Official Opinions: Originals Vs. Covers

My iTunes library is large. Extremely large. I have nearly 60GB of music (which is almost 15,000 songs).  I can’t help but notice that in my large library of [awesome] music selections that often times, I will have multiple versions of the same song. It really begs the questions – can a cover version of a song be better than the original?

Now obviously everybody has a different opinion, but hey, I like to debate a little bit – it’s fun! Here’s a list of 10 popular songs and their equally popular cover versions and my preference between the two.

  1. All Along the Watchtower – Bob Dylan vs. Jimi Hendrix – I’m going to have to go with the Jimi Hendrix cover version. Don’t get me wrong, Dylan’s original version is great and all, but let’s face it, the Hendrix guitar solo is an experience in mind melting.
  2. American Woman – The Guess Who vs. Lenny Kravitz – To me, this isn’t even a question – The Guess Who. They wrote a gritty, bluesy rock song that played through my head just about every time I saw a cute girl in high school. Lenny Kravitz? A little boy trying to play with the big kids – it just looses its raw power in his version.
  3. Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen vs. Jeff Buckley vs. John Cale vs. Rufus Wainright – Battle of the Titans. It’s one original versus three covers. Let’s start right out and say that Leonard Cohen wrote a great song but just did not perform it well. The cover versions are superior. But which is the best? I think the next out is probably Rufus Wainwright – it’s smooth and beautiful, sure, but Buckley and Cale already covered it first, it’s not a unique cover. So that leaves Buckley vs. Cale… It’s a tough choice, but I’m going to go Buckley. I like the mellow guitar over the piano – it’s a nice change.
  4. Hey Ya – Outkast vs. Obadiah ParkerOutkast is fun to dance to and all, but I never really “got” the song… until I heard the Obadiah Parker Cover which is just beautiful and really captures the lyrics. I’m also a big folkie, so Obadiah Parker’s cover wins it for me.
  5. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) – Marvin Gaye vs. James Taylor – I grew up with the James Taylor version and I’ve seen it live in concert. I prefer it purely out of knowing it first. The original by Marvin Gaye is fantastic though, I love it, but just a little bit less than JT’s version. I guess it depends if you want the Motown sound versus a bluesy version.
  6. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan Vs. Guns N’ Roses – I’ve gotta go with the Dylan original. This is a just a great folk rock song and I shudder and the thought of adding power chords into it to make it an 80s power ballad. Sorry GNR.
  7. La Bamba – Ritchie Valens vs. Los Lobos – I honestly can’t decide. I love the song, so I suppose you could argue that the original is the way to go, but if I ever I want a clean cut version of the song that has a little more punch behind it, the Los Lobos cover provides. I think I’ll have to go with Los Lobos, purely for the cleaner sound (Ritchie is still great though!)
  8. Mr. Tambourine Man – Bob Dylan vs. The ByrdsBob Dylan. Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan. Nearly every major list of “the greatest songs ever” disagrees with me, placing The Byrds over Dylan, but Dylan’s version captures the essence of the 60s in a less dramatic “look at us, we’re flower children” way than The Byrds.
  9. Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival vs. Ike & Tina Turner – CCR. Fogerty wrote the song as a swamp/roots rock song and its about the river, so I really think the vibe of the song is supposed to be gritty swamp rock. Naturally, more people know Tina Turner’s version which is more of a soul version. I’m more of a rock n’ roll guy, so CCR wins, but I respect what Tina did with the song.
  10. Smooth Criminal – Michael Jackson vs. Alien Ant FarmThe King of Pop wins it, although I do like the Alien Ant Farm version. MJ just owns the song though – it’s really meant to be a funk/dance-pop song. Alien Ant Farm’s heavy rock version is cool, but really more of a novelty.

Originals: 5

Covers: 5

Looks like they’re pretty evenly split in my mind. So the verdict is bring on the cover versions… you could be in for a pleasant surprise! Agree or disagree with me? Leave a comment and tell me why I’m right or wrong!

-Derek, Marketing



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