Can Covers Compare? An Analysis of Three Cover Songs

Cover songs have long been a contested medium in the music community. Are cover bands real bands? Should covers be allowed without permission from the original artist?Can a cover really be better than the original?

While I can’t provide an answer for the first two questions, I can provide a strong argument for the third. As proof that, in some cases, they can be better, here are three cover songs that I think are significantly improved versions of the original songs.

“Hot Girl Bummer”

Original: Blackbear

Blackbear’s original version of “Hot Girl Bummer” is good, but a bit too produced for my taste. While this is obviously a part of the genre, I think the song would sound a lot better if it felt more full in terms of instrumentals instead of just beats in the background. Blackbear has smooth, light vocals that could breeze right over something fuller, highlighting his natural talent instead of hiding it behind generic digital beats.

Cover: Our Last Night

This track was a great choice for Our Last Night: Trevor and Matthew both have the perfect vocal styles to do the flowy, stylized verses justice, but also kick things up a notch with scratchy screams. The way that the heavier parts were integrated into the track feels natural and not forced, instead enhancing the natural flow of the song through its verses and choruses. Although there is still obvious production on the vocals, it is tasteful and careful not to overpower the brothers’ natural talents. The addition of more aggressive, full instrumentals also makes a huge difference, making “Hot Girl Bummer” a much more dynamic track overall.

“Heathens”

Original: Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots’ original version of “Heathens” is eerie and dark, simple in its construction. Focused on each beat and the spaces between them, the instrumentals do a great job of building and ebbing in intensity. That being said, there could definitely be more to the track in some places, but Twenty One Pilots is only two people, so only so much can be done.

Cover: Boston Manor

Full and intense, Boston Manor’s cover of “Heathens” blows the original away in my book. The addition of more instruments behind the vocals makes the track feel much more dynamic and textured, while the aggressive vocals stand out against their bright background. If I didn’t know “Heathens” was originally by Twenty One Pilots, I would think it was written explicitly for Boston Manor thanks to this performance.

“Uptown Funk”

Original: Mark Ronson

I can’t lie: The original “Uptown Funk” was my go-to guilty pleasure song for a long time. There’s not much I can say negatively about the track, but it does fall a bit flat in some places compared to the cover I selected. Definitely for listeners of the more mellow, flowing tracks, the original version of “Uptown Funk” is still a jam in its own right.

Cover: Set It Off & Against the Current

Set It Off and Against the Current take a song that’s already pretty great and make it even more dynamic and catchy. The addition of Chrissy Costanza’s female vocals give the track another layer, one that makes it more aggressive all on its own. The fullness of both singers’ vocals combine beautifully, contrasting the instrumentals, which also have a bit more sass to them than in the original track. Set It Off and Against the Current do a beautiful job of paying homage to Mark Ronson’s original song, while making it all their own in a way that embodies their interpretation of the song’s spirit.

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