We all have our own renditions of our favorite songs: Whether you’re a shower singer or you share your voice with the world, everyone has covered a song before. Yet, there is a strange stigma around enjoying covers more than the original, just like there is an unspoken rule that you can’t enjoy a sequel more than the first movie. In reality, a lot of well-beloved songs are covers: “Respect” by the late Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is a cover of the King of Soul, Otis Redding’s, hit song; “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson is a cover of the original by English band The Zutons; “I Will Always Love You” is typically associated with Whitney Houston, but it was originally performed by Dolly Parton.
It’s an established fact that the music industry builds off of previous concepts, samples and compositions in order to produce the music that we all know and love. There are lots of cover songs that are just as amazing as the originals, and this list could be a place for you to discover some new music.
If you like the Beatles…
Try “Across the Universe” by Fiona Apple:
Apple’s soft voice combined with the peaceful melody makes for an enjoyable listen, especially if you’re in need of a song that will lift your mood. The original is in a sharper key and is a bit faster, while Apple elongates her notes to create a dreamy feeling.
If you like The Smiths…
Try “How Soon is Now” by Love Spit Love:
I may be biased considering that this is one of my favorite songs, but “How Soon is Now” is definitely one of the best song covers because of how it deviates from the original. The Smiths’ tune was originally created to stand out—it was written in only one chord that repeated throughout each verse and the bridge. t.A.T.u also released a version of this song which adheres closer to The Smiths’ creation, but Love Spit Love’s version contains a variety of chords, more bass, and a more mercurial vibe. Fans of Charmed will recognize that this was the show’s theme song for all eight seasons.
If you like TLC…
Try “No Scrubs” by Jorja Smith:
Smith, who released her debut 24-song album in June 2018, has been gaining popularity. Her rendition is noticeably different from TLC’s classic upbeat anthem, but her voice stands out in this acoustic cover.
If you like PARTYNEXTDOOR…
Try “twoAM” by SZA:
Here’s another familiar artist—SZA released this sentimental cover in 2017. There are many similarities between SZA and PARTYNEXTDOOR in terms of composition, but the most notable change is in vocals: SZA’s powerful voice adds a new dimension to this song. Additionally, she adds her own twist to the piece with the outro.
If you like Tory Lanez…
Try “Say It” by Normani:
With her success as one-fifth of Fifth Harmony and her increasing popularity with the general public after her performance at the 2018 BBMAs and her Janet Jackson tribute, Normani is on her way to becoming a star. Not to mention, her collab with Khalid, “Love Lies,” just went double platinum in September. In honor of her growing fame, we’re throwing it back to one of her old covers, where her voice combines with the background vocals to form the perfect harmony.
If you like Frank Ocean…
Try “Pink + White” by Ariana Grande:
While Grande is typically associated with upbeat pop songs rather than chill R&B, her tone meshes quite well with the piano melody. Her style puts a refreshing twist on this amazing song.
Finally, if you like Britney Spears (and rock music)…
Try “Baby One More Time” by Bowling for Soup:
This song took me back the first time I heard it because it is so different from Spears’ classic pop hit, yet so similar. The melody is the same, but the main instruments and composition change. Change is a good thing, and if you’re looking for something that you’re not entirely accustomed to, this cover may be right for you.
Hopefully, this combination of artists, old and new, gave you some new songs to listen to! Whether it’s performed by an up-and-coming artist like Normani or Jorja Smith, or an established artist like Fiona Apple, covers are still relevant today; they show which songs have the potential to become true classics. Covers can bring a new perspective to a song, such as when the performer switches pronouns, enunciates differently, changes their intonation to shift the mood from longing to fury, or speeds up the tempo. Just as singing in the shower reveals something about us, cover songs reveal a great deal about the artist—their interests, their aspirations, and the message they want the public to receive. It may be difficult to imagine a Britney Spears song performed any other way, but in reality, the song was initially offered to TLC, which is further proof that the impact of a song depends on the performer. Ultimately, it is up to the listener to determine which message impacts them most.
Photo via featured Ariana Grande video