There are only three possible outcomes for a cover song:

  • Better than the original
  • Faithful to the original
  • Dumpster fire

And while dumpster fires can be fun from a distance, they’re usually not going to achieve the sort of enduring popularity that a passable cover, or those rare brilliant reimaginings would. In this semi-recurring column, we’ll be providing a list of cover songs that are at least as good, and sometimes maybe better than the originals.

This time around it’s a mix. Some of these are serious takes on the original, and some are maybe having a bit too much fun with it…but we’ll let you make the call on which is which.

Dr. No (The James Bond Theme)


Original by: Monty Norman
Covered by: Moby

Arguably one of the coolest pieces of film music ever, Moby’s techno take kicks up the BPM and makes it even more dangerous to drive to.

I Will Survive

Original by: Gloria Gaynor
Covered by: Cake

One of three songs on this list where it’s blurring the line between awesome and awful. Are they paying homage or making fun? You be the judge.

The Waiting

Original by: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Covered by: Eddie Vedder

Even Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers seem to approve of Vedder’s voice in this cover, considering they’re his backing band.

Nothing Compares 2 U

Original by: Sinead O’Connor
Covered by: Chris Cornell

Cornell’s voice has a soulful twang, almost reminiscent of southern rock. No one had a voice like Chris Cornell, and this cover song proves it.

Hurt


Original by: Nine Inch Nails
Covered by: Johnny Cash

The Nine Inch Nails original is sad enough, but when sung by a young Trent Reznor there’s the possibility this despair is passing. When it’s Johnny Cash singing a stripped down version at the end of his life, well there’s really nowhere left to go, is there?

Wish You Were Here

Original by: Pink Floyd
Covered by: Limp Bizkit and John Rzeznik

You’d probably not have expected an acoustic, sad, wistful ballad out of Limp Bizkit.  We know we didn’t.

Mrs. Robinson

Original by: Simon and Garfunkel
Covered by: The Lemonheads

If you ever thought Simon and Garfunkel needed a shot of punk rock to liven things up a bit, well you’re in luck here.

Spider Man (60’s TV show theme)

Original by: Ray Ellis
Covered by: The Ramones

How do you jazz up the already jazzy 60’s animated Spider Man theme? By throwing the Ramones at it!

Smooth Criminal

Original by: Michael Jackson
Covered by: Alien Ant Farm

Alien Ant Farm’s punk rock take on the Jackson classic veers into the satirical (as demonstrated by the number of Jackson references in the accompanying music video), and treads that fine line between awesome and awful.

The Boys Of Summer

Original by: Don Henley
Covered by: The Ataris

The Ataris’ faster take remains true to the original, but replaces Henley’s wistfulness with more of an edge, implying an anger at what was lost.

In Your Eyes

Original by: Peter Gabriel
Covered by: Jeffrey Gaines

A stripped down, soulful version of the Peter Gabriel classic.

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