A great cover can do wonders for a song. The Cowboy Junkies made the Velvet Underground song “Sweet Jane” their own by turning it into a melancholy tune. Pearl Jam brought the in the pain and loss from Wayne Cochrane’s “Last Kiss” and ended up with their biggest hit to date.
But there are some covers which are downright weird. A famous Canadian crooner covering alternative music? A Swedish sugary pop group covering a heavy metal classic? A Japenese all-female punk group covering a lite FM staple?
The best part is these songs are disarmingly fun, catchy, and worthwhile. So what are the Top 10 most bizarre cover songs (that are actually kinda cool)?
#10 — Chop Suey by Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine(originally sung by System of a Down). Richard Cheese has pretty much based his entire career on covering rock, metal, rap, and pop songs in lounge music style. I was never a big fan, since Mr. Cheese’s covers just seemed so obvious. It might have something to do with how he keeps all the obscenities in the songs, a dead giveaway that he’s doing a cover/parody. “Chop Suey” is my favorite cover, just because there’s something endearing with the lyric “I don’t think you trust in my self-righteous suicide” sung in lounge style and accompanied by piano. In my mind, it’s actually superceded the original System of a Down song as the correct way to sing the lyrics. As a side note, it seems that Richard Cheese is set to retire soon due to vocal problems. Truly a pity.
#9 — … Baby One More Time by Fountains of Wayne (originally sung by Britney Spears). A famous Britney Spears song sung by the guys who brought you Stacy’s Mom. Depending on the company, you’d be ashamed to say to be fans of either. FoW, however, manages to add a sound of desperation to Britney’s originally peppy tune. And you know what? It actually sounds like it belonged there in the first place! Frankly, I’ve always felt that current Britney, who is wallowed in her own pit of sadness and despair, should listen to this song and take heed… mainly because I feel she should pursue a different musical style, and she could do a lot worse than if she followed Wayne’s lead.
#8 — Jump In The Line by DaVinci’s Notebook (originally sung by Harry Belafonte). Also known as “Shake Senora” and seen on Beetlejuice. You’d think there wasn’t much you could do to liven up the Harry Belafonte original. Leave it up to the acapella group to spice it up by simplifying the music, upping the tempo, and adding some silly asides.
#7 — Boyz-n-the Hood by Dynamite Hack (originally sung by Easy-E of the NWA). What’s the secret message of this song? Is it about how preppies in the Valley take their privileged lifestyle for granted? Is it criticism aimed at wiggers? Or did Dynamite Hack just think it was just hilarious to turn one of the most classic gangsta rap songs into the whitest folk song ever?
#6 — I Will Survive by Cake (originally sung by Gloria Gaynor). I remember playing this song in my car, and my passenger, who was a big fan of ’70’s disco, was exasperated. “What is wrong with this guy?” she said. “This is supposed to be a happy song! And he’s so mopey, singing like ‘F*** you’ and all that.” Ah, good times.
#5 — You’ve Got a Friend by Me First and the Gimme Gimmies (originally sung by James Taylor). Me First and the Gimme Gimmies does a great job at covering punk versions of a huge variety of songs without losing the meaning of the original. In a previous Top 10, I mentioned how the band captured the inherent whininess in the Simon & Garfunkel classic, “I Am a Rock.” The band also does a great job with this song, “You’ve Got a Friend.” The original James Taylor song sounds like a dewy eyes ballad that you and your friend listen to on a rainy day while, I don’t know, arranging photo albums or something. The Gimme Gimmies version is something you and your friend can listen to while doing cool things, like snowboarding or mountain biking while slamming down a Mountain Dew. Hey, that’s what friends do, right?
#4 — Iron Man by the Cardigans (originally sung by Black Sabbath). Oh, man! This is the greatest version of Iron Man ever! The Cardigans are the same Swedish pop group that gave us “Lovefool,” which, if you’ll remember, was a delightfully subversive song that sounded like sugary pop was was really about an emotionally needy woman who could live with someone pretending to love her. Ever since, I’ve always respected this group for putting together intelligent songs that only seem superficially shallow. I also appreciate Nina Persson‘s ethereal hotness. Anyway, “Iron Man” follows that grand tradition. On the surface, it is a REALLY BAD cover of the famous “Iron Man” song sung by Ozzie Osbourne. But is it? Listen closely, and Nina and her subtle vocal trickery turns it into a criticism of a guy who thinks he’s all that.
#3 — Black Hole Sun by Paul Anka (originally sung by Soundgarden). Paul Anka is a crooner famous for the lyrics “Put your head on my shoulder.” What’s he doing covering Black Hole Sun? It turns out that it’s probably the best cover on his whole “Rock Swings” album, which also has covers of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana and “Wonderwall” by Oasis. Anka sticks to his crooner roots in his cover, and, surprisingly, it works! If you didn’t know that the song was originally done by Soundgarden, you’d swear it was a jazz original. That’s why I prefer Anka’s style over that of Richard Cheese: while Cheese kinda mocked his subjects, Anka made the song his own.
#2 — Top of the World by Shonen Knife (originally sung by the Carpenters). Kids nowadays may think Shonen Knife as just another J-pop band no different from Puffy Amiyumi. Well, I’ve got news for you: these girls used to open for Nirvana. NIRVANA. And they were gleefully insane when that was the exception to J-pop rather than the rule. Anyway, I have huge respect for the Carpenters. The ’70’s were filled with tons of schmaltzy acts like Captain & Tenille and Peaches & Herb. However, I always felt that the Carpenters stood out. Their songs took on an extra layer of sadness and soulfulness that was beautiful and elegaic. Which means … a song like “Top of the World” was all wrong for them. It’s a song about happiness, yet Karen Carpenter plays it so downkey that you wouldn’t know it! And although you can barely understand Shonen Knife half the time, they strike the right tone: they’re peppy and happy, and their joy quickly becomes your own.
#1 — Pretty much the entire “In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy” album by Pat Boone. “In a Metal Mood” is perhaps one of the most mocked album of all time. Embracing it means that you are no fan of music.
Well… screw y’all! I contend that this album contains some of the greatest covers of all time! Observe:
- Pat sings the songs slow enough that, for the first time, you can actually understand the lyrics of “Crazy Train” and “Smoke of the Water.”
- Pat is not even pretending to do a heavy metal album here. All the songs are done in swinging big band style.
- Heck, Pat shows that he has a bigger sense of humor than all of his critics. When this album came out, people were wringing their hands that Pat Boone had crossed over to the devil’s music. Very few realized that he was joking. What, did the fake tattoos, the open vest, and the glint in his eye on the album cover not tip you off?
- Metal fans wring their hands that Boone was entering their turf. Yet the album got quite a bit of support from people in the metal community. I mean, Ronnie James Dio (I absolutely love his backup vocals on “Holy Diver”), Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple, and Dweezil Zappa all make appearances on the album. And, c’mon, Pat Boone is an close family friend of the Osbournes. Why do you think they used his cover of “Crazy Train” for their reality show?
- The whole album is also a nifty play on accusations earlier in Pat Boone’s career that he was just stealing music from African Americans and making them easier for white people to listen too. Is it any coincidence that In A Metal Mood tones down heavy metal music so squares can listen to it?
- And finally, Pat got kicked out of his job on Trinity Broadcasting Network over this album. That’s pretty metal.
So there it is… the entirety of “In A Metal Mood” is filled with the most bizarre cover songs ever! And here’s a taste of that album: