I’m a huge fan of music. For large portions of my life, music helped me mentally get through the day. I have tons of musicians and songs I love, including some songs I’ve listened to on a daily or weekly basis. That said, I also recognize that the best version of a song may not necessarily come from the person who originally wrote it.
Take, for example, “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails.
It’s a good song. I love Nine Inch Nails. I love dark songs. You’d think I’d find this to be the best version of this song. That said…Johnny Cash exists.
If Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” isn’t the single best cover of any song ever, I’m sure it’s at least in the discussion. There’s plenty of songs though that need covers that either don’t have them or don’t have them in the style that they need to be covered in. For today’s post, I thought I’d go through a handful of songs I think need covers in different styles, different vocal ranges, or by certain artists.
“The Waltz” by Neverending White Lights
I enjoy hearing orchestral instruments in a good rock song. This song is one of my more recent discoveries, however I’m fairly sure I’ve listened to it pretty close to once a day since I found it. I really need to sit down and listen to this whole album straight through at some point to get the full experience. That said, something’s off about it. It’s a good song, but it needs a cover by a different vocal range to be effective. I’m thinking a contralto/alto female voice would make the song a bit more haunting. Perhaps something along the lines of Joss Stone or Rachel Sermanni. I get that Sermanni in particular drifts into alto quite a bit, particularly in the song below, but I think she’d be a good fit.
“Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga
I like Lady Gaga as much as the next person. That said, this song is one of the few she’s written that’s just better as a cover. Take, for example, this cover where Lady Gaga’s vocals are paired with instrumentation by Andy Rehfeldt.
Paparazzi is just meant to be a non-pop song. And as much as I love heavy metal, I don’t think it’s the best option for covering this song. Personally, I’d like to see Paparazzi done in a slow jazz/lounge style. It’s been done well before…see Jessica Lea Mayfield’s cover of Nirvana’s Lounge Act for an example. Lady Gaga has done quite a bit of work with Tony Bennett. Why not have Bennett himself cover this song?
“Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies” by Biffy Clyro
This song has been my favorite song for the past three years or so. Nothing else has come close. That said, I’ve only heard it done in one of two styles — either exactly like Biffy Clyro did it, or with a single acoustic guitar. Both of those ways are fine. After all, it’s an amazing song. But there’s something missing. That something is a piano.
In the event you’re not familiar with Vika Yermolyeva, she’s a kickass pianist1It’s at this point that I’d like to mention that looking up one of Vika’s videos has led me down a rabbit hole where I binge watched two hours of her piano videos in one sitting. While doing nothing else. I am CONSTANTLY multitasking. Her piano work is ridiculous.. While I don’t think she’d need to be the one to do the cover of this song, I do think this style of music — where the entirety of the instrumentation is covered by a single piano can add power to a ton of songs. It’s not like Biffy Clyro’s music isn’t suited to piano, as there’s hundreds of piano covers of their songs. That said, the intricate parts of “Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies” make the song more challenging, but potentially more rewarding.
Need another example of how this can be done well? Take a listen to Norah Jones’ cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”.
“Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani
I just need this covered by My Chemical Romance or Panic! At the Disco. I have no shame.
“Shadow on the Sun” by Audioslave
“Hands in the Sky (Big Shot)” by Straylight Run
I want to end with both of these songs combined into one idea, as when I hear both songs, I immediately think they need big, powerful voices to cover them. I’ve tried singing “Shadow on the Sun”. It is easily the most challenging vocal song I’ve ever attempted. Meanwhile, “Hands in the Sky” is an exercise in vocal restraint, especially as you’re slowly building up to sing with the most powerful voice your lungs can muster. Chris Cornell and John Nolan, respectively, use these two songs as vehicles to show off the amazing talent they have with their voices.
I really want to hear both of these songs done in a female voice. While there’s a lot of good options out there, the singer with the vocal range and style I think would work best — Amy Winehouse — isn’t around anymore for this to happen. That said, there’s a plethora of excellent female vocalists that could do these songs justice. Lzzy Hale of Halestorm seems like a good place to start. Halestorm’s already done some good covers, so they’ve got a leg up on others.
Have a suggestion for a great cover in your mind? Suggest it in the comments.