Covers Thread: Pop Songs Redux

Now that the pop song thread has hit 1,000ish, I thought I’d start a parallel stream.

But this one is for covers only. Two rules:

  1. It has to be a version that you think is better than the original.

  2. You have to tell us why it’s better than the original.

To begin:

Bauhaus, Ziggy Stardust


It’s all about the guitar riff; bringing it forwards makes the song. Bowie himself did something very similar in the last concert he did as Ziggy.


John Cale’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. I think, though the song is solid, the Cohen version is not great - it has a full studio arrangement, with keyboards and a full orchestra, etc, and it’s too much. It really overwhelms the sweetness of the song itself. Cale’s version hits just the right balance between a nice arrangement and the heart of the song, I think.


We could probably do an entire thread just of Hallelujah covers.

Jeff Buckley, Hallelujah

Beats the original because Buckley. And, more seriously, because Leonard Cohen, like Bob Dylan, is a much better songwriter than he is a musician.


I don’t know… I love both of Cohen’s albums, Songs from a Room and Songs of Love and Hate, but that mid-80s album that Hallelujah was sort of meh… it’s very80s, and not in a great way, I think.

True story, a place I used to work (ages ago) had a jukebox, and it had all three versions (all my cds, too, I think) and I used to play them altogether on a single play! I don’t think people dug it when I did that!

Oh! How about Rasputina’s cover of Lesley Gore’s You don’t Own Me - because rocking out on a cello makes all things awesome - less pop, more edge, somehow:


I hesitate to say that any cover I’ve yet heard of Hallelujah is better than the original but if one was, I’d put in for Amanda Palmer’s live performance of Hallelujah. It’s just so raw and distraught emotionally.

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Girl brings the pain to her performances, that’s for sure. There is also her cover of The Ship Song by Nick Cave:

I don’t know if I’ll say it’s better than the original, but it builds beautifully on the song and she makes it her own. I also really love her Radiohead Ukulele album…


I’m big on Rufus Wainwright’s take on Hallelujah.

And I love his version of Across the Universe, too.

I saw him live a handful of years ago, and he’s a fantastic performer.



In the Still of the Night.

Originally by the Five Satins in 1956:

Done better by Boys II Men in 1993:

Why is it better?

Better harmony and vocal styling, hands down; it was the more soulful version, overall.

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Oh! How about Laibach’s version of B-Mashina:

Which was a cover of a song by another Slovenian band, Siddhartha and the original was something of a late 90s, post-grunge affair, while Laibach elevated it to masterful, Wagnerian epic… It’s great live, too.


Because it rawks (and because Joni Mitchell is another songwright, along with Cohen and Dylan, whose material sounds better in other people’s hands).

And this one doesn’t really need explanation - when I saw Dylan in concert with the Band, he was covering this cover of his own song…


Erasure’s whole ABBAesque ep is an utter delight - the video for Take a Chance on Me really puts it over the top for me, though… Vince Clark in drag? Yes, please!:

Overall, the whole album really shows how fun these songs were and updated them wonderfully.


Gary Jules cover of Mad World:

Because Tears for Fears wrote a great song, but performed it way too pop-y.


Bobby Womack’s Fire and Rain

Never cared for the idiom James Taylor worked in. This whole Womack album is a personal favorite.


Johnny Cash - Hurt (originally Nine Inch Nails)

I liked a lot of stuff from his American cover albums, but this one is probably my favorite.


The Scientist: I like Willie’s version much better than the original…

@Ignatius Not a big coldplay fan (not a hater) and I just tend to like non-pretty voices.


But you’re not going to tell us why? For shame. :laughing: Could it be you’re *gasp* not a Coldplay fan?

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Nobody remembers the original, but this version (not the Dead’s) is what nailed it.


Jolene – oft covered, but the covers rarely seem to capture any of the emotion…
Carla Bozulich’s sound is another one of those discordant voices that I just love.
The Geraldine Fibbers – Jolene:


Most of the stuff Nouvelle Vague covered - they are better because they are surprising, but often it’s not an enduring satisfaction

Random example: In a manner of speaking.

The original is a Tuxedomoon track


Dub Side of the Moon, the whole album