10. “Haunted” by Sinead O’Connor and Shane MacGowan
Originally by: The Pogues
Does this count as a cover if Shane MacGowan was in The Pogues? We think so, since it was a female member of The Pogues who sang this song first. This version is made beautiful as a duet. Sinead O’Connor’s voice is unparalleled and gorgeous, and coupled with MacGowan’s uniquely epic voice, it makes a fantastic track.
9. “Wonderwall” by Ryan Adams
Originally by: Oasis
The Gallagher brothers’ original version of this song has been so over-strummed by posing, college boys that it’s become a meme. You know, “Anyway, here’s Wonderwall.” Ryan Adams’ version isn’t anything like that. It’s calm and cool, not whiny at all, and it’s just good.
8. “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself” by The White Stripes
Originally by: Burt Bacharach
The White Stripes were always great with covers, and this is one of their finest. It’s melancholy about love but at the same time rough with love, which is exactly how many of us feel all the time.
7. “Istanbul” by They Might Be Giants
Originally by: The Four Lads
They Might Be Giants is a quirky band, and they quirkified this song to the infinite degree. It’s ridiculously fun to listen to, and it doesn’t sound like anything else ever recorded. It’s worth it.
6. “Knights in White Satin” by The Dickies
Originally by: The Moody Blues
OK, the original version of this song was always the go-to song at a dance when the DJ had to go poop. It’s long, it’s melodramatic, and have we mentioned it’s long? Like, not “Inna Gadda Davida” long, but very long. This version is under three minutes, intense, and very punk rock. It kicks butt. We love it.
5. “Blue Monday” by Flunk
Originally by: New Order
This cover captures the essence of the lyrics better than the original. The original is all 80s electronica, and it sounds really harsh and awkward. But this cover is smooth and light, like a blue Monday should be. We don’t think a lot of people have heard it, but it’s time we changed that.
4. “Jolene” by The White Stripes
Originally by: Dolly Parton
They say that the key to a great cover song is to make your tune sound nothing like the original. That’s exactly what The White Stripes do with their cover of “Jolene.” There’s something airy-rock about this song, and it’s especially cool that Jack White sings from the female perspective.
3. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” by Nirvana
Originally by: Leadbelly
Who better to cover a haunting, Leadbelly song than Nirvana? The lyrics are simple, repetitive, but Kurt Cobain and the rest of the band make them mean something kind of scary. When you listen to this song, you feel a little frightened about what’s going to happen next. That’s the sign of a great cover.
2. Romeo and Juliet – The Indigo Girls
Tons of people have covered this song. But none have done it as brilliantly as Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. The original isn’t even as good as their version. When Ray sings this song, there’s so much behind it. It’s not a pretty, lyrical song about a breakup anymore. It’s a matter of life and death, and you better understand why this love is so important. Everyone else who sings this song just kind of tells a story. The Indigo Girls make you feel something.
1. “Working Class Hero” by Green Day
Originally by: John Lennon
Author’s Note: The first time I heard Green Day’s version of this song, I swear my life was changed. It’s beautiful. Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice is filled with such passion, and you don’t feel like he’s just recording a song. He’s feeling what the speaker feels – lost and betrayed by the game of life. The sampling of John Lennon at the end with the line, “If you want to be a hero, then just follow me” is a brilliant homage to the late artist.