Everyone loves a good cover song. Myself, especially, as I’ve previously written a handful of similar articles specifically focusing on Fearless Records’ Punk Goes series.

Today, I’m expanding that a bit — simply covering the best cover songs across all genres and sound. Sometimes cover songs aren’t always better, and there’s certainly an article in my mind about the worst cover songs, but maybe another day.

This isn’t a ranking of the ten best cover songs ever, merely it’s just a collection of ten cover songs that I, personally, find better than the original version. It’s not even a top ten ranking of my favorite cover songs. It’s just a list without rules. So, without further ado, let’s dive in so you can start yelling at me later.

Johnny Cash – “Hurt (originally by Nine Inch Nails)”

Alright, I know I said this wasn’t a list of the best cover songs ever — but this is probably the best cover song ever. It’s very rare for a cover song to be so good that a good majority of people don’t even know it’s a cover song. But that’s what we have here, as Johnny Cash — aided by Rick Rubin — took this industrial rock song and made it a country/southern gothic tearjerker. The music video to this song is also one of the greatest music videos ever, and that’s not just my opinion. But if you asked yourself: “what’s worse than hearing a dying Johnny Cash singing about dying,” then just know the answer is watching the accompanying music video that very clearly and artfully shows how sick he was at the time of filming said video.

Chris Cornell – “Nothing Compares 2 U (originally by Prince)”

Much like the Johnny Cash cover, this is simply indisputably one of the best cover songs ever. Chris Cornell takes this song, and with his signature crooning voice, makes it something incredibly unique. “Nothing Compares 2 U” has an interesting history itself, as it was first made famous after Sinead O’Connor covered it — and for a lot of folks, that’s still the version they know. But if you haven’t yet, Chris Cornell’s rendition is absolutely stunning, and will make you miss his contributions to music with each listen.

Lenny Kravitz – “American Woman (originally by The Guess Who)”

Growing up, this was the only version of “American Woman” that I knew existed. I grew up with parents that were country music fans, until my brother began introducing me to alternative/punk type music — but no one really dove deep into the 70’s with me. So somehow around ten years ago, I stumbled onto The Guess Who’s version and my ignorance was lifted. Lenny Kravitz changed a few things, notably slowing the track down and leaving out the guitar solo, but for the most part it’s a loyal and honor cover to an iconic song.

The Maine (feat. Adam Lazzara) – “Girls Just Want to Have Fun (originally by Cyndi Lauper)”

Alright, we’ve got a repeat offender from my aforementioned ranking of Punk Goes songs. This is truly one of my favorite cover songs, because The Maine take this synth-driven 80’s feminine anthem and turn it into a bonafide rock song that would echo beautifully throughout stadiums. Vocalist John O’Callaghan delivers one of his most impressive vocal performances to date, with a raspy contribution from Taking Back Sunday’s Aam Lazzara. This is a must-listen.

Marilyn Manson – “Tainted Love (originally by Gloria Jones)”

My girlfriend is going to hate me for this one. As an avid 80’s fan, Soft Cell’s own cover of “Tainted Love” is often in heavy rotation when she’s in her car. But there’s something about Marilyn Manson’s version that brings out another dynamic for this song. The music video that accompanies the electronic-rock version features Chris Evans and other cast members from Not Another Teen Movie, making it one of the more oddly funny music videos on this list.

My Chemical Romance & The Used – “Under Pressure (originally by Queen & David Bowie)”

I’m going to be single by the end of this article. I don’t know if this version is really better than the original, and I know that’s the title and the whole point of this article, but I did also say this was a list with no rules. So that being said, even if this isn’t better than the original Queen & David Bowie version, this cover is very good. This cover came near the peak of both The Used and My Chemical Romance’s popularity, making the collaboration even more fun at the time. It’s a wonderful snapshot of early-2000’s emo.

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – “I Love Rock ‘n Roll (originally by The Arrows)”

What a song. What a cover. Joan Jett originally covered this song on her own with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, but it’s her version with her band the Blackhearts that gained immense popularity. I mentioned earlier that my parents raised me on country music, but this was shamelessly one of my mother’s favorite songs from when she was going through her angsty phase, and she passed that down to me. Family, right?

Faith No More – “Easy (originally by Commodores)”

Faith No More took this iconic Lionel Richie song and…really didn’t change much to it. That was for the best, as this was a song that really couldn’t be changed too much without taking away from the beauty of it. “Easy” is the ultimate relaxing soft-rock type of song, and Faith No More covered this song to show they could do that sound too. The band began covering the song live to replace their cover of “War Pigs” that fans had expected to hear live, and when they went into the studio to record it, they purposely did a straight up cover because it was nostalgic for them. If you’re curious, by the way, Lionel Richie loves this cover, too.

Smash Mouth – “I’m A Believer (originally by The Monkees)”

A little bit of irony here, a little bit of nostalgia. This cover played a weird part in my childhood, as Shrek was one of my favorite movies growing up. Smash Mouth has often been on the receiving end of a lot of jokes, but their cover of “I’m A Believer” was the original Shrek song. Yes, Shrek 2 gave us “Accidentally In Love” by Counting Crows, but put some respect on this cover. Maybe go watch Shrek later. Decompress.

Reel Big Fish – “Take On Me (originally by A-ha)

I know what you’re thinking: really? Yes, really. The original “Take On Me” is good, but is it ska-good? The answer to that is no. Reel Big Fish take this by-the-numbers 80’s song and turn it into a by-the-numbers ska song, which makes it infinitely more fun. The song was originally recorded for the movie BASEketball, but has since remained a staple in their live shows. It might not go down as the best cover song ever, but it goes down as one of the most fun covers ever. And for that, it deserves a spot on my list.


Complaints? That’s fine. Feel free to forward me your complaints on Twitter.