I like to make playlists, and my current ongoing playlist is full of cover songs. The playlist is full of well-known and some more obscure covers. The playlist started one day out of boredom but has become something I enjoy making.
To me, there are two types of cover songs: the artist covering it produces an exact copy of the original music or the artist covering it completely reinvents the song and makes it their own.
As much as I love Bauhaus’ 1982 cover of “Ziggy Stardust,” lead singer Peter Murphy uncannily sounds like David Bowie in certain parts of the song. But the Bauhaus version does feature a heavier guitar sound than the original.
In 2007, The Killers recorded a version of Joy Division’s 1979 song “Shadowplay” for the movie “Control.” The Killers’ performance infuses their signature indie rock styling with some electronic elements thrown in. They are putting their spin on a classic song. Contrast that with the prominent bass and Ian Curtis’s baritone singing voice in the original.
Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 folk tune “A Hazy Shade of Winter” got retooled by The Bangles in 1987 for the movie “Less Than Zero.” “A Hazy Shade of Winter” became “Hazy Shade of Winter.” The 1987 version traded in the acoustic guitars for electric ones and would end up charting to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 (1987-1988).
If I had to pick a favorite to listen The Bangles always win. It has this high-octane sound you don’t get from Simon & Garfunkel.
“Tainted Love” was initially performed by Northern Soul singer Gloria Jones in 1964. But probably when you read the words “Tainted Love,” the 1981 version by Soft Cells was the first thing that popped into your mind. Is the 1981 version incredibly 80s sounding with their use of synthesizers? Absolutely. The sound does not stop me from knowing every word of “Tainted Love” and dancing to it whenever it plays on the radio.
One of the oddest covers I have found while making my playlist is the rock band Manic Street Preachers’ 2007 rendition of “Umbrella.” And yes, I am talking about “Umbrella” by Rihanna. I was surprised when I discovered this interpretation exists. The Manic Street Preachers, like The Killers with “Shadowplay,” make “Umbrella” their own. I highly recommend going listening to it. You will not be disappointed.
I have to find a way to make The Cure fit into this, and luckily they have a plethora of covers in their discography. My personal favorite is their 1995 cover of “Young Americans,” famously done by David Bowie in 1975.
The Cure abandons their usual goth styling for a more mid-70s Bowie sound, but Robert Smith’s voice still makes this song recognizable to Cure fans. Another underrated cover is their interpretation of “World In My Eyes” (one of my favorite Depeche Mode songs), and it has made frequent appearances on my repeat playlist.
“Strawberry Letter 23” will forever be ingrained in my memory for its continuous playing on the rental car radio my father drove on one of our many family vacations to California. Originally performed and written by Shuggie Otis in 1971, it became more well known in 1977 when The Brothers Johnson gave their take on it.
The Brothers Johnson rendition has that classic 70s disco sound and is the one I associate with those summers in California.
Lorde took the Tears for Fears 1985 hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and turned it into this dark foreboding tune that fits perfectly in the dystopian world of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (2013) adaptation. Her voice gives “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” a more sinister meaning.
My playlist of cover songs is ever expanding because I am always finding something new to add. I like scouring the internet and trying to find my next favorite song. It makes my day just a little brighter.