We always like to argue that the originals are better than the remakes. After all, that is where the initial concept for any material starts to develop and little does that artist know that their work may tremendously impact other artists and audiences alike. Every now and then, I do come across covers that are extraordinary. I wouldn’t say that they are better than the original, but I believe that they totally do the song justice. Without further ado, here are some covers that absolutely rock!
- “Hurt” by Johnny Cash
“Hurt”, originally released by industrial metal band Nine Inch Nails, has been covered by multiple artists but Johnny Cash’s stripped down performance tops them all. Performed solely and acoustically, Cash gives such a raw and intimate delivery of the song. You can hear the sincerity in his voice in a song that is so lyrically deep. Cash really made this song his own to the point where the original composer Trent Reznor stated, “That song isn’t mine anymore.”
- “Jolene” by The White Stripes
Since I am not a country fan, I never would have stumbled upon this Dolly Parton song. “Jolene” is one of the greatest songs of all time and if you don’t believe me, it’s literally listed in Rolling Stone’s magazine list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Frontman of The White Stripes, Jack White, really makes this piece come alive through his distorted and electrifying guitar sounds. You wouldn’t even have guessed it was a country song! The live performance done on Under Blackpool Lights is deliberately unclean. Pushing through voice cracks, you can sense the emotion of heartache brought upon by Jolene.
- “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana
Unquestionably, every artist wants to get another musician’s work right especially when honoring a legend such as David Bowie. Prior to commencing, you can hear frontman Kurt Cobain tell his band, “I will guarantee you I will screw this song up.” But it’s safe to say he didn’t and we absolutely adore it! Nirvana’s unplugged MTV rendition of “The Man Who Sold The World” is absolutely breathtaking. They make this piece look effortless while still maintaining their grungy-edge.
- “You Really Got Me” by Van Halen
Taking you way back with this one, both with the original and the cover. Originally released in 1964 by The Kinks, “You Really Got Me” undeniably skyrocketed with the British Invasion. Van Halen’s portrayal of the arrangement is innovative and revolutionary, not only making it suitable for the times but also making this song practically ageless. Additionally, what Van Halen song would this be if Eddie Van Halen didn’t shred up a solo? For those wondering, the intro solo is called “Eruption” and it’s the perfect way to transition into that recognizable lick. Okay Eddie, you really got us hooked on this one.
- “Drag Me Down” by Santa Cruz
Nobody can drag these boys down! From the boys of pop to the boys that rock, Santa Cruz has you covered with their take on One Direction’s song of the summer. If you love those classic 80’s rock anthems with those squealing pinch harmonics, chants and a whole lotta attitude that is up in your face, this song will have you off of your feet.
- “Slip” by The Struts
There’s no playing around when it comes to love. A newly emerging rock group, The Struts, have done a variety of covers from Lorde’s “Royals” to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” but my absolute favorite is Stooshe’s “Slip”. With that bluesy vibe and the band cleverly changing the background vocals from “oooo” to “Luke” (the lead singer’s name) you can’t go wrong with this one. It’s so subtle, it can be easily overlooked but it certainly gives their cover a unique persona.
- “Personal Jesus” by Marilyn Manson
This is yet another song that has been covered by multiple artists and it features one of the most popular signature riffs of all time. Super repetitive and catchy, it’s definitely one of Depeche Mode’s most recognized works. Known to push boundaries and cause controversy, Marilyn Manson may make some uneasy but this is my favorite rendition of the tune. Whether you’d like to interpret it religiously or politically, Manson’s video is full of imagery and subliminal messages leaving it just as ambiguous as the song itself.
- “Hold On We’re Going Home” by Arctic Monkeys
Whether you are a fan of Drake or not, it’s unavoidable to not have heard this mainstream hit. This song is like a cabaret: simple and classy. If you’re looking for something elegant and formal, this cover nicely incorporates those vibes. Filled with beautiful harmonies and smooth tones, Arctic Monkeys will make you forget this was even a Drake song.
- “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Guns N’ Roses
Bob Dylan is a songwriting genius. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is such a moving rock ballad and if anyone could make him proud, it would be Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose and Slash. Need I say more? Such a dynamic duo, Rose’s incredible vocal range and Slash’s exceptional guitar ability gives this song the praise it deserves. This cover is easy on the ears but still incredibly powerful.
- “Word Up!” by KoЯn
This is one of my favorite covers partly because it will appeal to all. By definition, it may not seem to be rock but it absolutely rocks (if that makes any sense). Just have a listen for yourself. “Word Up!” is an R&B funk song and KoЯn’s version is still very funky. Although much more electronic, it still has the grooviness of the original that would make you want to dance. No indecipherable animalistic vocals from Jonathan Davis here (KoЯn fans know exactly what I mean). However, the video is a little obscure.