world. So incredibly good. 

“Oh! Darling” by Florence + The Machine (2009) (Originally by The Beatles)

At this point, it probably seems like I hate The Beatles, but it just happens to be that some incredibly talented artists have covered their songs, this cover being yet another prime example. Thank you, Florence. 

“Jolene” by Miley Cyrus (2012) (Originally by Dolly Parton) 

This cover that Miley Cyrus originally did as an acoustic performance on Youtube back in 2012 was a foreshadowing of her now-iconic covers of powerful rock and country songs of the past few years. 

“Break Up With Your Boyfriend” by Lana del Rey (2019) (Originally by Ariana Grande)

Sadly this is the singular cover that is only available on Youtube. Because of this performance, I would like to formally request that Lana put out an entire cover album of just Ariana Grande’s songs. 

“Smooth Criminal” by Glee Cast (2012) (Originally by Michael Jackson) 

It was a lot of work to keep myself from including a plethora of Glee covers, let alone narrow down my favorites to just one. Every bit of the tension from the scene between Santana Lopez (played by Naya Rivera) and the loathsome Sebastian Smythe (played by Grant Gustin) is felt in every single second of this recording. Of course, it doesn’t top Michael Jackson’s original, but it comes pretty darn close.


Written by: Angie Cummings — arts@theaggie.org



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