I am compiling a list of what I consider the 25 best cover songs of the last 20 years. I will post it soon. But first, here is my “Top Ten List of Notably Bad Covers” of that same period. Not the worst covers ever (there are too many vomit-inducing ones, e.g. Duran Duran covering Public Enemy’s 911 is a Joke, Hillary Duff’s covering My Generation or Mylie Cyrus covering Smells Like Teen Spirit, and of course Britney Spears with I Love Rock n Roll). But most people generally know covers are terrible. Here is rather a list of the covers that actually get hype, but in my opinion don’t hold a candle to the original:DisHonorable mention: Kid Rock -cover(ish) of Sweet Home Alabama. At least he’s doing something creative on this one, so I won’t give him a top 10. But really just trying to cash in here, Kid.
#10 Peter Gabriel- Radiohead’s Fade Out. Granted, its hard to cover effectively several generations after your prime. In any case, it’s not surprising this version leans a bit too theatrical.
#9 Korn- Another Brick in the Wall. I do not know what made them cover this song, except that it sounds kind of angry. Sadly, this makes their best of.
#8 Audioslave -Killing in the Name. First off, I think Chris Cornell is incredible, especially on Badmotofinger. But turns out the vocalist is everything here, and Zach De La Rocha can do at least one type of rock vocals better than Cornell, who is touted as best rock vocalist ever. But best to stick to your own style.
#7 Jeff Buckley- Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen cover). I like Jeff Buckley as much as the next guy, but he almost is known to the public only by this cover. Cohen’s song is a masterpiece, and Buckley doesn’t ruin it, but that’s as much as you can say. I realize I will have a lot of dissenters here. I urge them to listen to more Cohen and it may change their mind.
#6 Rage Against the Machine- Housin’ (EPMD original)/ Microphone Fiend (Erik B & Rakim) / anything else on Renegades. The whole covers album misses the mark a bit, with only a couple exceptions. Zach is a good rock-shout-talker, but isn’t really a good rapper.
#5 Limp Bizkit- Faith. I understand they’re trying to be ironic. It just makes them pathetic in addition to terrible.
#4 Mike Ness- Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right. Some people like this version. I think they are all under age 20 and listen only to music with 200+ bpm.
# 3 Tori Amos- Smells like Teen Spirit. I still really, really, really think this was a bad idea. It’s an angsty song, let’s perform it that way. I still guess it’s possible that I don’t get this cover, even 12+ years after I first heard it…but I really, really must be not getting it then.
#2 Madonna- American Pie (Don McLean). You have to be really careful when you tackle covering a classic. Epic fail.
#1 Metallica- Whiskey in the Jar (traditional/Dubliners/Thin Lizzy cover). I guess the Metallica version does rock. But it’s not just the video that fails. What earns this #1 is that the original is one of the finest folk tunes of all time– making it louder doesn’t mean its better. In fact its a lot lot worse. You can bang your head more convincingly to the Dubliners version anyway.