There is an age old argument that has raged in Youtube comments since the first time some guy somewhere decided to upload music to YouTube (I believe it was some lip sync of "I Want It That Way"). The original or the cover: which is better? However, this list is not about what's ‘better' but about covers that take the source material and make it their own; the creative covers that aren't just recreations of other songs, but reimaginings of them. This list is for songs that bring something completely new and original to the table and stand apart as testament to the new wonders that old inspiration can create.
1. Disturbed - "The Sound Of Silence" (Simon & Garfunkel Cover)
This song goes at the top of the list because it's the very song that inspired it. David Draiman's grandiose reimagining of this time-worn classic was an unexpected, but very, very welcome deviation from the band's staple musical voice. Though the song begins as gentle and conversational as the original, it soon grows into a symphonic roar that that brings a whole new power to the story it tells. Disturbed was able to capture the best aspects of both themselves and the original authors in this song, and it shows.
2. Johnny Cash - "Hurt" (Nine Inch Nails Cover)
Never in a million years did anyone expect Johnny Cash to cover a Nine Inch Nails song, yet sometimes the greatest inspiration comes from the unexpected (much like gifts). And this song is truly a rare gift; we get a deeper, more intimate look at the Man in Black, not just as an icon. Even if the words weren't originally written by Cash, his rendition of the song bleeds with sincerity, and candidness about the impending end of both his life and, with it, an era of music. From the derelict state of the House of Cash, to the flashing clips of his past life, to the table of an untouched last supper, the video of the song is enough to move you to silence by its end.
"That song isn't mine anymore." - Trent Reznor
3. The White Buffalo - "House Of The Rising Sun" (The Animals Cover)
This song was one of the many spectacular covers written for the Sons of Anarchy
TV series. Jake Smith got the privilege of writing this one for the season 4 finale, and that was no small responsibility. This one isn't just a cover, but a complete genre change that tells an entirely different, and somber, story. The rugged baritone of his voice might fool you at first, but this version of the song is from the perspective of a woman in the setting of the show, and takes on the role of a character as much as any of the actors do. It fits snugly into the serious, bluesy vein of the series and establishes itself as a cover that easily stands up to the legacy of the original.
4. Chet Faker - "No Diggity" (Blackstreet Cover)
"No Diggity" may be one of the most frequently covered modern songs in the world by this point, but few of those covers go as far with a total mood change as Chet Faker's does. Then again, few people are masters of their mood in the way he is. This version of the hip hop classic brings Nick Murphy's signature brand of mellow to the arrangement.
5. The Soggy Bottom Boys - "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" (Bob Dylan Cover)
Bob Dylan is the second most covered songwriter of all time, and for good reason. His songs are simply poetic, and his style of writing and distinctive voice have set him apart as one of the great writers of his time. The Soggy Bottom Boys are the fictional band in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou
who perform this version of the song. With George Clooney as their frontman, they give the song a Kentucky grass style with new lyrics that tell the story of the main characters while still remaining true to its origins.
6. Peter Schilling - "Major Tom - Coming Home" (David Bowie Cover)
This one is unique on the list in that it isn't really a cover, but a retelling of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" with a more tense, action filled reprisal for Major Tom, the rocketeer that Bowie's original song was centered around. There are virtually no musical similarities between the original and the retelling, from the arrangement, to the drastic difference in production style, and even the lyrics. It's an entirely different song that stood all on its own as a hit at the end of the 80s. The most interesting part is that the most popular English version of this song is actually a cover by Shiny Toy Guns. A cover of a retelling of a song. That's pop culture for you.
7. Chase Holfelder - "All I Want For Christmas Is You" (Mariah Carey Cover)
I know what you're thinking; ‘why is there a christmas song on this list?' Well, normally I would agree that there are far too many god awful covers upon covers upon covers of Christmas songs. But this one is special, because it actually does something (get this) different. Chase Holfelder takes Mariah Carey's holiday cheer and flips it on its head with a macabre minor key arrangement and Kurt Hugo Schneider's vision for a music video that drives the song home. It's a genre bending masterpiece filled with pop rock musical inspiration right out of the Panic! At The Disco and MCR playbooks.
8. Seether - Careless Whisper (George Michael Cover)
Seether was covering George Michael before it was cool. They took a song that was so entrenched in the pop music of the 80s, with all its smooth charm and woeful soul, replaced its saxophone with a guitar, and turned it into a remorseful post-grunge cry of pain. It was an especially funny thing to see such a heavy band like Seether cover such a mainstream pop song, but it definitely didn't disappoint.
9. Lorde - "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" (Tears For Fears Cover)
I love soundtracks. Absolutely obsessed with them, more like. This cover of everyone's favorite Tears For Fears song was written for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
and is like a triple threat of awesome; Lorde's signature moody melancholia, emboldened by the slam of film score cannon drums, bringing new gravity to a universally loved hit.
10. Jeff Buckley - "Hallelujah" (Leonard Cohen Cover)
Never let anyone tell you that a man and his guitar isn't enough to make the world sway. Jeff Buckley's interpretation of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is widely acclaimed to be one of the greatest pieces of recorded music to ever exist, even going so far as to surpass the original in popularity. Sadly, he was a jewel whose true fame and success only came posthumously. This stripped down work of haunting passion was released as a single following his death in 1997, and more than deserves its place as the closing number of this list.