10 Covers That Almost Outshine the Original

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With concert and festival season on the horizon, setlists for popular bands are being released almost daily. Sometimes, among original songs, artists will choose to pay tribute to an artist before them with a live cover. Each performer adds something new to the way they perform any given song. Here are some covers that come pretty close to outshining the originals.

Halestorm – “Bad Romance”
Released in 2011, an edited version of Halestorm’s cover of “Bad Romance” went viral on TikTok in 2019. Since then, the song has gained a resurgence in popularity. Lady Gaga’s original version of the song has influences of rock and alternative music, but Halestorm’s cover takes those elements to the next level. Lzzy Hale’s dark vocals carry the song to the chorus, where the song explodes into heavy guitar and bass riffs. The most iconic moment of the song is the vocalization towards the end of the chorus when Hale hits unbelievably high notes.


Kelly Clarkson – “Happier Than Ever”
Known for her ability to amplify any song she covers, Kelly Clarkson creates her own memorable and heart wrenching version of Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever.” Clarkson’s version begins with a soft piano melody, contrasting from the original that starts with modified vocals from Eilish and a guitar. Both versions begin to pick up after the halfway point, slowly growing angrier every second. The original is packed with emotion, but Clarkson’s rendition is filled with fury.


Toploader – “Dancing In The Moonlight”
Written and performed by King Harvest, “Dancing In The Moonlight” became their breakaway hit. Toploader’s cover keeps everything that works, the jazzy vocals and catchy rhythm, and adds in a new xylophone melody that reoccurs throughout the song. Both versions share the same uplifting and almost magical quality.


Hozier – “Say My Name”
Originally performed by Destiny’s Child, “Say My Name” became popular in the early 2000’s. As one of the most popular R&B groups of the 90’s, there have been plenty of covers of their music. Hozier’s version of “Say My Name” stands out because of its softness. Hozier slows the song down and transforms it from a heartbroken club hit to a heartfelt folk ballad.


Miley Cyrus – “Heart of Glass”
Released in 1978, “Heart of Glass” quickly became one of Blondie’s most popular songs. Live at iHeart Festival, Miley Cyrus put her own spin on the song. The instrumentals are roughly the same between both versions, with the minor change of skipping over the ticking beats at the beginning of the original. The main difference between the two is Cyrus’ vocals. Known mostly for her pop sound, Cyrus brings a hard rock flair to “Heart of Glass” that is absolutely welcomed.


Fugees, Ms. Lauren Hill, Wyclef Jean, Pras – “Killing Me Softly”
A frequently covered song, the rendition of the song that Fugees reference in their cover of “Killing Me Softly” is the version popularized by Roberta Flack in 1973. Written by Lori Lieberman, the original song is a soft ballad with a single guitar. Roberts Flack’s version of the song is much more upbeat and includes a full band. The Fugees version builds on Flack’s vision, adding in a percussive backing track in place of the band for most of the song. This emphasized the unforgettable melody and allows Ms. Lauren Hill’s beautiful vocals to shine through.


The Bangles – “Hazy Shade of Winter”
An 80’s synth pop-rock version of Simon and Garfunkel’s folk hit, The Bangles version of “Hazy Shade of Winter” trades out acoustic for electric. An eerie and yet joyful bounce into the winter spirit, the song takes on a new life in the hands of The Bangles. The iconic guitar riff in the background of the original is brought into the forefront of the song, and the harmonies build up throughout to give the song a uniquely fun sound.


Three Days Grace – “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore”
Recorded and put out only two months after Phantogram put out the original in 2016, “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” becomes a grungy romp by Three Days Grace. The original is a rock-pop fusion, with dark synth and modulated vocals creating an unsettlingly grim dance hit. Three Days Grace lean into the darker lyrics and sound, trading the synth for guitar and adding percussion to tie the song together.


Royel Otis – “Murder On The Dance Floor”
Gaining notoriety online via TikTok, Royel Otis’ cover of “Murder On The Dance Floor” became an instant success after the original song was featured in the 2023 movie “Saltburn.” Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s version of the song is an early 2000’s pop hit made to be played in clubs across the UK. Royel Otis takes a different angle, leaning into the background rock elements of the original to make it the song into something that sounds much more like upbeat indie rock.


Paramore – “Burning Down the House”
Alongside the release of “Stop Making Sense,” the documentary about american rock band Talking Heads, modern artists came together to create a tribute album of covers. Paramore did their take on “Burning Down The House” which includes Hayley William’s iconic pop-punk voice and surprisingly more synth than the original. Using elements of Paramore’s 2017 album, After Laughter, the band is able to make this song entirely their own while also paying homage to the original.

What’s your favorite cover song?

James Wieners
James Wieners
James Wieners is currently studying Journalism in Chicago. When he's not writing and/or listening to music, he's showing off the beautiful city of Chicago to tourists from around the world as a tour guide.

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