Alternative Covers That Rival The Original Songs

1. Alien Ant Farm - “Smooth Criminal”

Original: Michael Jackson

Although it may seem sacreligious to suggest that any cover of a Michael Jackson song could possibly outdo the original, there is reason to believe that Alien Ant Farm’s version of “Smooth Criminal” is more popular than the original. Anyone who is a fan of alternative music probably heard Alien Ant Farm’s version of the famous Jackson song before they even knew it was a Jackson song. The cover of “Smooth Criminal” is more upbeat than the original, and replaces the synth beat with a modulated bass line and guitar riff. In addition, there are no remnants of the funk vibes presented in Jackson’s version. Alien Ant Farm completely reimagines the hit to embody the qualities of an alternative rock song. The instrumentation is heavier, the song is more upbeat, and the vocals are more powerful. The cover is also much shorter than the original, giving it a sense of urgency not present in the original. While Michael Jackson fans may rightfully disagree, Alien Ant Farm’s rendition of “Smooth Criminal” stands out as an alternative cover that is up to par with its original.


2. Bad Wolves - “Zombie”

Original: The Cranberries

Since its release in early 2018, Bad Wolves’ cover of “Zombie” has proven to be liked nearly as much as the original release by The Cranberries. While it’s true that no one can compare to Dolores O’Riordan’s iconic voice and the punk vibe that The Cranberries maintain throughout the song, Bad Wolves changes the style of the song just enough so that it sounds like a completely different angle on alternative music as opposed to a rip off of an alt punk classic. Bad Wolves replaces heavy electric guitar and drums found in the beginning of The Cranberries’ rendition with just a piano melody. In addition, Tommy Vext has a raspy, soothing voice that when paired with the piano gives the tune a much softer and sadder sound than the original. For the chorus, Bad Wolves returns to the classic alternative sound laden with guitars and drums. It’s worth noting that the music video also pays tribute to The Cranberries and Dolores in particular with the inclusion of the character she portrayed in the band’s original music video. Overall, “Zombie” will always be known as The Cranberries’ song, but Bad Wolves’ cover does the original justice.


3. Panic! At The Disco - “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”

Original: Billy Joel

Panic! At The Disco has a history of covering famous oldies at their concerts, and they are no stranger to Billy Joel covers. Their rendition of “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” originated on their Death of a Bachelor tour and quickly gained recognition. It is significantly faster than the original, and adds electric bass and guitar to the original combo of piano and brass. Billy Joel’s original version has a much more relaxed feeling, and jazzy overtones, whereas Panic!’s version is very upbeat and full of energy that pushes the tempo. Both Billy Joel and Brendon Urie are talented vocalists, with Joel having a very smooth tone while Urie has a raspier edge to his voice. Similarly to most of the artists on this list, Joel is widely respected and has many fans to this day. As a fan myself, it’s hard to compare anyone to him. However, Brendon Urie and Panic! At The Disco’s variations of Joel songs are far from disappointing. Billy Joel has numerous classic hits and “Movin’ Out” is no exception, but Panic!’s energetic alternative touches alter the original just enough to create a peppy, high energy version of a beloved piano rock song.


4. Marilyn Manson - “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”

Original: Eurythmics

It’s hard to say which version of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” is more popular, as I’ve known people who have never heard either version. If you’re a big fan of alternative music, you’ve probably heard Manson’s rendition on your local alt music radio station. Manson’s version turns Eurythmics’ synth pop song into a tune straight out of the twilight zone. The tempo is drastically slowed down, with light electric guitar and droning bass lines. Every so often the vocals cut out and heavily modulated guitar and heavy drums kick in, jolting the listener. This is very different from the original, which has a steady, poppy synth beat throughout the entire song. While Eurythmics’ song makes you want to get up and dance, Manson’s variation makes “Sweet Dreams” sound more like a nightmare. These two versions of the same song are about as far apart on the music spectrum as you can get, with the original being a hearty embodiment of true pop music and the cover bordering on the metal side of alternative music. Although the tones of each are contradictory, both are great versions of the same song.  


5. Mayday Parade ft. Vic Fuentes - “Somebody That I Used To Know”

Original: Gotye

Gotye is generally known as a one-hit-wonder in America, after his song “Somebody That I Used To Know” topped charts in 2011. In 2017, it was still popular enough to wind up on a Punk Goes Pop album, where Mayday Parade presented their rendition of the pop hit. The original instrumentation is comprised mainly of xylophone, stringed instruments, and synthesizer. In true alternative form, Mayday Parade’s variation is full of guitar, bass, and drums throughout the entire song. The original is very laid-back, with an underlying emptiness. The entire song is very consistent in terms of the accompaniment and dynamics. The alternative cover switches up its accompaniment every so often, with the chorus being heavier and more upbeat than the verses. Both Gotye and Derek Sanders have mellow tones to their voices, which is about the only similarity between the two versions of “Somebody That I Used To Know.” Although Gotye’s tune is not classic, upbeat pop, it is still far from the classic alternative sound that is infused into Mayday Parade’s cover.  


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