Top Four Song Covers You Might Not Have Heard
"I Will Survive" as done by Cake
"I Will Survive"
Original by: Gloria Gaynor
Cover by: Cake
Cake's cover of "I Will Survive," does the two things every great cover should do: it doesn't spit on the original, and it does add something new. With only a selected few (and selectively profane) word changes, Cake sticks very close to the original, albeit with their typical half-spoken half-sung vocalization. The best of this cover is the way the tone changes just in the intonation of the words. Gaynor's original is all spunk and girl-power; Cake's cover (male-sung) is far less optimistic and full of self-doubt. Listen to Gaynor's six months out of the relationship, when you really are over it, but rely on Cake to get you through the first weeks when you're still trying to convince yourself you're okay.
"Heartless" as done by Kris Allen
Original by: Kanye West
Cover by: Kris Allen
It's funny that Kris Allen, crowned American Idol winner long after most people had stopped watching, is one of the best justifications for the show ever existing. Kris is young, extraordinarily talented, consistently likable in interviews and on social media, and, yes, not exactly hard on the eyes. He beat out fan-favorite Adam Lambert (who has been plenty successful himself, with credits including embodying Freddy Mercury himself in a performance with Queen) and, though his originals are also strong, his cover of "Heartless" might be his strongest song on his debut album. He performed it on the show and wisely put it on his first release.
Kris and Kanye couldn't be more different, and Kris owns that in the song. Kris is a singer, not a rapper, and he doesn't pretend to be one in this song. Rather, he uses his different skill set to bring a softer sound to the song, without losing its dark roots.
"Here Comes the Sun" as done by Motion City Soundtrack
"Here Comes the Sun"
Original by: The Beatles
Cover by: Motion City Soundtrack
No one will ever best The Beatles, but a little background into Motion City Soundtrack's recording of this song makes all the difference. Motion City Soundtrack sang this as part of an album featuring covers of the Beatles from bands from every state--Motion City Soundtrack was Minnesota. What's most striking, though, is the timing; Motion City Soundtrack recorded this just as lead singer Justin Pierre was beginning to rise from over a decade of alcoholism and drug addiction. He's stayed sober since.
"Boys of Summer" as done by The Ataris
"Boys of Summer"
Original: Don Henley
Cover: The Ataris
What's incredible about this cover is how The Ataris manage to update the song without really changing it. They bring a young sound and a whole lot of energy to the song, but they never lose the gritty, hot-summer feeling of the original. The one lyrical change--the out-of-date band Henley namechecks in the original, Grateful Dead, is Black Flag in the Ataris version--is a cheeky nod to the fact that it's a cover of an older song and that something new will always be out of vogue. It's a great, subtle nod to the song's theme about the passing of time; the fleeting boys of summer will leave, but the narrator won't. Even if the narrator becomes a boy band.
It figures that a band named after a 1970s video game would know how to do retro oh-so-right.