It’s one skill to be a songwriter, but a completely different challenge to approach someone else’s song and make it your own. The best covers are ones that use the original version as a blue print to build their own sound around. It’s always fun to hear a band you like try to tackle another artist’s work, especially if they’re creative about it! Here are some bands who I think do that perfectly:
Bastille- We Can’t Stop (Miley Cyrus cover)
Bastille always make my favorite covers and I think this one really demonstrates why. Not only do they take a party song like “We cant stop”song and make it sound almost sad, but they find a way to mix in the riff from Eminem’s Lose Yourself and Billy Ray Cyrus’s Achy Breaky Heart. Their knack for covers probably came from the time when Dan Smith made mix tapes where he would experiment with covering songs and mixing in clips from his favorite films. They also have two covers on their debut album: Of the Night (Corona) and What Would You Do? (City High)
Twenty One Pilots- Can’t Help Falling In Love (Elvis cover)
This cover was performed in 2012 but has recently boomed in popularity, passing 8 million views. Tyler Joseph starts this one alone with his ukulele and gradually finds more and more people to sing along as he makes his way on stage. This Elvis cover is simple in such a beautiful way and I love the concept for the video.
Jamie Cullum- Uptown Funk (Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars cover)
Whether you love or are sick of hearing Uptown Funk, you should try it in Jazz. Either way, Jamie Cullum will make it better. This song is part of The Song Society series where he arranges and records a cover in an hour, living with and loving the mistakes. Among his original tunes, Jamie Cullum has jazzified some of pops greatest hits over the years: everything from Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” to the Beatles “Come Together” to a mash up of Justin Timberlake’s and Julie London`s “Cry Me a river”. With his impressive piano playing and perfectly sweet/rugged voice anything he touches turns to pure musical gold.
Hozier- Lay Me Down (Sam Smith cover)
Hozier’s approach to this song is completely different than Sam Smith’s original recording. While Sam Smith’s Lay Me Down is pretty mellow and sad (much like his other songs), Hozier gives it an energy reminiscent of his track”Jackie and Wilson”. What’s more, this song choice shows off how superb Hozier’s voice is. I mean, he’s covering Sam Smith, who probably has the best voice in the industry right now, and he absolutely kills it! Hozier has covered everything from Led Zeppelin to Ariana Grande to Skip James and always does a perfect job of making it sound like they could fit on his own album. Can we have a Hozier Does Covers album, maybe? Please?
Muse- Feeling Good (Anthony Newley cover)
Muse’s cover of Feeling Good is so much more raw and angst-y than any of the other versions I’ve heard and really sets it apart from the original. Fuzzy guitar and loud drums were typical of 2001 era Muse and I appreciate how the dark vibe almost contradicts the title. The original has such a great groove anyway so Muse just made it a bit more badass. I like that Muse took a different approach to a song that wasn’t really in their genre at all. I’m also a fan of Michael Buble’s take on Feeling Good, but it is a little too similar to the Nina Simone one and still in his ballpark genre wise. So in the end Muse wins for taking a risk and rocking it!