This may be controversial to say, but sometimes, the cover really DOES beat the original. Here’s a few of our favourite covers that just might have stolen the spotlight from their predecessors.
Thirty to Seconds to Mars – ‘Stay’
I’ll start this out by saying I absolutely adore Rihanna, don’t get me wrong. But there is just something about American rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars‘ 2013 cover of her track ‘Stay’ that just makes it feel like the song was MADE for them; Rihanna’s version pales in comparision. Lead singer Jared Leto‘s voice just conveys so much emotion, breaking on just the right moments, making listening to it feel like you’re privy to his innermost heartbreak. Upon a first listen, all those years ago when it first cropped up on the BBC 1 Youtube page, the cover completely took my breath away. Even better, they later released it as an official studio cover. The original version is written as a duet between Rihanna and Mikky Ekko, styled as a personal confession from both sides of a relationship about their inability to resist eachother. This cover plays the song more as a desperate beg for a partner to stay with you, despite the obvious failings of the relationship; it’s gutwrenchingly sad, with Leto’s vocals playing off the lyrics buckets of emotion. I honestly think that this rendition of the song just fits the lyricism so much more than its original. I discovered this cover at the peak of my Thirty Seconds obsession phase, and it’s stuck with me ever since.
Check out Thirty Seconds to Mars’ cover of Rihanna’s ‘Stay’, originally available via The Island Def Jam Music Group, down below.
Placebo – ‘Running Up That Hill’
Don’t get me wrong: Kate Bush is queen, forever and always. But there’s just something about Placebo‘s cover of her iconic track, ‘Running Up That Hill’, that hits different. If I could describe it in a word, it would be ‘eerie’; as per usual, Brian Molko’s unique voice reigns supreme, and his soft, melancholy delivery gives the song a whole new life. It feels like he’s telling the listener a secret, and a secret that he’s ashamed of; that he’d willingly trade his life for theirs, and tackle even the gods themselves for their love. The lines ”It doesn’t hurt me/ Do you want to feel how it feels?” in their delivery paint a picture of being shown something awful, like you’re stuck in a horror film you can’t escape. The beats of the song are replaced by a chorus of uncanny voices, adding to the general unease of the cover; it’s redesigned as less of a celebration of loyalty in love, and more of a lamentation of it, like the singer has made a deal with the devil rather than a ”deal with a God”. The instrumentation steadily builds in the background, making the listener tense, as if Molko is on something we’re not privy to know. His voice remains calm and soft, whilst we anxiously listen to the music build and build. Placebo always deliver, and they especially do on ‘Running Up That Hill’, reinventing the song in their own signature supernatural style, whilst still retaining the original vibes of the track.
‘Running Up That Hill’, originally recorded by Kate Bush and released via Noble and Brite, is available to listen to now via Elevator Lady Ltd.
Eva Cassidy – ‘Songbird’
Eva Cassidy‘s version of a Fleetwood Mac classic, originally recorded by Christie McVie in a now legendary Rumours recording session way back in 1977, is beautiful, to put it franky. Eventhough I’m a diehard Fleetwood fan, it clearly beats the original, perhaps partly due to the context of the songs release; Cassidy passed away a year before the song was released from melanoma, having not acheived nearly the success she deserved in life. Songbird, a posthumous compilation album named after the cover, was released 2 years after her death in 1998 and hit number one, finally granting Cassidy superstardom, only for it to be too late for her to bask in the spotlight. Cassidy’s cancer took her fast; she passed only five months after her diagnosis, and continued recording and performing music up until her death. The cover is breathtaking, with the beauty of Cassidy’s voice being seemingly effortless, rising from the softest whisper to astounding perfect notes, hitting especially hard when paired with the light guitar in the background. There’s an undeniably heartbreaking beauty about a once-unknown artist singing perhaps one of the most poignant love songs in music, with the knowledge that she’ll be parted from her own loved ones very soon sitting at the front of her mind. I find it very hard to listen to this song without getting emotional, because you can just feel the love, devotion and sorrow that Cassidy is pouring into her words. Not to mention, the singers talent is undeniable, and the song is transformed into something just so much more poignant under her care. ‘Songbird’ takes on a whole new meaning in Cassidy’s version.
‘Songbird’, originally recorded by Fleetwood Mac and released via Warner Records, is available to listen to now via Blix Street Records.
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’
‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’ must be one of the most covered songs at the moment, with artists such as Sea Girls, Clea and Ten Fé all doing beautiful covers of Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus‘ captivating original track. However, whilst all these covers are stunning, it is punk rockers Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes take on the tune that truly gripped me when I first heard it. Not only does it give the original more pace, Frank Carter’s cover also brings in a wealth of musical layers such as edgy guitar riffs and drum beats to overhaul the original, motivating you as you listen. The grit of Carter’s voice works so well with Cyrus’ lyrics its unbelievable, making you feel like Cyrus wrote this song just for the band to play. The build-up to the final bridge lets the momentum build, and you can just envisage a mosh pit being built up in a sweaty crowd of rock fans. Cyrus has always written rock-influenced tracks, her latest album Plastic Hearts (2020) is evidence of that, yet it’s ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’ whose rocky vibes feel hand-made for the Rattlesnakes.
‘Nothing Breaks Like A Heart’, originally recorded by Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus and released via Sony Music UK, is available to listen to now via International Death Cult.
Meg Myers – ‘Running Up That Hill’
It feels wrong to say that anyone could sing Kate Bush‘s ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’ better than Kate Bush could. Yet, the truth is, Meg Myers elevates this song to a whole new level, keeping the original intact while imbuing it with her impeccable vocals and keeping it nostalgically rooted to the 80s. The thing is, on your first listen, I don’t even think you realise it’s not Kate Bush singing because the vocals are just that strong. Everything about it, from the backing track to its producing is simply flawless, only bolstered further by the deeper and breathier voice that is Meg Myers. In a song that always felt like it teemed with something deeper and personal, Meg Myers just brings a depth to it that no cover of the song has come close to before. It respects the original source material while exploiting its weaknesses (if we could really call them that) and turning them into something fresh but just as enthralling as the original. Seriously, go listen to it and fall in love with everything Meg Myers, one of this generations most underrated singers!
‘Running Up That Hill’, originally recorded by Kate Bush and released via Noble and Brite, is available to listen to now via 300 Entertainment.