this is part of an ongoing series called 25 in the 2000s. if you want a bit of information about the series, you can find the introduction here.
ah, the cover song. we are all magnetically drawn to the power of someone doing a song previously done by another artist. it’s truly unexplainable. from the newly interpreted beauty to the refreshing newfound angle to the downright funny, cover songs are a musical phenomenon that cannot be denied. so, here’s my list of the 25 cover songs that rose to the top of the aughts.
you can listen to all the tracks in the embedded player here or,if you’d like to fill your ipod up with a playlist of awesome, you can download a zipped file with all the tracks at the bottom.]
25. just. phantom planet (mark ronson). original: radiohead.
24. i’m looking through you. the wallflowers. original: the beatles.
23. don’t look back in anger. maroon 5. original: oasis.
22. billie jean. chris cornell. original: michael jackson.
21. boyz n the hood. dynamite hack. original: eazy e.
20. take me out. scissor sisters. original: franz ferdinand.
19. sea of love. cat power. original: phil phillips.
18. fix you. young at heart. original: coldplay.
17. hallelujah. rufus wainwright. original: leonard cohen.
16. lucy in the sky with diamonds. the black crowes. original: the beatles.
15. burn. brandi carlile. original: ray lamontagne.
14. lovin’s for fools. bon iver. original: sarah siskind.
13. please read the letter. alison krauss & robert plant. original: robert plant & jimmy page.
12. lithium. the polyphonic spree. original: nirvana.
11. dead leaves and the dirty ground. chris thile. original: the white stripes.
10. across the universe. rufus wainwright. original: the beatles. how many times can someone cover a beatles songs without it just sounding like a warmed-over repeat over and over? well, rufus wainwright has a knack (and a voice) for pulling it off in a way that brings a freshness and beauty to it that’s necessary.
09. mad world. gary jules. original: tears for fears. this is one of those cover songs from out of nowhere that is so, so good that it immediately catches you attention. such was the case with this track that was originally brought to the public’s attention through, bizarrely, a gears of war (video game) commercial.
08. valerie. amy winehouse (mark ronson). original: the zutons. sometimes a cover’s great because it takes a song that you know so well and adds a new spin to it. and then there’s the times that you don’t discover until much later that it was even a cover. in the case of amy winehouse’s valerie (courtesy of producer mark ronson), no one knew who the zutons were and she has made the track her own.
07. hey ya!. obadiah parker. original: outkast. speaking of tracks you know so well…this is one of those covers that are so great because it creates a bit of a paradox. on one hand, you have this immensely popular rap song but on the other hand, it’s done by a dude with a beard and a guitar. in the end, it’s oddness became something more than just odd.
06. heart in a cage. chris thile. original: the strokes. this is another case of seemingly dissonant musical styles colliding and making something brilliant. not many people would think that the rompous rock of the strokes would match well with the alt bluegrass style of chris thile. we, of course, learned it did.
05. when doves cry. damien rice. original: prince. it’s just hard to remake a prince song and add anything worthwhile. but damien rice so beautifully pulls off when doves cry that not only does do it justice, but he adds a whole new intensely personal level to it that it would surely make its songwriter proud.
04. to love somebody. ray lamontagne & damien rice. original: the bee gees. this is sort of a no-brainer: ray lamontagne singing with damien rice. we don’t really need any further explanation. they could be singing the barney song and still make it deeply personal and beautiful.
03. toxic. tiggers ft. ol’ dirty bastard (mark ronson). original: britney spears. ol’ dirty bastard adding 16 bars to britney spears’ toxic? instant genius. again, this is one of those classic sure-fire cover songs where this seeming paradox of song/artist makes it so great. so, listen to this track, revel in its greatness/oddness and pour out some liquor for ODB.
02. crazy. ray lamontagne. original: gnarls barkley. how could we have a cover songs list from this decade without mentioning the 400 million covers of gnarls barkley’s crazy? there were a lot of great versions of this song, but there was none better than ray lamontagne’s. with his raspy voice and old school folk, he added an extra layer to the song that no one else could bring.
01. hurt. johnny cash. original: nine inch nails. this is one of the ultimate cover songs not just of this decade, but of all time. no song could have better summed up johnny cash’s career and current phyiscal/emotional state that trent reznor’s hurt. much like some others, this is not a nine inch nails song anymore. it’s a johnny cash song. his haunting delivery was one of the defining songs of the last 10 years.
so there you have it. there’s the list. what do you think? i’ve certainly missed some big stories. what are they? i’ve, no doubt, ranked some things too high or too low. what are they? help me to flesh out and “correct” my list.
see you in a few days with my next list: one hit wonders.