The worst cover songs of all time

At their best, cover songs can give a new life to an old favorite and put a new spin on a classic song. They can shift a familiar tune into a completely new genre and reveal a new side to it (like Johnny Cash's immortal cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt"), bring out the emotion at the core (like Sinead O'Connor's soul-rending version of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U"), or just plain have a whole new kind of fun (like — believe it or not — William Shatner's shockingly good cover of Pulp's "Common People"). But that's when they're good.

When they're bad, they're bad. There are few things in this world worse than hearing a beloved favorite song butchered by a bad cover. We've experienced our share, and like a curse dropped on us by a supernatural VHS tape, we feel the need to share our pain with you. Our only rule was that they couldn't be intentionally bad or obvious jokes. Read on to discover some of the worst cover songs of all time.

Duran Duran: 911 is a Joke

If you saw Duran Duran covering "911 is a Joke" and thought you were having a stroke, don't worry. That's completely normal upon discovering that this one happened in 1995. There are covers that are bad, covers that are strange, and then there are covers that are just flat-out inexplicable, and this is absolutely one of the latter.

The original was, after all, a hit single from Public Enemy's classic politically charged Fear of a Black Planet, written about the problem of emergency services refusing to respond quickly when called to inner-city communities with large minority populations. Not exactly the sort of thing you'd expect the English New Wave band that brought you "Hungry like the Wolf" to drop on you without warning.

This wasn't just a goof during a live show, either: It was recorded for an entire album of covers Duran Duran put out in 1995, which leads off with a new version of the classic hip-hop anti-cocaine track "White Lines" and just gets stranger from there. Some have called it the worst album ever, and while there's not much good to be found on it in general, this is the song that puts it over the top.

Limp Bizkit: Faith

This one is probably pretty self-explanatory, but for a little background, Fred Durst — a backward baseball cap that was struck by lightning and became a human — and the boys from Limp Bizkit were at the height of their popularity when they recorded this one in 1998. It was released on an album promoting the Family Values Tour, a show organized by Korn that is mostly notable for the Halloween show where members of Rammstein were arrested for coming out to do their set naked.

Anyway, while it has the novelty of being an over-the-top aggro cover of George Michael's zippiest pop hit, the thing that really makes it bad is that it's actually not as good as other Limp Bizkit songs. If you want to hear these dudes screaming about bad relationships (and no judgment if you do … okay, a little judgment), then "My Way" and "Break Stuff" are right there, and are a much better time.

The one thing this song has to recommend it, though, is that it makes a great karaoke choice. For the first few seconds, the instrumentation is the same as the original, so it's not until you start screaming that people realize the horror you have unleashed upon their Saturday night.

Calum Scott: Dancing On My Own

Robyn's 2010 club hit "Dancing On My Own" is the definition of a banger, to the point where looking that word up online should probably just redirect you to the original video. It pulls off the trick of combining an upbeat, driving dance beat and soaring pop vocals with the perfectly captured feeling of abject misery that comes from seeing an ex-lover effortlessly replace you while you're alone. It is, in short, about as perfect as a pop song can be.

So why not ruin everything about it by slowing it down into an achingly sour dirge and wrapping it up in an affected, insincere attempt at sounding sad? That seems to be the thought that entered Calum Scott's head in 2016 when he dropped his version, which removes the beautiful contrast of the original by matching up the sad lyrics to sad music. Oh, and in case you didn't get it from the brutal lack of subtlety in the audio, the official video for the song also includes washed-out footage of a bunch of other people standing around silently sporting huge frowns. That actually might be the single most frustrating thing about this cover, actually: In the video, Scott is seen standing in a crowd, which is the literal exact opposite of dancing on one's own.

With this song, which managed to reach No. 2 on the U.K. singles charts, Scott joins the illustrious ranks of plenty of other dudes who have found varying degrees of success by offering up tiresome "serious" covers of female-fronted pop songs — like Travis' faux-soulful version of "…Baby One More Time." He can take solace in the fact that he's not alone in this particular mistake, though. A year after his version, Pentatonix released a similarly pitiful version of their own that's almost as bad.

Kidz Bop: All The Small Things

The Kidz Bop franchise has been rolling along as an unstoppable infomercial-fueled juggernaut for 18 years based on the idea that while kids love pop songs, what they'd really love is to hear pop songs sung by other children instead of the actual artists who made them famous. Despite the success that's led to 38 albums (and, hilariously enough, 40 "Best Of" style compilations), that seems like a pretty shaky premise, although it's easy to see why some parents would prefer to have their kids listening to a version of, say, "Cake By The Ocean" that was actually about a nice beach-side picnic instead of … well, you know. Point being, the idea here seems to be that kids like hearing other kids singing songs, hence: "Kidz Bop."

That's what makes it so weird that their cover of Blink 182's "All The Small Things" clearly sounds like it's being sung by an adult — and even weirder that it sounds almost exactly like podcaster and voice actor Tom Scharpling, to the point where a listener called into his show to confirm that it was not actually him taking a side job. It's not that it's bad and completely unnecessary — that's true of most other Kidz Bop hits — but that it seems to exist in defiance of the very reason it was created.

Either way, it is a truly perplexing cover even by Kidz Bop's extremely low standards. It is worth a listen if you've ever wondered what it would sound like if Greg Universe got completely tanked at karaoke night with the Crystal Gems.

MattyBRaps: Ms. Jackson

Look, none of us should be held accountable for the ill-advised choices we made when we were children, and YouTube star MattyBRaps is no exception. That said, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, and we can probably all agree that an upper-class suburban cover of Outkast's 2000 crossover hit "Ms. Jackson" is something we as a society should never attempt again.

If its status as Baby's First Cultural Appropriation wasn't already apparent from the audio, the video goes to the next level with the on-the-nose metaphor for what's happening here. Remaking a video where Big Boi and Andre 3000 are in a house that's literally collapsing around them, signifying the crumbling relationship at the core of the song, with a video set against the backdrop of an immaculate wood-paneled McMansion is, however unintentional, the perfect obvious representation of why this was probably a bad idea. If nothing else, hearing a child "rap" about having someone's cable and electricity turned off raises way too many questions.

That said, the video on its own is absolutely worth watching if you sync it up to the original like "Dark Side of Oz." It tells a truly buck wild story of a suburban mom who responds to a kid bringing her daughter flowers by A) threatening to beat a child to death with a flyswatter, B) keeping her daughter locked in a tower like Rapunzel, and C) literally hiring a couple of tweens to beat MattyB up like she's ordering a mob hit. It's pretty extreme, but it's hard not to root for her as the one person in this video willing to defend the sacred honor of Stankonia.

Smash Mouth: Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Smash Mouth gets a bad rap these days, but let's be honest with each other: They're not that bad. You can dunk on it as much as you like, but you know you've rocked out to "All Star" at least once in your life, and even their attempts at covers aren't terrible. Their version of "I'm a Believer" might be completely unnecessary, but unless you're a die-hard Monkees fan, it's perfectly inoffensive. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their cover of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."

There's a good reason that David Letterman brought Darlene Love onto his show every December to perform her signature hit: "Christmas" is arguably the single greatest Christmas song ever produced and one of the best pop songs of all time. It's the apex of the "Wall of Sound" style, an overwhelming arrangement that powers Love's plaintive yearning for a lost love to create a soaring epic of heartbreak over the holidays. It's the perfect version of the song, and any cover is going to seem hollow and inferior by comparison. Lookin' at you, too, U2.

The vocals are somehow both gravelly and nasal, with Steve Harwell's SoCal accent unintentionally leading it to sound like he's making fun of the song as a goof. It's the furthest thing from the operatic sincerity of the original, so incredibly jarring that it forces the listener to ask why anyone would do this. Smash Mouth's version first appeared on a 2005 holiday album called The Gift of Rock, and if this is the gift, we want to know if anyone saved the receipt.

Blues Brothers: Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend

The entire Blues Brothers catalog is full of cover songs that started off as goofs and then turned weirdly sincere, but the stuff they did in the early '80s has the benefit of having a sort of winking self-awareness, and being tied into a classic comedy that featured performances from Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and other soul legends. The songs that were recorded for Blues Brothers 2000, on the other hand, are just depressing.

Despite the name, this justifiably forgotten sequel came out in 1998, 16 years after John Belushi — who played one half of the eponymous Blues Brothers — died, and his passing would've hung like a shroud over the entire proceedings even if the movie hadn't opened with Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) waiting outside a prison for him for a full day before being informed that his brother had died while he was locked up. Even the movie's attempt at lightheartedness, which mostly involves recruiting John Goodman and one of the kids from 3 Ninjas, are cringeworthy.

To be fair, the original "Riders in the Sky" is not a good song, and may in fact be one of the corniest country songs ever written. Hearing it sung by Goodman and Aykroyd in a doomed-to-failure attempt at recreating the magic of the original film's famous "Rawhide" scene is the perfect example of how this was a movie about trying to recapture the good times of the past and failing miserably. Out of context, it's bad. In context, it is grim.

MC Hammer: Have You Seen Her

This take on the Chi-Lites' classic post-breakup slow jam is a little more than a cover, adding in a little bit of extra early '90s rap to update it for a new audience at the height of Hammer Time. More, however, does not always equal better, and with a song that already has a spoken monologue about lost love, the shift into hip-hop doesn't really add much other than a reminder that you could be spending the next five minutes listening to a song that's almost infinitely better. The only real argument in its favor is that the Chi-Lites never mentioned Rob Base in their version, so advantage Hammer on that front. Either way, it turned out that while he could touch this, he definitely shouldn't have. Perhaps it was a little 2 legit, and if you listen to this, you might have to pray just to make it today.

Okay, okay, enough. Please, Hammer, don't hurt us.

Angelica from Rugrats: One Way Or Another

There's one nice thing you can say about the cover of Blondie's sinister but extremely danceable ode to stalking, "One Way Or Another," that Cheryl Chase sang in character as Angelica Pickles in the 1998 Rugrats Movie: It's short.

At only 50 seconds long, it's technically easier to get through than any other song on this list. That said, it crams a whole lot of bad into a single minute, including rewriting the original lyrics with phrases like "I'll find the full diaper bag" before abandoning the rhyme scheme completely. To be entirely fair to Chase, Angelica is meant to be a pretty grating sort of character, so spending a minute on an annoying cover is actually very appropriate bit of character development that's over soon enough.

Of course, that just applies to the version that made it to the screen. If you bought the actual soundtrack album, there's a full three minutes, seventeen seconds of horror to grate on your ears and remind you that the Rugrats Movie was essentially the cinematic equivalent of the kind of fever dream you get from eating bad shellfish.

A*Teens: Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)

The entire existence of A*Teens, a cover band that rose to fame by recycling ABBA's bulletproof catalog of hits for the youth of the '90s, is somewhat mystifying. Like, ABBA already existed, with songs that are so widely known that there are two jukebox musicals based on them. If you really wanted to listen to "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)," quite possibly the finest piece of music ever recorded that might also be about getting it on with a vampire, then it's not hard to find, especially in Sweden.

What was hard to find before 1999, it seems, was a new version that sounds like it was performed on a pipe organ at the circus and then played back just a little bit too fast, possibly underscored by a theremin. If your idea of a good time is being chased through an episode of Scooby Doo by an evil clown, then by all means, this should be Track 1 on your mixtape. Otherwise, there's no reason for it.

On the one hand, it's actually respectable for the A*Teens to justify their existence by doing something slightly different rather than just a straight-up cover song, but that means that they did a dance remix of a song that was already a disco hit, and while people might have their complaints about ABBA, we sincerely doubt that anyone thought those songs needed more production. They can take solace in one thing, though: Thanks to Pierce Brosnan's singing voice in Mamma Mia, they'll never have the worst ABBA covers to ever see a wide release.