11 Terrible Covers of Classic Songs
Cover songs should be the sincerest form of flattery, and oftentimes, they are. Some remakes are even better than the originals. But in some cases, artists redoing masterworks wind up like that poor old fresco-botching nun in Spain, and the results are not only laughable, but also frighteningly hard on the ears. What follows are 11 Terrible Covers of Classic Songs — reboots too disgraceful to even be ranked in any kind of order. They’re equally bad, and assigning any one superiority, even over its fellow stinkers, would be a miscarriage of rock ‘n’ roll justice.
Look, Tori Amos gets major props for being a successful and fiercely independent female artist in what has long been a male-dominated business. She usually puts out pretty great stuff, and the Fiona Apples of the world would not be around had she not been there first. But this ill-conceived cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ smells like poop. It’s simply contemptible to recast this song as anything but a rager that makes you want to get into a sweaty moshpit and break somebody’s arm. Listen to the clip below for too long and your ears might start bleeding — and not in that good rocked-so-hard-it-hurts way.
Sixpence None the Richer
Sixpence None the Richer nearly topped the U.S. charts with their highly vomit-worthy 1998 single ‘Kiss Me,’ and they followed it up with a bile-inducing cover of Britpop gods the La’s ‘There She Goes.’ The U.S. government should use this version to break enemy combatants at Gitmo. It’s so god awful, it’s even hard writing about it without getting angry.
Vince Neil deserves credit for having two first names and, you know, fronting that little ’80s hair metal outfit Mötley Crüe. One thing he should never, ever, ever try to do again, though, is cover the Ramones. On his cover of ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ — perhaps the punk legends’ most boring song, despite its popularity — he tries to take the aggressive metal approach. Not surprisingly, he deep-sixes it within the first verse.
It totally makes sense that American-born artist Anastacia hit it big in Europe — she’s got that trashy vibe to her deep, androgynous voice, and she’s a singles-producing machine. But her rendition of possibly the greatest Soundgarden song may be one of the worst covers ever recorded. It sounds like she’s being held hostage and forced to choose between karaoke and electrocution. Instead of enduring the torture herself, she makes us suffer.
To paraphrase British playwright Christopher Marlowe, the day uber-chill acoustic troubadour Jack Johnson nabbed his first hit was a day that launched 1,000 douchebags. Johnson made cool something that simply isn’t: jocky dudes strumming heartfelt songs sans electricity. So when Jack jacks Jack White’s ‘We’re Gonna Be Friends,’ it’s jacked up.
311 are one of those bands from the not-so-distant past we sometimes feel bad about liking. Their music has few redeeming qualities, and by recasting the Cure’s repetitious but highly likeable goth-pop hit ‘Love Song’ as chill white-guy reggae, they approximate what nails against chalkboards must sound like in Jamaica.
Oh, the bygone era of the seven-stringed guitar and five-plus-stringed bass! Stalwarts of that epoch included Korn, Staind, Limp Bizkit and the all-but-forgotten Orgy, who tried taking New Order’s seminal dance tune ‘Blue Monday’ to the headbanger’s ball. Instead, they out-Dursted Fred Durst’s ability to make a great song aweful. There’s not a terrible roadside-tavern cover band in the land that does a worse version.
Presidents of the United States of America
The Presidents of the United States of America had their day in the ’90s sun with quirky little numbers like ‘Peaches’ and ‘Lump. But their cover of the Buggles’ ‘Video Killed the Radio Star,’ whose video was the first ever shown on MTV, is just a sad attempt at remaking a highly nuanced, of-its time pop song. Hey, Presidents: Check out Ben Folds Five’s version and take notes. Now that’s how you make a cover.
Guns N’ Roses
When Guns N’ Roses released the covers album ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’ in 1993, critics roundly dissed the disc. None of the tracks are particularly worthwhile, but the one that really hurts is their go at the Misfits’ classic single ‘Attitude,’ which features a grand F-word or 10 and threats of violence at an unnamed member of the opposite sex. (Chris Brown probably has it on his iPod.) It’s not surprising the Misfits are rarely covered well. What is shocking is that this recording was allowed to happen.
In the ’80s, Billy Idol rocked the cradle of love, enjoyed himself a white wedding and screamed “more, more, more,” and we loved him for it. His hits were fun, danceable and pretty easy on the ears. His cover of the Velvet Underground’s classic ‘Heroin,’ on the other hand, is the redheaded stepchild of his canon. There’s really no way to make Lou Reed’s droning drug song into a dance-club party-mix hit. It’d be like Slayer chucking Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’ into the middle of a set. Just wrong.
Jakob Dylan isn’t your typical rock brat. The Wallflowers leader (and son of Bob) is a fine singer and songwriter, and he makes folks like Kelly Osbourne, Ben Taylor and Harper Simon look positively lightweight. But the Wallflowers’ version of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ — done for the 1998 ‘Godzilla’ soundtrack — is about as staid and devoid of creativity as covers get. Luckily, Jakob generally makes like his old man and stick with originals, and it’s served him well.