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By Erica Cawagas
What makes a great cover? Is it the arrangement, the singer, the stamp of approval from the original artist? Is it better if it sounds closer to the original or if it’s barely recognizable? This playlist consists of covers that pay respect to the original while still being able to apply their own flair and style.
I Will Survive – Cake (Gloria Gaynor)
Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” was first released in 1979. Cake not to be confused with The Cake is an American alternative rock band. Cake covered “I Will Survive” in their 1996 album Fashion Nugget which went platinum. Cake can be easily identified by their lead singer John McCrea’s style of sarcastic monotone vocals as well as clearly being influenced by mariachi rock, funk and Iranian folk music.
California Dreamin’(Latin Version) – Garbiela Teran (The Mamas & Papas)
California Dreamin’ was originally recorded by Barry McGuire but was made popular by The Mamas & Papas in 1965. It has become THE California song and is No. 89 in Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Gabriela Terans version appears in the soundtrack of The Belko Experiment a Blumhouse Production alongside the rock version of “California Dreamin’” by Tyler Bates. When the Latin version of “California Dreamin’ is translated, it’s not the same lyrics as the original English. While this might take away from the original, the arrangement and the drastic change in styles makes it worth listening to.
No Diggity (Live Session) – Chet Faker (Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre, Queen Pen)
Nick Murphy is an Australian singer songwriter who previously performed under the stage name Chet Faker. Nick Murphy chose the name Chet Faker as a homage to the well known Jazz trumpeter and vocalist Chet Baker. “No Diggity” was featured in a 2013 Super Bowl commercial for Beck’s beer and then was later released in his first album Built on Glass in 2014. The album version is actually quite different from the live session being a bit faster and featuring more electronic instruments instead of acoustic. The feel and vibe of the live session is closer to Blackstreet’s original version than the album version. Nick Murphy has been performing under his birth name since 2016.
Killing Me Softly – The Fugees (Roberta Flack)
“Killing Me Softly” was composed by Charlie Fox and with lyrics by Norman Gimbel in collaboration with singer Lori Leiberman. She was the first to record the song in 1971. It wasn’t very popular. In 1972 Roberta Flack was on an airplane when she first heard “Killing Me Softly With His Song”. She was so enthralled by the song that she listened to it over and over again writing down the lyrics and melody on a piece of paper. As soon as she landed contacted Charlie Fox to get the rights to record the song. In 1972 Roberta Flack opened for Marvin Gaye. When asked for a second encore Flack performed for the very first time “Killing Me Softly” which was immediately a hit. In 1973 when Flack released her version it was No. 1 song in the U.S charts for 5 consecutive weeks and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. In 1996 the Fugees covered Flack’s Version of “Killing Me Softly” and it also became a hit. It was No. 2 in the U.S charts and in 1997 The Fugees won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) – Sly & The Family Stone (Doris Day)
Que Sera Sera was first introduced by actress Doris Day in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 film The Man Who Knew Too Much. In 1973 Sly & the Family Stone released their version of “Que Sera Sera” on their 6th album Fresh. It can be described as a radically slowed-down and soulful version. This version appears as the ending credit song in the 1989 film Heathers starring Winona Ryder and Christina Slater. Que Sera Sera was a repeated theme within Heathers so there were multiple versions of the song that appeared in the soundtrack.
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Lauryn Hill (Frankie Valli)
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You was first recorded by Frankie Valli in 1967. It was one of his first solo songs to be recorded apart from the Four Seasons. It has been recorded by over 200 artists over the decades and has been featured in many films. Lauryn Hill released her hip hop version in 1998. Right after it was featured in the 1999 film 10 things I Hate About you sang by Heath Ledger.
If I Ain’t Got You – Scary Pockets ft Kenton Chen (Alicia Keys)
Scary Pockets is a funk band that releases weekly music videos in pursuit of the FUNK. Scary Pockets consists of Ryan Lerman and Jack Conte, with the help and support from a rotating roster of the best session musicians in the LA area.
Stand By Me – Ki Theory (Ben E. King)
Written and recorded in 1961, Stand By Me is a classic sung by Ben. E King. There have been over 400 recorded versions of this song. Stand by Me has been sung by John Lennon, Tracy Chapman, Florence and the Machine and many more notable artists. Ki Theory covered Stand By Me in their 2014 album KITTY HAWK. This cover has been featured in The Following, Fear The Walking Dead, Bates Motel and the Netflix original show Marco Polo.
Careless Whisper – Seether (Geoge Michael)
Seether is a South African hard rock band that covered “Careless Whisper” as a joke. The American record label Wind-up who gave Seether a record deal to release music in North America requested that they write a valentine’s day song. In response Seether turned a “cheesy 80’s ballad” into a hard rock/metal song.
50 Ways to Leave your Lover – Pomplamoose (Paul Simon)
Paul Simon wrote ”50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” in 1975 following his divorce from Peggy Harper. Pomplamoose is an American musical duo composed of husband-and-wife multi-instrumentalists Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn. They are known for their viral YouTube videos and covers of popular songs. Even though they have gotten many offers from recording labels they choose to stay independent saying they already make a living off their online sales noting that they’ve never had physical CD’s.
Where Do I Begin (Love Story) – Shirley Bassey & The AWAY TEAM (Andy Williams)
Shirley Bassey is blessed with one of the most powerful voices in history and is well known for her James Bond theme Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever released in 1964. In 2000 Shirley Bassey released The Remix Album… Diamonds are Forever which consisted of classics remixed by various DJ’s and artists. Where Do I Begin (Love Story) was first introduced as an instrumental theme in the 1970 film Love Story. Later a version with lyrics was recorded by Andy Williams.
At Last – Cyndi Lauper (Etta James)
Many know Cyndi Lauper for her hit songs “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, “Time After Time”, and “True Colours”. In 2003 Cyndi Lauper recorded her album At Last which consisted solely of covers of classics such as “Makin’ Whoopee”, “La Vie en Rose”, “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” and many more. The entire album is a great listen with very somber and beautiful reharmonization with a minimalistic instrumentation but the arrangement of “At Last” really captured the idiosyncrasies of Cyndi Lauper as well as reminding us all of her vocal chops.
To listen to the full playlist, click here.