Better than you thought: 10 covers that work…no, really (part 1)

Photo courtesy of thehitman-cthemusic.blogspot.com

We have all been there. While listening to the radio, we hear the first strains of a familiar melody and think to ourselves “I know this song.” Then, as the minutes slowly pass we start to question the validity of our claim.

The music sounds close, but something is amiss. Either the chords aren’t quite right, the beat is topsy-turvy, or hey, wasn’t the singer of the band originally a guy? Suddenly, it hits us. We’ve been listening to a cover, or an alternate version of a track we know and love.

Before anger and frustration set in, we give the song one last chance. Okay, this new group didn’t screw everything up. At least the lyrics are the same. The new take on the chorus is pretty clever. And wait, we actually…gulp…are starting to like this version. It really is better than we first thought, and one day may even find its way into our listening rotation.

The following list is made up of covers (in no particular order) that, despite their unorthodox origin or seemingly impossible execution, still work as decent songs in their own right. Let the nitpicking begin. But before you start slinging mud, give a listen. You just might find a new favorite in the mix.

“Bad Romance”

Originally the lead single from pop trend-setter Lady Gaga’s third EP, “The Fame Monster,” this track received a gothic overhaul by 30 Seconds to Mars on BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge. While Gaga’s version traded mostly in ‘80s hooks and beats, Jared Leto and company heightened the song’s doom and gloom with moody piano chords and surprisingly soulful singing.

See the Lady Gaga version here:

See 30 Seconds to Mars take here:

“Faith”

First entering the public consciousness as the top-selling single of 1988, George Michael’s “Faith” was given a foul-mouthed update in 1997 on Limp Bizkit’s debut album “Three Dollar Bill, Yall$.” While not quite matching the success of the original, the track did answer an important musical question. Namely, when you think Wham, who is the logical choice to cover one of their solo members’ hits? If you said Fred Durst, congratulations. You’ve just won a sailor hat made of purple felt.

See George Michael’s version here:

See Limp Bizkit’s version here:

“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”

For MTV fans in the ‘80s, few images were more jarring then the Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox strutting across the screen in man’s suit, complete with cane and close-cropped orange hair. While Lennox’s gender-bending look turned more than a few heads back in the day, the queen of synth-pop had nothing on provocateur extraordinaire Marilyn Manson. The gloom-rocker’s slow-burning take of the original hit would not only turn up the level of menace, but also would give Manson his first taste of worldwide notoriety. Sexual harassment and Satan worshipping would soon follow.

See the Eurythmics’ original here:

See Marilyn Manson’s version here:

“Beth”

A sincere ballad from rock giants KISS? Yes, it’s true. In 1976, Gene Simmons and company unleashed their highest-charting single ever with this sweet ode to a loved one from the road. More surprising still, the song hit the charts again in 2010 with a version sung by the cast of Fox’s hit show “Glee.” While there was a bit less make-up and hair present in the remake, the sentiments remained the same. Although, I’m pretty sure rooting for the school bully and head cheerleader to stay together is not exactly what Peter Criss had in mind while writing the original.

See KISS go unplugged here:

See the boys from Glee sing here:

“I Will Survive”

From disco anthem to snarky rock kiss-off, “I Will Survive” is a radio staple across multiple genres. While written from the perspective of a narrator getting over a breakup, the song has also been used to fuel empowerment and inspiration for anyone who’s down on their luck. Interesting sidenote: Cake’s cover is original singer Gloria Gaynor’s least favorite version. Why? The use of profanity. Oh well, if only there was some music for John McCrea and company to play to get over the bad news…

See Gloria Gaynor’s soul-power original here:

See Cake’s version here:

Check back to see what other tracks made the list in part 2 of our countdown. Coming soon!

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