Remember when Susan Boyle first appeared on Britain’s Got Talent? Her rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ simply blew Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan away, reminding all of us never to judge a book by its cover. While some might be sceptical of her decision to record Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ for new album Wonderful World, we’ve learned not to doubt SuBo. Besides, plenty of artists have completely reworked all-time classics to brilliant effect. Johnny Cash’s version of ‘Hurt’ is completely unrecognisable from the Nine Inch Nails standard, but still pretty damn excellent in its own way. Here are five other magnificently different cover songs.
Muse – ‘Feeling Good’
Hands up if you knew that ‘Feeling Good’ was originally written for 1964 musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – the Smell of the Crowd? Yeah, us neither. Anyway, everyone knows it as a Nina Simone staple, so any artist brave enough to cover the song would have to brace themselves for the inevitable comparisons. Perhaps safe in the knowledge that he could blame any disaster on lookalike Frank Lampard, Matt Bellamy took the risk. We’re pleased to say it paid off, and no one needed to pretend to play for Chelsea.
José González – ‘Heartbeats’
Swedish siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer’s electro masterpiece almost went unnoticed, but compatriot José González found a global audience thanks to a feature on a TV ad. Cue a million people seeking out the original after hearing the cover – and being shocked at the disparity between them. Speaking of sketchy lookalikes, how about this? When José González grows out his hair, we reckon he bears more than a passing resemblance to Dan Bejar of Destroyer. Thoughts?
Placebo – ‘Running Up That Hill’
Placebo’s most famous cover is of course ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ by the Smiths, in which they notably changed the lyrics. With everyone carrying around barely portable CD players by 2003, Brian Molko updated “Walkman” to “Discman” – and Morrissey liked what he heard. These days, the Moz tends to sing “iPod” (or “breastplate” to slightly ruin the line’s effect). Anyway, it’s Placebo’s Kate Bush cover that we wanted to celebrate here – Q magazine labelled their take on ‘Running Up That Hill’ “more like a ‘pact with the devil’ than the original ‘deal with God’.” Sounds good to us.
Dinosaur Jr. – ‘Just Like Heaven’
Not many people think of The Cure first when naming the most influential bands in history, but as well as the unmistakable ties to goth subculture, Robert Smith and chums have tried their hand at a range of genres to sublime effect. Beginning as a post-punk outfit, an increasing focus on electronics sent them in a new wave direction, and they completed the journey by turning full-on pop. It was 1987 hit ‘Just Like Heaven’ that helped them break America, and the Dinosaur Jr. cover two years later – sped up and full of distortion – earned huge praise from Smith. We’d love to get his take on the Alvin and the Chipmunks version.
Weezer – ‘Unbreak My Heart’
Here’s a useless fact for you: Toni Braxton didn’t even like ‘Unbreak My Heart’ when she first heard it. In fact, according to writer Diane Warren, she “hated the song. She didn’t want to do it.” Still, she was convinced to record it by Arista Records president LA Reid, and luckily so – she soon found herself topping charts across the world. Nine years later, Weezer singer Rivers Cuomo thought “it’d be great to do like a rock version of it with more of an alternative aesthetic,” and producer Rick Rubin agreed. Not everyone was quite so pleased though. “I love the way it came out,” explained Cuomo afterwards, “and I think probably the rest of the band really does not like it, and that’s probably why it didn’t make our fifth record in 2005 when we were recording it.” Oh well.
Image courtesy of Sannielee on Flickr