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Forget the Original: Four of the Best Cover Songs

Posted on October 12 2017

Ever since the New Yorker detailed the history of DEVO’s thrilling cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” (babybabybabybabybabybabybabybabybabybaby), we've been thinking about some of our favorite covers. In our view, a cover isn’t worth listening to unless the artist manages to twist the song into something new. Otherwise, just go listen to the original version, right? Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t going to skip the Talking Heads’ “Take Me To The River” because it isn’t revolutionary, we just aren’t going to exalt it over other covers (or put it on a list of great covers 😎 ).

It’s our belief that a good cover should provide a new perspective on a familiar song, should imbue it with new meaning, or feeling. A good test for this rule is, “Can this cover be played back to back with the original song and not feel redundant?” If yes, you’ve got a great cover on your hands!

Here are four covers we believe stand up to the test.

John Cale - Heartbreak Hotel
Forget the swagger. Forget the drawl. Get scared, real scared. Cale’s take on the King is menacing, and wholly his own. Elvis was clearly just playing when he said he feels like he could die. Cale isn't joking.



Malportado Kids - I'm on Fire
Maybe it’s because we’ve heard The Boss’ original track so many times now that it comes off as innocuous. Maybe we've never paid attention? Whatever the case, when the Malportado Kids perform their take on Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire" the results are ... slimy? The song takes on a creepy vibe in their hands. A simple and bold rephrasing has the narrator sounding desperate to the point of criminality. Enjoy!

Patti Smith - Smells Like Teen Spirit
Banjos, fiddles, and a poetry break all figure into this folksy revisiting of Nirvana’s genre defining anthem. The air that fills the room in the wake of the exiting fuzz pedaled guitars give space to the lyrics, which feel far more heart wrenching here than when they were first mumbled into existence. “I’m the worst at what I do best/and for this gift, I feel blessed.” *deflate*


Rollins Band - Ghost Rider
Thanks to The Crow soundtrack for the introduction to Suicide. If you know the original, then expect to find that the programmed synths, breathy vocals, and the fevered yelps are gone. But don’t despair, in their place we find droning guitars, heavy metal solos, and macho aggression. If there’s a better cover of a Suicide song, we haven’t heard it.





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