The joys of cover songs

By Sarah Contreras

Is there anything better than a quality cover song? Well, of course there is: strawberry ice cream, a good hair day, handwritten letters, buttery pastries, etc. But, I digress. A truly great cover song is still a wonderful thing. My iTunes library happens to be full of them, and so today I’ve decided to share with you, dear readers, a few of my favorites.

Ryan Adams, Wonderwall

Seeing as my name is Sarah Contreras, it is only natural that I kick off a list with an Adams tune. Oasis’ well-loved song is already pretty emotional, but when Adams got hold of it, it became heartbreakingly perfect. Adams’ slow, yowling vocals give weight to the sadness that has always floated on the periphery of the original, making iconic lines such as “I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now” more significant than ever. Oasis member Noel Gallagher has gone on record lauding the performance. (Liam hates it, naturally).

John Mayer, Free Fallin’

Whatever can be said about John Mayer, it is undeniable that the man is ridiculously talented. His acoustic take on Tom Petty’s most famous song is fresh without deviating completely from the original (a key component to a good cover song). Mayer softens the song by refusing to try and hit those infamous high notes, and the effect is pretty gorgeous. Add in some intricate acoustic guitar work and the song finally reaches its full potential.

New Found Glory, The King of Wishful Thinking

Ah, the ’80s—the decade that brought us some truly cheesy songs. A lot of them, such as Go West’s The King of Wishful Thinking, would be pop song staples if they weren’t so synthetic-sounding. Enter the princes of cover songs: New Found Glory. After tackling Celine Dion and Aerosmith, the band approached the most melancholically hopeful song of the ’80s and made it 10 times better. The upbeat guitars make it insanely catchy, and the sad-sap lyrics are ready-made to be enjoyed by pop-punk lovers who refuse to let the genre die.

Van Morrison, Bein’ Green

This song, originally written for Kermit the Frog (which is awesome), has been covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Andrew Bird. However, in my humble opinion, Van Morrison’s version is by far the best. The timeless song has always been more than just a learning song for kids. It’s a theme for anybody out there who has felt a little different and out of place. Morrison’s distinctive, soaring voice takes the song from mawkish to powerful, making it a staple in the music collections of any lover of great classic rock.

M. Ward, Rave On

Buddy Holly lyrics, Zooey Deschanel vocals, M. Ward’s swooning, nostalgic music…the song is adorable, and that is all that matters.

311, Love Song

Remember 311? Neither do any other 18-year-olds. The band’s star faded in the early 2000s, but not before they could leave one lasting impression in the Cover Song Hall of Fame. Taking on The Cure is a tricky thing, and most attempts end in disaster (see Dryden Mitchell’s Friday, I’m in Love). However, by sticking to the “don’t deviate too much” rule, 311 knocked their cover of Love Song out of the proverbial park. It’s pretty much the original, with 311’s signature beachy sound layered over it, making it a slower, laid back tune. The lyric’s plaintive vows are kept well intact, and The Cure’s legacy is made accessible to yet another generation.