It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This statement has never been truer than when it comes to one musician covering another’s work. Some see cover songs as bold or pretentious; a declaration saying “I can do your music better than you.” While this may be true at times, I believe that for the most part one artist covering another’s work exemplifies the highest level of respect.
It’s not so much about competing with someone else’s work but rather simply taking bits of what you love about a song and making it your own. While most of the time cover songs do not seem to capture the same level of positive reception of the original, there are instances where the cover actually proves to be better. I have compiled a list of five of my favorite cover songs that I believe outshine their original pieces. Keep in mind that this list does not show what I believe to be the best covers of all time. It simply represents what I believe to be among some of the best to have come out in recent years.
1) Ryan Adams – Wonderwall (Original By: Oasis)
Don’t get me wrong. I love Oasis‘ version of Wonderwall as much as the next guy. It is easily in my top three favorite songs of all time. However, while I love the original I have to be honest and say that I find myself playing Ryan Adams’ version of the song far more often than the original Oasis version. There is something about the song that just makes me want to slow it down a bit. I listen to Oasis’ version when I want to appreciate the music. The Ryan Adams version makes you really listen to the lyrics. He took an already timeless song and somehow made it even more meaningful and heartfelt.
2) Tyler Ward “Red” (Original By: Taylor Swift)
While I enjoy many of Taylor Swift’s songs I am actually not a fan of her version of “Red,” at least not the sound. While I do like some country music I am also very picky when it comes to this genre in particular. Swift’s version of “Red” just is not appealing to me. However, I have said from the beginning that this song has amazing lyrics, as we have all come to expect from Taylor Swift. She has some of the best lyrics in the business. Hands down. Tyler Ward, who specializes in cover songs and has a pretty big YouTube following, was able to take what I loved so much about “Red” and work it into a version that appealed to me both lyrically and musically. While I never listen to Swift’s version of the song I find myself listening to Tyler Ward’s version often.
3) Johnny Cash “Hurt” (Original By: Nine Inch Nails)
If I were to ever compile a list of the best cover songs of all time Johnny Cash’s version of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt” would be close to the top. Both versions are fairly dark. To be perfectly honest I don’t like the NIN version of the song at all. I much prefer the direction Trent Reznor has taken over the last few years. Johnny Cash turned “Hurt” into something very special. Although it is not his original work you can hear in his voice that it held a special meaning for him.
4) Alex Goot “Whatcha Say” (Original By: Jason Derullo)
I couldn’t make a list of some of my favorite cover songs without including Alex Goot. If you are unfamiliar with his work then I highly suggest exploring his music for yourself. It was hard for me to even pick which of his covers that I wanted to use for this list. I feel this this cover of Jason Derullo’s “Whatcha Say” really showcases Goot’s style as an artist. He can take any song and break it down to something raw and beautiful. This cover is another example of how slowing it down and stripping away the excess really makes you focus on the meaning.
5) Vance Joy “I Know Places” (Original By: Taylor Swift)
I actually don’t mind Taylor Swift’s version of “I Know Places.” That being said, Vance Joy takes the song to another level. It is a recent favorite of mine and I’m not the only one who loves it. After hearing Vance Joy’s cover of the song Swift took to Twitter to declare that it is her favorite cover from her latest album.
There have been so many covers of 1989 songs. I’m going to be bold enough to say this one is my favorite.
Not only did Swift praise Vance Joy for his version of the song, she also invited him to be the opening act for her 1989 tour as a result of his work. You really cannot get a much better response from a cover song than that.
These are just a few cover songs that stand out to me. There are tons of great covers out there by numerous artists. What are some of your favorite cover songs?