Not to be Covered

When someone covers an existing song, they do something to it. Most of the time these unexpected results are pleasant. Then there are those instances where the endeavor is less than favorable. With the proliferation of sites like YouTube and the availability of recording gear, record companies are no longer dominating music production. It’s in the hands of the people. This has led to widespread covers of popular songs. Go onto YouTube and search for your favorite tune. The original may be the first selection in a list of thousands but the original recording is no longer the only version available.

Even with all of this access, there are some songs that are just better left untouched. Covers, no matter the quality, are unable to surpass or even hold level with the original. That’s not to say that a respectable cover cannot be accomplished, but most attempts are just laughable. With that thought, here are a few songs (in no particular order…expect the first one) which stand in a class alone. This is not a comprehensive list. It’s a personal list! And there are some exceptions, but very few. 

Here are five songs that I’m convinced that will never have an equivocal cover version. I have included honorable mentions though, just to be fair:

1) Bohemian Rhypsody by Queen

This song holds some special, personal meaning which adds this layer of bias. I’m willing to disclose that immediately. Bias aside, this song is so rich in tones and melody that I have yet to hear anyone that has come close to replicating the effect the original version produces. I mean, Freddy Mercury has an incredible voice and aside from Chris Cornell, I haven’t heard a male lead who has the power that he did. Plus, we all know the opera interlude is timeless. I think that is what trips up most remakes. They just can’t quite get that part right.

Honorable Mention: The Muppets

I mean, c’mon…Muppets.

2) Feelin’ Good by Nina Simone

This woman’s voice is just unmistakable. Nina Simone oozes soul through her music. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone come close to her sound. That is why there is no reason to cover her music. This song is particularly powerful. No one else should sing it. It’s effect is so potent, it’s not surprising that others make an attempt.

Honorable Mention: Michael Buble

He does have a distinct voice as well, so his version comes out pretty decent.

3) Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin

It goes without saying: rock legends. And is there any chance of successfully covering a song that was originally produced by a legendary band? I’m going to have to say no. I think most attempts to cover this song have been in the vein of duplications by aspiring guitarist though. Most people probably have enough respect for the song not to try and render it into something new.

Honorable Mention: Heart

It doesn’t hurt to have one rock legend covering another. Plus, Ann Wilson has some pipes!

4) Thriller by Michael Jackson

He is the King of Pop for a reason! When I was a kid, this video used to send me running for cover, I was so afraid. To my knowledge I haven’t seen a cover of this song. I’m probably not looking too hard though. And why should I? There are plenty of covers of other Michael Jackson songs, and they are all well and good, but this song has a very distinct sound and character. It really can’t be simply covered. This is the only song on my list that doesn’t have an “Honorable Mention.”

5) Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

This is kind of a random song. I have heard it covered in so many ways. There is a level of emotional depth that if not captured, kind of ruins the song. The various covers all sound beautiful. It’s a beautiful song, but when they miss that…feeling, the song just sounds hallow to me. Leonard, the writer of the song, just has it.

Honorable Mention: John Cale as seen in Scrubs

John Cale seems to have captured the emotion that is pivotal to this song.


So, not to be a total Nazi about it, but there are some songs just better left alone. Any other songs that shouldn’t be covered? Add your thoughts in the comments section!


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