Top 10 Cover Songs, Better Than the Original

Sometimes we listen to songs that we really enjoy but don’t realize that they are cover version.  When you go back and listen to the original there are times when the cover version sounds better than the original.  There are countless covers of different songs.  We have complied a list of the top 10 covers better than the original, using songs that either the original or cover is a known song that at least charted.  The list is based part on song popularity and part of personal opinion.  We have included videos for the original as well as the better cover.  Let us know if you agree!

#10 “It’s My Life” – Talk Talk / No Doubt

“It’s My Life” was written and released by British pop band Talk Talk in 1984.  It was the title track off the bands second album It’s My Life. The song reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart in 1984.  When the song was re-released in 1990 it peaked at #13 on the UK Singles Chart.  In 2003 US band No Doubt recorded a cover of “It’s My Life” to promote their greatest hits album, The Singles 1992-2003. The song was nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 47th Grammy Awards. The cover reached #10 on the US Billboard Top 100 chart and the song reached the top 10 in many European countries.

#9 “Crying in the Rain” – The Everly Brothers / A-ha

“Crying in the Rain” is a song written by Howard Greenfield and Carole King and was originally recorded by The Everly Brothers and released in 1962.  The song peaked at #6 on the US Pop Charts in 1962.  Norwegian pop band A-ha covered the song in 1990.  A-ha band members were presented a set of guitars by The Everly Brothers that A-ha continues to use.  A-ha cover of “Crying in the Rain” peaked at #1 on the Norwegian Singles Charts, #13 on the UK Singles Charts and #26 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Charts.

#8 “I Started a Joke” – The Bee Gees / The Wallflowers

“I Started a Joke” was originally released by English/Australian Pop band The Bee Gees in 1968.  The song was featured on their album, Ideas in 1968 and is mainly written and sung by Robin Gibb.  In 1969 the song peaked at #6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the Dutch Singles Chart.  In 2001 US Band The Wallflowers, fronted by Jakob Dylan, released a cover of the song for the soundtrack album of the movie Zoolander.  There is not too much information to be found on this cover version but they certainly do an excellent version.

#7 “Jolene” – Dolly Parton / The White Stripes

“Jolene” was written and performed by Dolly Parton in 1974.  Parton said the name “Jolene” came from a beautiful little red-headed girl with green eyes who sought her autograph at a concert.  The song reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot Country Singles chart and #7 on the UK Singles Chart.  It is ranked #217 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.  The White Stripes released a cover version of “Jolene” in 2004 on their album “Live Under Blackpool Lights”.  The song  reached #16 in the UK singles chart in 2004 and was ranked #10 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2004.

#6 “Mad World” – Tears for Fears / Gary Jules

“Mad World” is a song by the British band Tears for Fears. Written by Roland Orzabal and sung by bassist Curt Smith, it was the band’s third single release and first chart hit, reaching #3 on the UK Singles Chart in November 1982.  The song would eventually become Tears for Fears’ first international hit, reaching the Top 40 in several countries between 1982 and 1983.  “Mad World” would achieve a second round of success beginning almost twenty years later, after it was covered by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules for the film Donnie Darko. Their version was originally released on CD in 2002 on the film’s soundtrack, but an increasing cult following spawned by the movie’s DVD release finally prompted Jules and Andrews to issue the song as a proper single. The release was a success in late 2003, becoming the #1 Single over the Christmas holiday in the UK, a feat Tears for Fears themselves never accomplished.

#5 “Sweet Dreams” – Eurythmics / Marilyn Manson

“Sweet Dreams” was originally written and performed by Eurythmics in 1983.  The song was one of the bands biggest hits.  The song propelled the band position #2 on the UK singles chart and to their only #1 ranking on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.  In 1996 Marilyn Manson released a cover version of “Sweet Dreams” as the first single from the EP, Smells Like Children.  In 2010 the Marilyn Manson “Sweet Dreams” music video was rated the “Scariest music video ever made” by Billboard, beating Michael Jacksons Thriller for the top spot.  The album peaked at #31 on the US Billboard 200.

#4 “Red Red Wine” Neil Diamond / UB40

“Red Red Wine” was written and originally recorded by Neil Diamond.  It was featured on his second album Just For You in 1967.  The song was later released on A-side and B-side singles.  In 1968 the song reached #62 on the US Billboard Top 100.  In 1983 UK reggae/pop band UB40 made their cover version of the song for their album Labour of Love.  Their version featured a lighter, reggae-style flavor compared to Diamond’s somber, acoustic ballad.  This version reached #1 on the UK chart in 1983, and #34 in the U.S. in 1984.  The song later reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1988.

#3“Over the Rainbow” – Judy Garland / Israel Kamakawiwo ‘Ole

“Over the Rainbow” was written by E.Y Harburg for the 1939 movie “The Wizard of OZ”.  In the movie the song was sung by Judy Garland and became her ‘signature song’.  The song is number one of the “Songs of the Century” list compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.  Israel Kamakawiwo ‘Oles album Facing Future, released in 1993, included a ukulele version of “Over the Rainbow”.  The song reached #12 on Billboard’s Hot Digital Tracks chart in 2004.  The song reached #1 on the French Singles Chart.  This version has been used in several commercials, films and television programs including Finding Forrester, Meet Joe Black, 50 First Dates, Snakes on a Plane, Charmed, South Pacific, Cold Case, ER, Life on Mars, Horizon, and Scrubs.

#2 “Nothing Compares 2 U” Prince / Sinead O’Connor

“Nothing Compares 2 U” was a song originally written and composed by Prince.  In 1985 Prince created a side project, The Family, a funk band that was an outlet for more of Princes music.  The Family released their first and only album “Nothing Compares 2 U” was a song on the album but was not released as a single and received little recognition.  Prince performed the song as a live duet with Rosie Gaines, subsequently released on his 1993 compilations The Hits/The B-Sides and The Hits 1. The song was covered and made famous by Irish singer Sinead o’Connor.  The song was featured on her second album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.  It became a worldwide hit, reaching #1 on charts all over the world.  The song was listed at number 77 on Billboard’s “Greatest Songs of All Time”

#1 “Hurt” – Nine Inch Nails / Johnny Cash

“Hurt” was originally written by Trent Reznor, and recorded by Nine Inch Nails.  The song was first released on the Nine Inch Nails 1994 album, Downward Spiral.  “Hurt” received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song in 1996.  In 2002 Johnny Cash covered the song on his album American IV: The Man Comes Around.  When Trent Reznor was asked if Cash could cover his song, Reznor said he was “flattered” but worried that “the idea sounded a bit gimmicky.” He became a fan of Cash’s version, however, once he saw the music video.  The video for Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” featured images from Cash’s life and was named the best video of the year by the Grammy Awards and CMA Awards, and the best video of all time by NME in July 2011.


    • I compiled this list and yes it is based on opinion. You can not get a fact from which versions are the best as opinions will always differ and this is what makes this list fun and interesting.

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