Apr 132011

Cover songs can tell more than a thousand words about you. If you choose a cover song wisely, you can make your original material much more accessible to people who don’t know you yet. Don’t simply choose a cover song, because you’re a fan of the original band and play it exactly like they do. Choose a song that tells something about you, that you can give a whole new meaning or that will establish you with a certain genre.

Here are five examples of well chosen cover songs:

1. Introduce Yourself: HIM – Wicked Game

HIM covered Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game on their first album. It was the song that initially broke them into everyones consciousness. The original song was a quiet, thoughtful country ballad, which HIM turned into a racy rock tune. The cover introduced an unknown band and it fit the band so well, that it could’ve been written by HIM itself.

2. Find Your Own Sound: Stevie Wonder – Light My Fire

Stevie Wonder was a successful Motown artist by the age of 13. His early hits were lean and mean Motown products. When he started to grow up and long for his own sound, covers provided a great way for him to explore his own style. The Doors’ legendary Light My Fire was a contemporary hit in 1968 when Stevie released his own version of it. Looking back, it’s easy to hear Stevie’s trademark sound on this track.

3. Belong To A Scene: Apocalyptica – Nothing Else Matters

Apocalyptica could be described as a cello quartet. However these cellist’s identity is closer to a heavy metal scene than the classical music scene. Apocalyptica kicked off their career with an album of Metallica covers. That album established them in the heavy metal scene, and they have since released several successful albums of original material, collaborating with many heavy metal acts including Slipknot, Slayer and Soulfly. Had Apocalyptica started without the obvious reference to the genre, they would’ve probably ended up in concert halls playing chamber music. Nothing Else Matters has a beautiful classical arrangement, but it immediately tells the heavy metal audience that this band is one of them.

4. Show Your Skills: Sansa – Boys (Summertime Love)

Back in the Eighties a busty Italian pop tart Sabrina burst out of her bikini into everyones consciousness with a dreadful Eurodisco hit Boys. As an artist Sansa couldn’t be further away from Sabrina. Sansa is a soulful, thoughtful, talented artist. Her version of Boys really shows what the difference between a musician and – well Sabrina – truly is. The cover song showcases her skills and tells in three minutes that she can turn anything into a breath-taking piece of music.

SANSA – Boys (Summertime Love) by Texicalli Records

5. Offer A New Interpretation: Johnny Cash – Hurt

Nine Inch Nails’ song Hurt is an iconic industrial rock song. It was written from the depths of a tortured young man’s heroin addiction. The original version is full of anger and pain. Johnny Cash recorded Hurt at the age of 70, a year before he died. Cash’s version gives a whole new meaning to the original song. His interpretation of Hurt is about an old man looking back to his life, full of love and regret to what he has experienced and made his loved ones go through. The lyrics and the music are the same, but his delivery makes this a whole new song.


Do you have any interesting examples of cover songs that can tell something more about the artists than a five page bio could ever do. Share your examples in comments below!

  11 Responses to “5 Ways To Do A Great Cover Song”

  1. I love Stevie Wonder, but never heard that Doors cover. That’s cool. Sinatra also covered the Doors on “You’re Lost Little Girl”. I used to play in a metal band that did “Get Up Stand Up” by Bob Marley. That was a lot of fun. The hook was heavy as all hell. It just seemed to fit for us. The fans dug it. Everyone knew the words and playing it the way we did as no one had heard before seemed to give it an exciting energy. Just thinking about it makes me realize how much I need to get in a band and start playing again…

  2. That’s a good point! Covering a song that no one knows can make you “own a song”. This one blew my mind. Did you know Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun is a cover song?! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aLNwOxPsjg

  3. Wow. I had no idea! Interesting that it was written for a guy to sing. Reminds me of “Me and Bobby McGee” which was written by Kris Kristofferson and originally performed by Roger Miller. Kristofferson had dated Janis Joplin and had been trying to get her to record the song for some time but she always resisted. He didn’t know that she’d recorded it a few days before she died. Apparently it was pretty intense the first time the producer played it for him and he had a hard time listening to it for a while.

  4. Ironically I only know of HIM as “that guy who covered Wicked Game” and Apocalyptica as the “Metallica cello people.” So even these guys run the risk of being defined by their covers.

  5. “Cover songs can tell more than a thousand words about you.” Agreed, my favorite example is an O Death cover by Lauren O’Connell, the thing is you have to have good original stuff to back it up and she does have. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLkWyuW2JTg

  6. Yeah we did a heavy cover of one of Seasick Steve’s finest tunes;

  7. Haha! Yeah, I suppose you will always run that risk when you’re cover becomes a big hit.

  8. Really good advice here, and covers can be a great way to get traffic on YouTube.

    I’m tweeting this, thanks.

    – chris

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