30 Cover Songs That Are Better Than The Original

covers

By Sasha Hecht & Caitlin White

Why would an artist ever choose to cover a song? I mean, seriously. Nine times out of ten, their efforts are met with something between "Not bad... but nothing compared to the original" and "This has ruined my favorite song for me forever. I hope you go septic and poison yourself from the inside out with your own feces." Often, cover songs are an attempt by a younger artist to assert their skill level as on par with a classic musician—and usually the two aren't actually equal.

However, there's nothing wrong with a good cover. Sometimes, a cover song can even—gasp—be better than the original. Just because an artist once wrote a song doesn't necessarily mean that they wrote or performed it the best way possible no questions asked forever and ever amen. Here are 30 covers that are better than the originals. Uncross your arms, open your ears, and dealwithit.gif. Some of them might even surprise you.

Click to start the list

  • Ohi Eromosele

    HELL NO! I disagree wholeheartedly

  • JVPsaid

    Great list! Would’ve loved to see Switchfoot’s Crazy in Love cover: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heiswnjSVuU

  • Don

    Wait, what? The best cover song better than the original actually…sucks? I’m so confused…

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.mccullough.165 Chris McCullough

    What about Mr. Little Jeans’ cover of Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”??? Easily much better than half of these!!

  • Fernando Avelar

    that ‘climax’ version is pure hipster bullshit

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bflorio12 Billy Florio

    Bruce Springsteen WROTE “Because The Night” for Patti Smith. It’s his song, she covered it.

  • LP33

    Maxwell This Womans Work by Kate Bush should be up there for sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kenneth-Dixon-III/100000064560543 Kenneth Dixon III

    Jeff Buckley – “Hallelujah”?

  • http://www.facebook.com/rayven.wolske Rayven Wolske

    That climax cover is terrible… same with that white rabbit cover…

  • http://www.facebook.com/rob.j.hylandmonks Rob J Hyland Monks

    That Dirty Projectors version of Climax sucks.

  • gomugomu

    Run River North – The Killers’ “Mr Brightside” Cover

  • gomugomu

    yes… definitely that one

  • HUMNUGGER

    SPRINGSTEEN WROTE BECAUSE THE NIGHT PATTI SMITH STOLE IT LOL

  • http://twitter.com/Renealejandrop Rene sin tilde.

    I agree with most, but Hyperballad? Hyperballad is the most powerful song in the world in its original version.

  • oldsoulnewera

    Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” (orig. artist Dolly Parton)? I understand that this is more of an indie/hipster-focused blog but if you’re going to say the BEST COVERS and not BEST INDIE COVERS, then it would make sense to include the obvious ones (a la Jimi Hendrix/Bob Dylan). I also agree with @LP33 about the Maxwell cover of Kate Bush’s “TWW.”

    Amateurs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pt.larsen.1 Pt Larsen

    None are better than the original. Some are as good, some are very different, some are horrible, but none are better.

  • Cara

    Some are right, I don’t agree with all but fair enough to opinions – but my face actually twisted in horror when I thought the Lana Del Rey cover was seriously in the list haha.

  • John Flores

    Nice list! I think you forgot one though! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTNh9TPfVdM

  • http://twitter.com/1800GRACIE GRACiE HiGHROLLER

    dont quit ur day job dudes

  • Latest

    saw white’s “Jolene” [sigh of relief]

  • Nico

    FOH with that “Climax” shit

  • Nico

    And where is “This Woman’s Work”? … Good list tho.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jay.kush.35 Jay Kush

    no way, nothing comes close to MJs smooth criminal … fuck outa here

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Keith-Giles/1481573205 Keith Giles

    Lissie – Pursuit of Happiness !

  • http://www.facebook.com/cjeffcampbell Jeff Campbell

    Check my “Likely The Best Covers Ever” playlist on Spotify – just added a few based on this and the comments but about 20+ others. Can’t believe i missed that Jeff Buckley track! LMK your thoughts…enjoy! http://open.spotify.com/user/cjeffcampbell/playlist/6PO9UBqYEqdwAIfTZyFgbr

  • Chase

    Absolutely support Hallelujah being on this list. Buckley’s cover of Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” is also stellar and one of my favorites.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cjeffcampbell Jeff Campbell

    Great list, and great comments. Check out my Spotify Playlist called “Likely The Best Covers Ever” (search it in Spotify) that has 30+ more (and i added a few based on article/comments). Thanks/Enjoy!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cjeffcampbell Jeff Campbell

    Here is a link: http://t.co/nx9nEIrlln

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.balakier Karl Hungus

    Not to be overly “dickish”, but while these are interesting and often give depth or perspective to the originals, IN NO WAY, SHAPE OR FORM are they better (minus that Cocorosie shit – made a hammy song aces). And yes to the previous statements, you really do have to decipher from all time greatest covers to indie covers,,,

  • Hamza Himself

    The number one must be “killing me softly” by Lauryn Hill & number two “American Woman” by Lenny Kravitz. Number three “Ne me quitte pas” by Nina Simone

  • Hamza Himself

    My personnal favourites are :
    The Black Keys – Work Me (Junior Kimbrough Cover)
    Deer Tick – These Old Shoes (Chris Paddock Cover)
    The Zombies – Summertime (Georges Gershwinn Cover)

  • harmonicait

    but which cover? actually working on a post with all your suggestions because there were so many good ones! :)

  • http://twitter.com/harmonicait Caitlin White

    don’t worry, i won’t

  • http://twitter.com/HeyFiggy Figs

    I think I would of added Mayer Hawthrone’s cover to Chromeo’s “Don’t Turn the Lights Off.” From making a funky tune to a sensual experience was amazing..

  • vamoose123

    what about land of confusion originally by genesis and covered by disturbed?

  • antoine

    This list is void without Maxwell’s This Woman’s Work

  • Bee

    Excuse me? Stevie Nicks did THE best Silver Springs version on The Dance, ’97 show. Lykke Li could never compare to the passion or the story behind the song.

  • Bee

    THANK YOU! No matter how much I love Patti Smith, I’m sick of her fandom giving her credit for a song written by somebody else. Credit where credit is due.

  • Bee

    Suzanne, written by Leonard Cohen and performed by Nina Simone

  • Felicity

    Bruce Springsteen didn’t cover ‘Because The Night’, he wrote it. Another song to be added to this list Is The Watson Twins cover of the song ‘Just Like Heaven’ by The Cure.

  • Wendy Berkley

    ‘Call me maybe’ by Breakfast at Your Place

  • Timmeh

    NO! I DONT CARE IF HE WROTE THE SONG! NOBODY CAN SING BECAUSE THE NIGHT LIKE THE GODMOTHER OF PUNK!

  • Timmeh

    Also, his version of the Weight pales in comparison…. stupid Springsteen, he’s been overrated for decades.

  • Timmeh

    and his version is as boring and predictable as I’ve come to expect from Springsteen. He should have given it to her and never taken it back.

  • mike

    seriously, no jeff buckley hallelujah cover…

  • http://rapgenius.com/Dyaz Dyaz

    Damn, I’m kinda sickened by the lack of jazz standards in this list.

  • Jack Taylor

    LDR’s cover of heart shapped box is nowhere close to nirvana

  • Useless List

    Your list does not include Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”, and it also falls for the herd mind idea that Johnny Cash was talented. Your writer is presumably still in the lower grades of junior high school.

  • PigsAndPlans

    Johnny Cash was talented, if for nothing else than knowing how to appeal to a lot of people, even people who didn’t care about country music. And this list is “30 Cover Songs…” not “every cover song…” So yes, there are a lot more and we did not include them all. Also, “your writer is presumably still in the lower grades of junior high school” makes you sound obnoxious. If you want to start a discussion or share your opinion, learn to do it without being sassy and annoying, then people would like you more.

  • Wendy Berkley

    Breakfast at Your Place version of Call me maybe ?

  • mos

    of course some are better… jamie cullum’s version of rihanna’s don’t stop the music is wicked and her’s isn’t as good
    john mayer’s version of wait till tomorrow is way better in that it’s a better recording and the performances are better. Some people happen to take an idea and finish it. University students do research and expand on ideas and so do musicians in some cases. I’m a musician and i’ve had good songs that were sort of unfinished or the instrumentation and guitar sounds could have been better. You might as well say that new computers are not as good as the originals or that new airplanes arent as good as the right brothers version

  • Studhoss128

    Jimi Hendrix (Watchtower- Bob Dylan) and Aretha Franklin (Respect-Otis Redding) are still the two best covers of all time. Jack White (Jolene), Nirvana (Man Who Sold the World), Johnny Cash (Hurt), Patti Smith (Because the Night- Springsteen) are all good, but add Mott the Hoople (All the Young Dudes- Bowie), Janis Joplin (Bobby McGee- Kris Kristopherson), Counting Crows (Big Yellow Taxi- Joni Mitchell), Manfred Mann (Blinded by the Light- Springsteen), Linda Ronstant (Love is a Rose- Neil Young), Joe Cocker (Little Help from My Friends- Beatles), Van Halen (Pretty Woman- Roy Orbison), The Who (Summertime Blues- Eddie Cochran), Sheryl Crow- Better than Rod Stewart (First Cut is the Deepest- Cat Stevens), Urge Overkill (Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon- Neil Diamond), Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Rollercoaster- Ohio Players), Eric Clapton (I Shot the Sherriff- Bob Marley), George Thorogood (One Burben, One Scotch, One Beer- John Lee Hooker), Social Distortion (Ring of Fire- Johnny Cash), James Taylor (You Got A Friend- Carole king), Stevie Ray Vaughn (Taxman- Beatles), Bruce Springsteen (Jersey Girl- Tom Wait), Norah Jones (Cry, Cry, Cry- Johnny Cash), Jimmy Cliff (I Can See Clearly- Johnny Mathis), Luka Bloom- Better then Adele (Make You Feel My Love- Bob Dylan). And that is just off the top of my head. Half the songs on the previous list are either obscure or crap.

  • JurassicTimes

    I was glad that Johnny Cash’s cover of NIN’s Hurt was featured. But what about Evanescence’s cover of Nirvana’s Lithium? How about Gary Jules dark and depressing version of T4F’s Mad World? This list was really disappointing.

  • Derek Vigil

    CAKEs cover of Gloria Gaynors ‘I Will Survive’ should be on here tho.

  • Hishmat

    Robyn’s cover of Hyperballad is definitely not better than the Original!!!!

  • conal

    conor maynard’s covers

  • Bigheadd202

    California Dreaming Mamas and Papas cover by Bobby Womack featured in the Film “Fish Tank”

  • Anon

    i really like kate voegele’s cover too

  • Rodriguez

    Knocking on heavens doors Guns n Roses cover

  • anon

    People are giving y’all a lot of flack for this list not realizing or at least not remembering this blog is for exposing lesser-known artists, and the title says nothing about best covers of all time or anything like that

  • anon

    also frank ocean admitted he was queer in “Oldie”, did no one catch that?

  • THE guest

    In “Because the night” Springsteen’s version is not the best cover…10000 Maniacs is actually the best cover of that song

  • HARRIE

    How can you forget the Fugees cover of Killing Me Softly?! One of the besttttt covers of all time!

  • Robert Attard

    Fuck off @ number 1.

  • Robert Attard

    If you’re gonna add Del Rabies to number 1 might as well add Florence & The Machine’s cover of “Addicted to love” in there too.

  • Eric

    Jeff Buckley’s cover of Hallelujah, anyone?? And Lana’s cover of Heart Shaped Box definitely isn’t #1.. it shouldn’t even be #100

  • Harry

    R> STEVIE MOORE Chantilly Lace. Loom it up….you will buy it. You will want to buy it. You will have to have it!

  • AndroidDoctorr

    Hmm. The Man Who Sold the World is the only one I recognize.

  • Gueseppe

    “White Rabbit” -J.A should have stayed untouched, I’m sorry, the remake adds too much pop into the song, the original really captures the time period and the vibes coming off of it were much stronger.

  • SUPERSOAKER

    Luther Vandross’s cover of “House is Not a Home”, LIVE.. during an award ceremony?!!!! C’mon P&P.

  • Joelle Nourse

    Keller Williams covers “A Case of You” so well… and each word is discrete, but not lacking that spontaneous feeling that seems to be so valued in James Blake’s cover…

  • Joelle Nourse

    Keller Williams covers “A Case of You” so well… and each word is discrete, but not lacking that spontaneous feeling that seems to be so valued in James Blake’s cover…

  • mood
  • freshied

    Naw. GnR best cover was Live and Let Die!!!

  • Drew Brady

    Mad World by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules? Video Killed the Radio Star or She Don’t Use Jelly by Ben Folds Five? Such Great Heights by Iron & Wine? ART THOU KIDDING ME?

  • squiggysmom1

    What good is a cover of the beautiful poetry of Leonard Cohen’s “One of Us Cannot be Wrong” if it is muffled, overly echoed and drowned out with instrumentation? NOT better.

  • http://peachesandcaramel.tumblr.com mudzi mashamba

    Bastilles cover ofno pigeons kills everything here

  • Vincent Fair

    can’t believe cocaine by eric clapton isn’t on here

  • J

    No. To like all of these…

  • KillerBeeZ

    I got through about 12 of them… they all sound a like … I disagree with the person that posted this. They do not all sound as good or better than the original

  • HBH

    and I wouldn’t reach so far as to say it was better. He certainly wouldn’t have gotten boo’ed off stage with that performance but by no means better. Sounded weak and dead to me. No pun intended.

  • HBH

    That is a great cover. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  • hbh

    No, but it does say better than the original..

  • jada

    lame

  • V
  • pip

    those were almost all awful

  • Peter

    Carmen Gomes inc.; I’m on Fire :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cESlSxcBEdo

  • Sainsanaa Shinebayar

    hey gyus here is some awesome cover songs . check this out
    http://betube.in/?cat=9

  • Sainsanaa Shinebayar

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    http://betube.in/?cat=21

  • Holly Keef

    I do not know why you even bother writing this. You know that people are not going to have an open mind about this article because people have their mind set. I do believe in freedom of speech but you do know that people are too immature to handle opinion and the only thing that this will do is start arguments/wars. So, why even bother???? Because heven forbit we all RESPECT others opinions or heaven forbid we are all NICE to each other for a change.
    I must be DREAMING.
    One can dream can’t they???

  • alckz

    Good selection! Don’t agree on some of them…depends on personal tastes for sure. My personal faves are sonic youth’s “superstar” and david gray’s “say hello,wave goodbye”

  • JelBee

    bringing our own personal touch to a song whether that’s via the use of an unusual instrument, changing the tempo or inflecting a different meaning through performance is Great music whether it is original or cover.

    regards,
    Best Music Cover

  • Andrew Cole

    Are you insane? No cover of “Jolene” can ever be as good as the original because only she put the correct emotion into the lyrics.

  • newidol.tv

    You can check out the best cover songs on http://www.newidol.tv

  • Dirk Laguna

    ummmm….Stevie Ray Vaughan “Superstition” (Stevie Wonder) or Bauhaus “Ziggy Stardust” (David Bowie) or Rolling Stones “It’s All Over Now” (Bobby Womack) or The Ramones “California Sun” (Joe Jones)…..

  • Finn Brownbill

    This is a fantastic list, very well written as well. Not sure they’re all as good as the originals as there are some classics there, but nonetheless great job. I’ve also made ‘A Top 10 Selection of Song Covers’ http://finnblogs.wordpress.com… Feel free to check it out if you have the time. Cheers

  • Andrew Buzzetta

    Phish – Cities (Talking Heads Cover)
    Eddie Vedder – Society (Jerry Hannan Cover)
    Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder Cover)

    Honorable Mention
    Stevie Wonder – We Can Work it Out (Beatles Cover)

  • Stephen Norman

    Isn’t “Downtown Train” actually a Tom Waits song originally that was covered by Springsteen?

  • Jeff

    Why are the Byrds never on these list they invited folk rock with their version of Mr. Tambourine man.

  • http://www.bryianmontgomery.com Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr.

    sorry but, the Weekend version of Dirty Diana is not better than the Michael Jackson

  • Popeye

    Do you really think I’m going to click “next” 30 times? Forget it.

  • robert s

    Susan Boyle – Wild Horses

  • Tracy Reilly

    um..Bruce Springsteen wrote ” Because the Night”

  • Rod the Mod

    My fave is Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace by Cheap Trick (Terry Reid cover)

  • David Ayala

    I call bullshit on the Bird and the Bee cover, the Hall and Oates original of “I cant go for that” is way more better

  • jmccabe

    I haven’t heard Springsteen do that, but I think your comment is perfect for Born To Run when you compare his version, where he sounds half drunk and bored, compared to Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s version from “Welcome To The Pleasuredome”. (And John Legend’s piano version of Dancing In The Dark is so much better than Springsteen’s original!)

  • Kiki Bridges

    I’m confused… How can Bruce Springsteen cover a song that he wrote?

  • whatever

    That dude who does the cover of “Bluish” is not even in tune like how is that better than anything?

  • Mike Stephens

    I have to agree!! I’m not a fan of remakes/covers.We don’t have the song writers now that we did back in the 60’s and 70’s.They need to leave the originals alone and start writing their own music or get someone to write music for them!!! It’s truly sad they have to destroy the songs that I grew up with.

  • http://ralomo.tumblr.com/ Anthony Fineran

    this selection is similar to how i am not loved

  • TroubleChild

    This list got two major things wrong.

    First: It didn’t include the greatest cover of all time. Respect.
    Second: James Fucking Blake? Are you kidding me? Joni’s vocals on A Case of You are some of the best ever and her dulcimer is perfect!!!!!

  • aaaaa

    Feeling good muse?!?!