Cover versions are a mysterious art. When done right, they can propel an artist to stardom and redefine a loved song in the heads of millions.
After a discussion here at FemaleFirst towers we’ve decided to bring our favourite covers to you, starting with numbers 10 to 6 on our little list today and the final five tomorrow.
10) Antony And The Johnsons – Knocking On Heaven’s Door
Knocking On Heaven’s Door is always a track that’s been known for its subtle power, but even Dylan’s original is blown out of the water by this staggering version made for the Dylan biopic movie “I’m Not There.”
While the Guns N Roses version may be better known and a bigger break from the original, for all it's pomp and bravado, it's no where near as impactful as this low-key affair.
That the track is so utterly sparse is one of its best weapons, with the piano and cello accompaniment hammering in the tone and desolation of the song. This is a process made complete by singer Antony Hegarty’s totally unique vocal, one filled with pain and able to raise hairs at 40 paces.
While it may be little known outside of those who ventured on to the film’s soundtrack, this unreleased gem is worth seeking out.
9) Joss Stone – Fell In Love With A Boy
While The White Stripes will appear again on our list, they make their first appearance on here as the covered artist, as this was a cover that not gave a song a fresh new spin, but also launched the career of Joss Stone as an artist.
Re-inventing the diminutive garage rock track into a silky smooth blues number, the now re-titled Fell In Love With A Boy wafted along on the back of the 17 year old sensations honeyed vocals and waves of funk-infused bass.
Stone must also be highly commended for doubling the length of the track over the original, especially impressive as her version of the song doesn’t sound as if it’s padding at all. Still perhaps her best known song, Joss Stone will go down as one of the few artists
8) Nirvana – The Man Who Sold The World
Nirvana were playing with fire when they chose to start playing David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World at live performances, but it soon grew into a fan favourite.
Taking the futuristic song and stipping away the Ziggy Stardust trapping in place of an acoustic grunge sound brought the song kicking and screaming through two decades in the blink of an eye. With Cobain’s vocal at its most subtle and personal, it’s a touching change of pace from the group that would define an era of music.
The level of fame the Nirvana track got to such high a level that Bowie was frequently met with people exclaiming how impressed they were that he was singing Nirvana songs. He famously wasn’t best pleased by those comments.
7) Gary Jules – Mad World
Tears For Fears had a hit with the original eighties version of the song, but it was the breathtakingly sad re-dux by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews that rings in most people’s memories.
Recorded for the mind-bending film Donnie Darko, the song had been transformed from synth-filled pop to stripped down ballad, slowed down so much that every single word is given room to breathe and worm it’s way into your very soul.
Although it only hit the charts years after the film came out, Mad World is famous in the UK for snatching the coveted Christmas number one spot away from cheery rock group The Darkness and going on record as the single most depressing song to hit the seasonal top spot.
6) Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U
No cover on this list has taken such an obscure track and turned it into a household name as Sinead O’Conner did with her touching version of Nothing Compares 2 U.
Not known as a cover to many, so ubiquitous her version is, but the original was an album track from obscure funk band The Family back in 1985 after Prince decided to give the song to one of his side projects instead of record it himself. It may have been one of the biggest mistakes he made in his musical career.
Sinead O’Connor didn’t even vary up the original formula too much, instead doubling down on the heart-breaking lyrics and creating a spine-chilling arrangement that made the song such a smash hit. The song gave O’Connor a number one in fifteen different countries, transformed her from small scale singer-songwriter to worldwide superstar and gave her a place in musical history.
So we reach the halfway point. What songs will be in our five? Well you’ll just have to come back tomorrow to find out now won’t you? And if you’ve got a personal favourite, let us know in the comments section.
FemaleFirst Cameron Smith