It’s rare to find a remake of song that manages to outshine the original composition. There’s that saying that you can’t beat a classic, but in some cases a cover or remix of a track can breathe a whole new life into a song.
Check out these 15 covers and remixes that are better than the originals!
Superstar – Luther Vandross
We might be upsetting some hardcore fans of The Carpenters but Luther Vandross’ voice just melts like butter on his rendition of this often interpreted classic. Originally written and recorded by husband and wife duo Delaney & Bonnie, the song just seems to come to life with Vandross’ ultra smooth sound. The late singer makes a song about a groupie’s obsession with a musician she had a one night stand with into a genuine love song.
‘ The Cover: Luther Vandross
The Original: Delaney and Bonnie
This Woman’s Work – Maxwell
We might be splitting hairs here considering how Maxwell’s version doesn’t differ terribly from the Kate Bush original, but it’s the subtlety in the more rhythmic instruments in his arrangement that put his version slightly above. Maxwell also demonstrates a bit of range in toggling between the falsetto and lower notes.
The Cover: Maxwell
The Original: Kate Bush
Girl On Fire (Inferno Version) – Alicia Keys feat. Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj’s unusually understated verses on the Inferno version of “Girl on Fire” give the song another layer, contrasting beautifully with Alicia’s more soaring, powerful vocals. The rapper’s presence on the track makes it more edgy, less corny and more exciting, less boring. The addition of the extra thump in the track and the decision to bring the beat in earlier seamlessly transform this high-powered ballad into a hip-hop track. The subtle difference between the original version and the Inferno can be felt and seen in the way listeners bob their heads to the Inferno remix a little harder.
The Remix: Girl On Fire (Inferno Version) feat. Nicki Minaj
The Original: Girl on Fire (Main Version)
Diamonds/Adorn – Travis Garland
Travis Garland–a smooth Pop/R&B singer-songwriter– got his start as one of the lead singers of Chris Stokes’ urban boy band NLT (Not Like Them). Now an independent artist, the Texas-born singer (whom some may recall performed on American Idol in 2010) uses his Youtube channel to debut covers of popular songs, often better than the original. His cover of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” shines bright in a soulful acoustic arrangement as Garland seamlessly mashes it with Miguel’s hit “Adorn.” He offers a vocal skill unmatched by Rihanna and many of his other contemporaries.
The Cover: Travis Garland “Diamonds”/”Adorn”
The Original: Rihanna “Diamonds”
I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
We will always love Dolly Parton for writing this song, and nothing can take away from her success with it, but Whitney simply knocked this country hit out of the park. With a combination of superb control and moving passion, her sweeping vocals on this 1992 hit are known to illicit an emotional response in listeners. Such an achievement is unmatched in Dolly Parton’s poignant but much more subdued original.
The Cover: Whitney Houston
The Original: Dolly Parton
For Once in My Life – Stevie Wonder
The popular 1968 Stevie Wonder hit was originally recorded by singer Jean DuShon and released as a single in 1966. However, DuShon’s song was a much slower ballad that made very little headway. A young Stevie Wonder signed to Motown requested permission to speed up the tempo, thus giving birth to the classic feel-good hit we know today. Barry Gordy was not convinced of the song’s marketability, though, and decided to shelve the song before eventually relenting. Wonder’s version went on to hit #2 on Billborad’s pop singles and R&B charts.
The Cover: Stevie Wonder
The Original: Jean DuShon
Respect – Aretha Franklin
Many people don’t know that the 1967 Aretha Franklin classic “Respect” is really a 1965 Otis Redding classic with a more simple production and bluesy sound. No one can knock the King of Soul’s original creation, it’s just that Aretha built so much on top of it. Her version of the song boasted a much grander and sunnier arrangement which called for powerhouse vocals that Franklin delivered with copious amounts of attitude. The song became a landmark theme for strong, confident women declaring their independence. Aretha’s biggest contribution to the actual structure of the song was the addition of a bridge in which she spells out R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It is this bridge that has made the song the memorable anthem it is today.
The Cover: Aretha Franklin
The Original: Otis Redding
Shooter (Remix) – Robin Thicke feat. Lil Wayne
Robin Thicke’s track “Oh Shooter” as it appeared on his A Beautiful World album was already gangster from the beat to the simplistic yet original lyrical concept, but with a 4 1/2 minute running time most of the song consists of instrumental, giving the track a feeling of being unfinished. Lil Wayne’s verses on the remix, which appears on both Tha Carter II and The Evolution of Robin Thicke albums, add substance to the track and makes it feel complete.
The Remix: Robin Thicke feat. Lil Wayne
The Original: Robin Thicke
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper made Robert Hazard’s somewhat forgettable pop-rock song into a fun and punchy pop anthem for female solidarity. Women everywhere were cutting loose to this synthesizer- backed track that became Lauper’s breakout hit in the early 80’s.
The Cover: Cyndi Lauper
The Original: Robert Hazard
Love on Top – Syesha Mercado
While not an official remake or release for download, we would be remiss not to include this mind-blowing soulful cover of Beyonce’s “Love on Top.” Former American Idol contestant Syesha performs the song a capella with her background singers in her dressing room before a show, presumably as a rehearsal. The song is carried flawlessly by Mercado who demonstrates her range, moving effortlessly from key change to key change and hitting those high notes. Her stripped down version is reminiscent of a young Mariah Carey and the memorable ballads of the 90’s while the smooth harmonies of her background singers remind of the Motown days.
The Cover: Syesha
The Original: Beyonce
If I Were a Boy – Beyonce
This beloved Beyonce song was first written and recorded by a little known singer- songwriter named BC Jean in 2008. Beyonce did little to change the song, which is just fine because it works beautifully as originally recorded by Jean–who sings with a raspy voice reminiscent of Melissa Ethridge, only lighter. Where Bey excels is in her smooth soulful performance. Jean’s version is no less enjoyable, though. It all comes down to a preference in style.
The Cover: Beyonce
The Original: BC Jean
Killing Me Softly – The Fugees
Though “Killing Me Softly” was originally recorded by Lori Lieberman and popularized by Roberta Flack, The Fugees’ modern hip-hop take on this classic adds the most creativity. The Fugees’ rendition actually sticks close to the original in that Lauryn Hill provides passionate vocals that give as much meaning to the song as Lieberman’s minimalist folk version.
The Cover: The Fugees
The Original: Lori Lieberman
Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
This song was a 90’s hit thanks to Natalie Imbruglia but the original was recorded by alternative rock band EdnaSwap. Imbruglia took the band’s fragile rock ballad and turned it into an uptempo pop song with a slight new age flair, yet she still managed to make it vulnerable.
The Cover: Natalie Imbruglia
The Original: EdnaSwap
I Love Rock and Roll – Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
Joan Jett and The Blackhearts turned this poorly performing single by Arrows into a bonafide hit and rock and roll anthem with memorable guitar solos. Their version put a more lively and s e x y spin on the song.
The Cover: Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
The Original: Arrows
I Will Give Everything I Own – Nsync
JC Chasez leads beautifully with his strong, soulful voice in this remake of a classic by Bread, while Justin Timberlake adds his more youthful vocal flair. Even Chris Kirkpatrick who rarely had a solo in the group shines, getting a chance to showcase his light vocals which fit harmoniously at the bridge of the song. The group brings a passion to the country-tinged rock ballad that was not present in the original. They make you feel the lyrics that Bread’s David Gates wrote with such poignancy about losing his father.
The Cover: Nsync
The Original: Bread