Welcome to another Top 10 List! I really enjoyed putting together the last one, so I thought I would do another. I did learn several things, though, such as splitting the post in half so that it isn’t the longest thing ever conceived. Thus, I give you today’s post on:
Christopher’s Top 10 Music Covers (#10-6)
Covers. When executed poorly, you’re back in high school watching that terrible band (you know the one) playing Red Hot Chili Peppers songs with too much energy and too little talent. When executed well, however, you have a piece of art being reinterpreted by another artist to amplify some part of the composition. As a crazy person that enjoys endlessly curating music playlists, I have spent many hours listening to covers. I once spent three hours listening to the first 45 seconds of every “Chandelier” (by Sia) cover I could find, hoping to discover one (JUST ONE) person who could do her chorus justice. And I eventually did! My point is that I have listened to a lot of covers in the search for ones that are truly good (and that does not mean that the originals are bad).
What does good mean in this case? A few possibilities:
- First, it must be a musically sound composition and arrangement.
- Second, it must be transformative. The best covers—in my mind—are those that display the artistic intent and talent of the creator by adapting the original piece into something else. Countless folks do exact covers (or as close as they can get), but these rarely move me. I can be impressed with your ability to play and/or sing, but what I really want to hear is how the song would have been had you written it. This list takes that into consideration.
- Third, it must be fun. Fun can mean three things in this usage that I will quickly set out.
- A: Make the song more beautiful/impactful
- B: Make the true meaning of the song clearer, more distinct, or more poetic
- C: Make the song more entertaining or amusing
That all said (thanks for trucking through), I give you one final caveat: these are full lyrical covers. There are TONS of terrific instrumental covers of songs, but this list isn’t for them. If there’s enough interest, I can do a separate list to cover my Top 10 Instrumental Covers. Just throw that in the comments or on Twitter.
Alright, let’s go!
- Walking on a Dream – Artist: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Album: Spotify Singles – Cover Of: Empire of the Sun
There are a few songs on this list that I honestly had never truly listened to until I heard the cover, and this is one of them. I am a softy: a hopeless romantic, a shipper, a lover of love. The lyrics and heart of this song are wonderful, but the original never really conveyed them to me meaningfully. I kid you not: I never understood the lyrics until I came across this cover. Those who read my Top 10 Songs to Write To have likely deduced that I love piano, which this version satisfies in spades. It remains referential to the original melodically but gives better emphasis on the heart of the song: its lyrics. Also, I just enjoy Andrew McMahon’s style (“Dark Blue” by Jack’s Mannequin is an old favorite of mine).
- I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – Artist: Sleeping At Last – Album: Covers, Vol. 1 – Cover Of: The Proclaimers
Sleeping At Last, if you aren’t familiar with him, is a terrific artist with a gift for considering the heart of a song and getting right to it. Everyone has heard the original version of this song. Everyone. The funny thing is that upon hearing this cover for the first time, I did not recognize it at all. Not because the instrumentation had changed so dramatically (though it had) but because I could not believe the original was so sweet of a song. Stripping out the over produced synth of the ‘80s, we get a quiet, emphatic declaration of love and dedication. Still can’t believe this is what that song was always about.
- Land of Confusion – Artist: Disturbed – Album: Ten Thousand Fists – Cover of: Genesis
I’ve known about this cover for a long time but still can’t get over it. Honestly, I think “Land of Confusion” was written to be a metal song. It’s so perfect. Replacing the ‘80s synth with heavy electric guitar, using metal drum rhythms instead of an electro-drum kit, and slightly retooling to fit the vocal style Disturbed utilizes could not have worked out better. Given what this song is about (and how it’s suddenly become incredibly appropriate again), the metal edge helps to push its indignant, righteous anger and message forward. Also, it’s simply fun to listen to.
- Time After Time – Artist: Quietdrive – Album: When All That’s Left Is You – Cover of: Cyndi Lauper
While I am not what anyone would call a metal fan, I definitely enjoy the style from time to time (heh). I, like many people,
really enjoy this song. Taking it in more of a punk metal direction gives me the opportunity to crank the volume and feel like the song is all around me, a sensation I adore. It’s a fairly straight cover otherwise, but the instrumentation changes make it unique enough to be transformative. Plus it’s executed well, which is always good.
- What Is Love – Artist: Kiesza – Album: Sound of a Woman – Cover Of: Haddaway
I love that this exists. The original, a seminal one-hit-wonder, thrummed with synth and bass, driving SO MANY DANCE FLOORS YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW. And, actually, neither do I since I was 4 when this song released. I actually prefer one of the later Haddaway remixes to the original, and I prefer this cover to that. Imagine grabbing a song that we, as a culture, have made into a joke
and taking it really, really seriously. What if, instead of a recursive dance motivator, the question was asked honestly? What if synths became strings and echoed male vocals transmuted to a pensive woman’s crooning? You get this song, that’s what.
And there we have the first half of my Top 10 Music Covers. If you liked these, make sure to check back next week for the second half! Leave your favorite covers in the comments below, and see if you can guess my Top 5!
Thanks for reading!