Top 5 cover songs?! Tall order, my friend. This is a hard one! There are so many songs like Tina Turner's Proud Mary, Aretha Franklin's Respect and The Beatles' Twist and Shout where the cover version is so iconic and ubiquitous, that no ones cares who did it first. But, covers make me nervous. Karaoke TV phenomenons like American Idol and Glee have brought covers to the forefront of pop culture. It's getting to the point, where I have to wonder, is there any creativity left out in the mainstream?
So, I tried to make my list thinking of songs that were iconic and identifiable before they were covered. Much like American Idol, I'm giving points for groups who reimagined popular songs, but because it's me, I'm also listing songs that I think are great. (Please note 4 of these songs are in some way related to a soundtrack, what's the matter with me?!) So, in no particular order . . .
1. Against All Odds - The Postal Service
Original Artist - Phil Collins
I LOVE this cover. The Postal Service opens with the same haunting and meloncholy feel of Collins' original, but then rocks out to an almost angry and provocative feel. The best break up song of all time, just got better.
2. Live and Let Die - Guns N' Roses
Original Artist - Paul McCartney and Wings
You know I did, you know I did, you know I did. I am a sucker for a little GNR. And, there is something about the rawness of Axl's vocals in combination with Slash's rushed take on the song's identifiable lick that takes this Bond song to a different level. Epic.
3. I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston
Original Artist - Dolly Parton
I love Dolly! About two seconds ago, The White Stripes' cover of Jolene was on this list, but I changed my mind, because Dolly's version is the shit. But, I feel like the little song she wrote upon the break up of her and her manager was meant for something bigger than Dolly's sweet vibrato. Enter Miss Whitney. Whitney Houston turned up the vocals, and in turn, turned up the heat and power of an otherwise charming song. You cannot tell me that you don't sing along.
4. With a Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker
Original Artist - The Beatles
I was a giant Wonder Years fan as a kid, and therefore, I think I was about 16 the first time I heard The Beatles version of this song. I remember being totally underwhelmed. Joe Cocker kills this song, he brings a feel of raw desperation to a fun and funky throw away Beatles song. It's amazing, and iconic in its own right.
5. I Wanna Hold Your Hand - TV Carpio (Across the Universe soundtrack)
Original Artist - The Beatles
I had some major attitude when I first watched Across the Universe. A whole movie of Beatles covers starring Evan Rachel Wood? Ew. But, one of the earlier moments in the film features a girl singing a stripped down version of one of my favorite bouncy Beatles tunes to another girl . . . a cheerleader. Suddenly, the lyrics to I Wanna Hold Your Hand meant something different; the entire mood was turned on its head. It was about deep longing and unrequited love. And, I was sold. Take that Glee.
Honorable Mention - My favorite blue grass band, Nickel Creek takes on Britney. Again, take that Glee.