I enjoy a good song cover, especially if I feel like a cover brings something new to a song. I don't see much point to covers that straight-up reproduce the original. Give me a new angle, or tell me a new story, or bring out a new mood. I am particularly fond of acoustic versions of songs, including those by the original band -- those can often feel like a cover, especially if a song was heavily electronic to begin with.
If I had to pick my favorite original song/cover pairing, I'd probably choose Michael Stipe's live performance of U2's "ONE". I find the original to be haunting and beautiful. Stipe, in comparison, is rawer, and yet quieter at the same time, with less of Bono's bombast. The song was performed only once, for a benefit concert on MTV, by members of REM and U2 as the supergroup Automatic Baby. The way it captures a single moment in time is another thing I enjoy about it.
Another, very different example, is the Lorde cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", originally by Tears for Fears. Unlike "ONE", where the mood differences are subtle, these two songs are drastically different in tone. Tears for Fears presents an upbeat song, triumphant in nature, especially in its association with the movie Real Genius, where it plays over the heroes' crowning moment of awesome at the end. Lorde's version is dark, heavy, and foreboding, no surprise when you consider that it comes from the Hunger Games series. It's almost hard to believe that it's the same song, but the lyrics are identical as far as I can tell. The first time I heard it, it took my breath away.
A few other honorable mentions: another Tears for Fears song, "Mad World", as covered by Gary Jules; the 2 Nice Girls cover of "Sweet Jane" (a song that took me literally a decade to track down on mp3); and the Tori Amos cover of Joe Jackson's "Real Men".
So, these are mine. What are yours? Any recs? I'm always happy to discover more good music. :)
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