10 Covers That Are Better Than the Originals

Autumn Simon

Editor’s Note: This was made in collaboration with Traklife writer Adam Godown.

Quick! What’s the first artist that comes to mind when you hear the sorrowful song “Hurt”? Was the answer Nine Inch Nails or Johnny Cash? How about “Respect”? We’re almost certain that you weren’t thinking of Otis Redding when it came to this popular Aretha Franklin cover.

It’s not easy to take an already-popular song and transform it into something that’s both favorable and innovative. Yet, a couple of artists have stepped up to the challenge and created hits that are even better than the originals. We’ve compiled a list of 10 covers that arguably outdid their original counterparts.

Johnny Cash “Hurt”

In 2002, a 71-year-old Johnny Cash was preparing to lay down his black hat and guitar permanently as he was suffering from autonomic neuropathy. “The Man in Black” took his final bow with his rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” While Trent Reznor’s darker version deals with self-harm and addiction, Cash’s version set’s the scene of an aging performer and his fading memories.

Jedd Buckey “Hallelujah”

With a star-studded lineup of cover artists including John Cale, Justin Timberlake and Tori Kelly, “Hallelujah” has become a staple in pop culture. The original creator of this rock and roll gospel ballad was Canadian singer Leonard Cohen. While his version is the source of the song’s deeply moving lyrics, Jedd Buckey is highly acknowledged as the vocally-inspiring artist who pushed others to recreate his sound.

Jimi Hendrix “All Along the Watchtower”

Written by the “The Voice of the Generation,” Bob Dylan, “All Along the Watchtower” has been covered by numerous artists. But its most popular version is by rock legend Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix’s interpretation takes audiences on a trip that only the king of the guitar can.

Whitney Houston “I Will Always Love You”

“Anddddddddddd I” will never get tired of this song! With the roaring voice of Whitney Houston shouting melodically in our ears, many of us fail to realize that this isn’t the first time we heard this ballad. The song was first written and recorded in 1974 by Dolly Parton, but then Whitney Houston recorded her version for the film “The Bodyguard.”

Aretha Franklin “Respect”

Now and then, there is a song that’s so iconic, many would even forget that it’s a cover. This goes for the classic Aretha Franklin hit “Respect.” Otis Redding both wrote and originally performed the hit. Franklin made the song her own and created the most popular female empowerment anthem of all time.

Lorde “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is an 80s staple performed by English pop-rock band Tears for Fears. Lorde dramatically transformed this pop hit to a slower track for her version featured on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This darker version is dramatically haunting yet mesmerizing.

Denzel Curry’s  “Bulls On Parade”

One of the latest entries on our list is this cross-genre take of Rage Against The Machine’s “Bulls On Parade.” The Florida rapper decided to cover this political rock track on Triple J’s Like a Version. The multi-talented artist looked up to the group as a youth and this was his way to pay respect.

Killswitch Engage “Holy Diver”

Heavy metal band Dio performed their leading single “Holy Driver” in 1983. Killswitch Engage covered the song and released their version of the heavy metal song. The cover reintroduced the lost genre to a whole new generation.

Nirvana “The Man Who Sold the World”

On the November 1993 episode of MTV Unplugged, Nirvana performed their legendary set and impressed the whole world. During the performance, the grunge band recorded a live rendition of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World.” Bowie’s heartfelt lyrics resonated with Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain and took on a new meaning after the young artist’s passing.

Joan Jett “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”

The phrase “I love rock and roll” is a recognized chant throughout all generations. The voice synonymous with the mantra is Joan Jett but, many aren’t aware that its true creators are the Arrows. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ version reached critical acclaim and is today known as one of the most popular rock songs of all time.

Here are some more cover songs that blow away the original version.