1. “Crazy” by Nothing but Thieves (Original by Gnarls Barkley)
The Nothing but Thieves version of this song offers a slowed down, angrier alternative to the original, peppy Gnarls Barkley version. The heavier drums and bass of the song give it a great, pissed-off attitude that really makes you feel the doubt and anguish in the voice of the speaker of the song. This cover is great because it takes a song that everyone knows and reimagines it in a far more passionate direction that is completely unique to the original version.
2. “Oh! Darling” by the Across the Universe Cast (Original by The Beatles)
I love this song because it offers a dialogue between two lovers. In the film, Sadie and Jo-Jo (Dana Fuchs and Martin Luther McCoy) are performing the song when they are angry with each other, and the song quickly shifts from being a performance for the crowd at the bar to a public lovers’ quarrel. While the more polished soundtrack version of the song introduces Jo-Jo’s vocals closer to the end of the song, the cover still offers the same argumentative dialogue, as well as grungier instrumentation with the addition of some heavy guitar in comparison to the Beatles’ original version.
3. “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Original by Bob Dylan)
I’m adding this song in celebration of the recent legalization of marijuana in Canada, for my love of Bob Dylan, and because live versions are always better. Tom Petty’s cover from the 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration for Bob Dylan adds a little more guitar flair than Dylan’s original, and you can hear the energy of the crown at various points in the song.
4. “Bobcaygeon” by Scott Helman (Original by The Tragically Hip)
As a Queen’s student and someone who grew up close to Kingston, I hold the Hip in a special place in my heart, and I have distinct memories of hearing the Hip’s version of this song as I walked into work the morning after the band played their last show in Kingston. Scott Helman’s tribute to Gordie with this Canadian classic doesn’t stray very far away from the original song; it adds a few peppy hooks to the song while still paying homage to the original.
5. “Runaway” by the Glorious Sons (Original by Kanye West)
The Sons is another group of hometown heroes that’s among my favourite artists. Brett’s vocals are soulful and remorseful in this stripped-down version of the Kanye favourite that will hit you exactly where it hurts on a sad day.
6. “Mr. Brightside” by Run River North (Original by The Killers)
This is another completely unexpected cover of one of the songs that everyone knows. The single guitar in the beginning, soft vocals, and violin between verses puts more emphasis on how sad and beautiful the lyrics in the song really are, which can be difficult to pick up on from listening to the original version. I love the bridge at the end of the song with the addition of female vocals, with the original male voice singing the “I never” part over and over behind her, with the feeling of regret in his voice. This cover is a great addition to any sad or chill time playlists.
7. “Trap Queen” by Ed Sheeran (Original by Fetty Wap)
Ed Sheeran’s soothing vocals and instrumentation offer a mellower version of the otherwise overly synthesized original, making it the perfect cross-over of the hip-hop and singer/songwriter genres.
8. “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley (Original by Leonard Cohen)
“Hallelujah” falls into the same category as Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”: it seems as though almost every artist has covered it. Jeff Buckley’s cover doesn’t differentiate a lot from Leonard Cohen’s original. In fact, Buckley’s cover resembles the several other covers of Hallelujah that have been performed: slow, somber, and atemporal. Buckley’s interpretation of the song is no exception. The gentle piano and guitar, paired with Buckley’s soft vocals, make this interpretation arguably one of the best versions of the song ever performed.
Bonus Song: “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by Post Malone (Original by Bob Dylan)
I had originally planned on only including eight songs in this list; however, this last-minute find was too good to pass up. Enjoy this bonus track of Post Malone performing as though he would if he had pursued a career in folk music instead of one in rapping.