Many a musician has cut their teeth on cover songs over the years, and heavy metal and hard rock bands are no exception. From the ubiquitous blues covers of first generation hard rockers like Led Zeppelin and Humble Pie to such thrash metallers as Metallica and Slayer picking the perfect punk tune to show off their underground cred. However, occasionally a song from a very unlikely source, outside of the rock spectrum, works its way into a band’s repertoire. Who would think that one of Judas Priest’s greatest heavy metal moments would be a cover of a song by ‘60s folkie Joan Baez or that Marilyn Manson’s breakthrough hit would be a cover of the ‘80s synth-pop classic “Sweet Dreams” originally by Eurythmics? Here are 15 unlikely covers by some of hard rock and metal’s best bands that you wouldn’t expect to rock but totally do.
Yesterday, we compiled a list of 10 Unexpectedly Awesome Cover Songs, but if Charli XCX would’ve performed this INSANELY AMAZING cover of “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys one day earlier, we would’ve had to turn it into a Top 11 list.
There’s a whole subgenre* of music wherein sensitive, acoustic guitar-strumming artists try to flip the script by taking the edge off hardcore hip-hop songs (think Dynamite Hack‘s “Boyz In The Hood”, Ben Folds‘ “Bitches Ain’t S***”) by adding an element of ironic humor to their interpretations. Well, no one has ever accused Courtney Love of being anything remotely approaching sensitive, which is why we have zero issues with the acoustic cover of Jay-Z‘s “99 Problems” that she performed at a Sundance Film Festival afterparty over the weekend.
Hova’s original, Rick Rubin-produced version of “99 Problems” is alternately defiant and hilarious, but Courtney Love ups the emotional stakes significantly by stripping any trace of humor from the song. She infuses lines like “But ain’t nothing sweet ’bout how I hold my gun” with a layer of emotional instability that turns the song from a riotous party anthem into something significantly more haunting and, along the way, reminds us how much the music world misses the enigmatic star.
*A genre which, frankly, we grew tired of as soon as it sprouted up.
Courtney Love, “99 Problems” [The Awl]
We’ve got good news and bad news for Queen fans. The bad? It appears that this summer’s Sonisphere Festival, where Queen was supposed to perform with Adam Lambert, has fallen apart. The good news? We may have found a full-time replacement singer for the band!
You have GOT to watch the video we have for you above. In it, some drunk Canuck is shown in the back of a cop cruiser, presumably on his way back to wherever Royal Mounties keep people that they’ve been arrested (we never really watched Dudley Do-Right, nor have we ever been arrested in Canada, so we’re not sure whether Canadian authorities keep their prisoners in jails or penalty boxes or what). But instead of going quietly, this inebriated fella decides to turn the back seat of the police car into his personal Rockford Studios, belting out Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” —IN ITS ENTIRETY(!!!)— only minutes after getting gaffled. He’s no Freddie Mercury, vocally, but then again, who is?
Taylor Swift has been blazing across the country on her Speak Now tour, and in her warm, earnest way, she’s been welcoming city-specific guests to share the stage with her while she pays unique tributes to all the towns she visits. And now, on the final leg of her tour, Taylor is in that town, New York City, and the opportunities for tributes and guests are almost endless. For her first New York show last night at Madison Square Garden, Taylor played “one of the greatest songs ever written,” The Goo Goo Dolls‘ “Iris,” with the band’s frontman Johnny Rzeznik. With one last show set to light up the Garden tonight, we’re speculating who of the New York set will join Taylor on stage. Will it be a Strokes affair? Mother Monster? Or a spectral visitor from the afterlife?
Who did we miss? We want to hear your thoughts!
[Photos: Lauren Deiman/Getty Images]
With Coldplay‘s cover of Rihanna‘s “We Found Love” currently going viral online, we’ve taken the spirit of the song to heart and revisited our favorite covers of RiRi’s songs. And yes, we’ve found love in hopeless places, falling head over heels for renditions of songs we didn’t think we could possibly love coming from anyone’s mouth but hers.
COLDPLAY – “We Found Love”
Coldplay covered Rihanna’s latest release “We Found Love” for BBC Radio 1′s Live Lounge series and we’re afraid to say this but… it might just be as good, or better than, the original! Earning Coldplay some serious points in the wake of their new album Mylo Xyloto‘s growing momentum, the cover replaces the Calvin Harris club banging beats with a more chilled out vibe. As such, the sentiment in Coldplay’s version is far more pervasive than in RiRi’s self-conscious original, in which the accompanying adds elements of superficiality to (what Coldplay has proved to be) the wonderful lyricism of the track.
Everclear was one of those bands from the mid-nineties that were all over the radio for a couple of years, then promptly forgotten. They were signed by legendary A&R man Gary Gersh during the great “alternative music” explosion, and scored enough Top 40 hits (“Santa Monica,” “Everything To Everyone,” “I Will Buy You A New Life”) to earn themselves an exemption from being inducted in the dreaded one-hit wonder club. However, once the 2000s rolled around, mainstream audiences largely turned their back on the genre, choosing to spend their disposable income on hip hop and boy bands instead of the grungy bands that rose to prominence in the nineties.
For some reason, Everclear released a new record this week called Return To Santa Monica, which features re-recorded versions of their biggest hits and a handful of covers. This news would’ve entirely evaded me, had I not been poking around on Spotify earlier today and saw it featured in their “What’s New” section. Out of morbid curiosity, I clicked on the album and saw that one of their covers was “The Joker,” the 1973 classic rock staple by the Steve Miller Band (perhaps they were inspired by the chart success of Seal’s 1996 cover of “Fly Like An Eagle”?). I unapologetically love “The Joker,” so I decided to give it a listen. Not the best move I’ve ever made. Rather than putting an interesting musical spin on the pot smoking anthem, it instead features lead singer Art Alexakis speaking in free verse about atrocities he suffered in high school at the hands of jocks and cheerleaders and, in a bizarre turn, also makes reference to his cat tearing out his nipple ring. (!!!)
Now, I’m not saying that this is the worst cover song I’ve ever heard, but I’m also not saying it’s not NOT the worst cover song I’ve ever heard, either. Give it a listen, make up your mind, and let us know if you can think of any covers that are worse than this in the comments below.
Last week, we gave you a sneak peek at Gavin Degraw‘s Top 20 Live set, which features his cover of “Grenade” by Bruno Mars. The clip has, as they say, “gone viral,” so we thought this was a perfect time to share with you the reasons why Gavin chose to cover this particular song over all the others. “Stylistically, it was close enough to what I do to have a shot at doing it effectively,” Gavin told us just moments after wrapping his set (which we’ll have for you soon, promise!). “It’s a real stand-out, as far as quality goes. It’s an exciting song to sing. [Bruno Mars] a very talented writer and producer.”
We couldn’t agree more! If you missed the cover the first time around, we’ve got it for you below…
Gavin DeGraw came by our offices this past Friday to record an exclusive Top 20 Live set for us, and we’ll have the whole set for you as soon as we can, but we were very excited about one particular song he performed, so we marked it “HIGH PRIORITY” before we put the master footage in the pneumatic tube (or, you know, however we sent it to the hardworking folks who digitize things around here).
“I’m a little nervous to perform this one,” DeGraw quipped, “as it’s very brand new. I wrote it this morning.” Then he pulled the pin on a killer cover of Bruno Mars‘s “Grenade.” He started with a lyric sheet just in case but quickly set it aside as, backed only by a guitarist, he put his own spin on You Oughta Know alum Mars’s single. We’ll have the rest of DeGraw’s Top 20 Live set as soon as we can, but we wanted to get this one out to you right away. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
The Horrible Crowes are the new side project of Brian Fallon, the man best known as being the singer and songwriter of the Springsteen-revering New Jersey punk band The Gaslight Anthem. His new outfit played a sold-out show at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom last night, focusing mainly on the group’s new record, Elsie. However, The Horrible Crowes found the time to work an unexpected cover into their set: Katy Perry‘s “Teenage Dream.”
Indie acts have been cheekily covering Top 40 songs for as long as there have been Top 40 songs to mock—Travis‘ cover of “Baby One More Time” remains a high-water mark in this genre—but instead of following that pattern, The Horrible Crowes decided to flip the script. Rather than mocking the song’s inherently anthemic qualities with, say, insincere fist-pumping during the chorus, Fallon instead infused the song with a sense of lovelorn regret, totally transforming its entire nature. In Perry’s version, the song is a come-on; in Fallon’s haunting take, it seems as if the narrator is reminiscing about his better days and a love that’s long since faded away. Suffice to say, if the Horrible Crowes ever decided to put this song on wax, it could do for “Teenage Dream” what the Cowboy Junkies once did for the Velvet Underground‘s “Sweet Jane.”
The Horrible Crowes – Teenage Dream (Katy Perry Cover) [JPCowz YouTube Page]