Most of the time, covers don’t do a song justice. Once in a while, though, another artist comes along and is able to give a song something that the writer or original recording artist can’t. Here are six covers that outshine the original.
Jeff Buckley – “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen)
Everyone and their mother covers this Leonard Cohen masterpiece, but few hit the mark. Jeff Buckley’s passionate voice gives this song a romance that Cohen’s voice can’t quite match. The song starts out slowly and builds, reaching dizzying heights.
Johnny Cash – “Hurt” (Nine Inch Nails)
Johnny Cash’s aging voice conveys a deep emotional intensity, making the song entirely his own. Though Trent Reznor confessed that at first he was skeptical of the cover, he said after hearing it that, “[I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore …”
Sinead O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U” (Prince)
Again, the palpable emotion in the cover version really makes this song. The music video plays a big part, too. The stark close-up of Sinead’s face and her pained expression are so real that it seems like she wrote the song.
The Beatles – “Twist and Shout” (The Top Notes)
Most don’t realize this is a cover, which says it all. The Beatles took this song and made it into a sensation.
Cat Power – “Sea of Love” (Phil Phillips)
Cat Power’s version of this classic song turns it into a soft, beautiful lullaby. Her voice sounds like it’s speaking just to the one she loves, creating an intimate experience for the listener.
Garrett Borns – “Criminal” (Britney Spears)
“Criminal” is just a bad song, but somehow Garrett Borns manages to make it fun, funky and worth listening to. It’s even a little bit sexy, which might have been Spears original intent. Nice try, Britney, but Borns has this one in the bag.