Covering another band’s material is a risky venture in the music world, but when done correctly, is not without reward. Many bands give fantastic live shows by putting their own twists on other artists’ hits. But there are also those bands that go beyond covering a song. These guys completely change the original composition’s genre and give rise to something so different that some begin to prefer the cover to the original.
This is not something you need your eyes for (much). The original tracks are posted for reference, but you likely know most already. Then listen to the covers.
‘Take On Me’: A-ha vs. Reel Big Fish
If you’re a fan of ska or punk, you have known this cover for years. Reel Big Fish takes the popular Norwegian 80’s hit and infuses it with the punky third-wave ska craze of the 90’s and early 2000’s. While this is a big hit at their shows, the band generally experiments with genre-crossovers as a fun part of their sets, taking a song and fusing it with metal, polka, hip hop, or country.
‘Enter Sandman’: Metallica vs. Andy Rehfeldt
Andy Rehfeldt has a Youtube channel where he composes smooth jazz versions of metal songs and then reinserts the singer’s vocals. This may be his biggest hit, though if you want more (which I don’t know how you could not), I recommend checking out his Bossa Nova cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper.’
‘Stairway to Heaven’: Led Zeppelin vs. the London Philharmonic Orchestra
The London Philharmonic is perhaps one of the more playful orchestras out there, not only putting out an entire Led Zeppelin orchestral album, but one for Pink Floyd fans. Some will argue that changing any aspect of what many consider the greatest song of all time is blasphemous, but the fact that the London Phil not only covered this song, but didn’t play too much with the actual composition speaks wonders about the original artists. I recommend the entire Led Zeppelin tribute album, especially for relaxation or studying.
‘Warning Sign’: Talking Heads vs. Local Natives
Although Talking Heads can do no wrong in my mind, Local Natives took Warning Sign and gave it a big upgrade, without completely removing the 80’s magnificence. You can still bob your head a la Night at the Roxbury whenever they chant “I’ve got money now,” because the groove feel is still there.
‘Flashing Lights’: Kanye West vs. Colin Munroe
Colin Munroe’s interpretation of Flashing Lights actually caught the eyes of Mr. West, who featured the song on his website. (And you know if Yeezy approves…) It feels nice to mention this song again, because I haven’t heard its mention in a long time.
‘Rock This Town’: Stray Cats vs. Brian Setzer Orchestra
Okay, so this is one case where the artist essentially covers himself with a much different group of people. Brian Setzer belonged to both the Stray Cats and… well… The Brian Setzer Orchestra. The big band gives the song a little more breadth while retaining that smooth rockabilly sound we all know and love. If you’ve never listened to the Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas albums (I know I’m a couple weeks late) you’ve missed out.
‘Iron Man’: Black Sabbath vs. The Cardigans
The Cardigans took Sabbath’s classic head rocker and turned it into a balmy psychedelic sleeper, and everybody loved it. Many consider it one of the top tracks on “First Band on the Moon,” behind “Lovefool,” of course.
Honorable mentions go out to Ben Folds’ deep, soulful rendition of “Bitches Ain’t Shit,” as well as mostly anything Richard Cheese has ever done.