In my opinion, a song has to be great in some respect to begin with, in order to inspire a good cover version. Very often, another artist's take on a song highlights some great quality that you never really paid attention to while listening to the original. So in this way, covers can definitely be regarded as a nod of respect to the original version, rather than a slander.
I've listed here seven cover songs that, in my opinion, are better than their originals. Some of them have become so iconic that they are often associated with the cover artist rather than the original, but others just show my personal preferences. A couple of these songs are popular enough to have been covered by several artists, but I have only listed my favourite ones. Have fun listening and comparing!
Crazy In Love – originally by Beyoncé, covered by Emeli Sandé
I always thought this song was restless to the point that I swear it makes my blood pressure climb up, so the re-imagined background on the Emeli Sandé cover is a very welcome change. Unlike with the other songs on my list, I don't think the cover version really unearthed any hidden qualities about the original song, but it sure is much more listenable.
Make You Feel My Love – originally by Bob Dylan, covered by Adele
Now, this melody was great already when Bob Dylan wrote it. I'm just not at all a fan of his voice, and his version sounds very monotonous to me. It takes Adele to make this song a real emotion-booster that it has the capacity to be. Just listen to that heart-breaking tone that she puts into each and every syllable.
Unchained Melody – originally by Todd Duncan, covered by The Righteous Brothers
Unchained Melody was originally composed for a prison film called, you guessed it, Unchained. The famous Righteous Brothers cover was also used in a film, Ghost. The original Todd Duncan version is quite beautiful in its simplicity, but I happen to be head over heels in love with Bobby Hatfield's voice – how he manages to use his voice like that is subject of constant awe for me. (This song is actually a Bobby Hatfield solo although it's usually credited to The Righteous Brothers duo.) I also love the way the cover version starts off very quiet and mellow, and then soars higher and higher as it goes on.
Yesterday – originally by The Beatles, covered by Ray Charles
Right, supposedly nobody is allowed to say that someone did a Paul McCartney song better than Paul McCartney – but I'm going to say it anyway. I don't mean to say I dislike the Beatles original, but only Ray Charles can really make me feel for this song. This is a most definite case of "a great song making great covers happen".
Run – originally by Snow Patrol, covered by Leona Lewis
I found Leona Lewis' cover before the original and was quite surprised when I discovered where this great, emotional ballad had its roots. Somehow, the Snow Patrol lyrics gain a whole new level of meaning when they have the benefit of Lewis' powerful voice.
Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) – originally by Cher, covered by Nancy Sinatra
I'm sorry, but I think the whole point of this song is lost under the distracting arrangement of the Cher version. Therefore, it baffles me to no end how Nancy Sinatra managed to turn it into such a captivating melody, with its beautiful, toned-down backgrounds. In this case, less is definitely more.
I Will Always Love You – originally by Dolly Parton, covered by Whitney Houston
Last on my list, the epitome of epic covers. I mean, is there anybody out there who doesn't immediately think Whitney Houston when this song is mentioned? Thank you Dolly Parton for writing such a powerful song, and thank you Whitney Houston for making it immortal with her sensational vocal chords. Isn't it intriguing how a country song is transformed into a power ballad by just tweaking the instrumentals a bit and adding some soulful saxophone?
What do you think about my list – do you prefer the originals or the covers? Would you like to mention some other successful cover songs? How do you feel about singers covering each others' songs in general?