Best Cover Songs That Sound Nothing Like The Original

You'll find plenty of cover songs out there that sound exactly like the original, and that's fine for a night out at the local bar. The truly great musicians, on the other hand, often choose to reinvent whatever song they're covering, to the point where it sounds so little like the original that it might as well be a completely new tune.

Rage Against the Machine: Beautiful World [original by Devo]

Rage Against The Machine's cover of Devo's "Beautiful World" not only doesn't sound like the original, it doesn't even sound like a Rage Against the Machine song. It's like a double-layered cake of unique.

The Devo original is pure weird Devo: a light, happy, beep-and-boop fest about how beautiful and wonderful the world is, and how great everyone around them is. The only hint you get that the song is actually pretty gloomy is the singer merrily belting "It's a beautiful world for you / not me" at the end. Beauty and wonder is fine, but it's not for him.

Rage, meanwhile, strips away anything light and happy about the tune, focusing entirely on how the singer is suffering inside. Accompanied by nothing but Tom Morello's quiet, clean guitar strumming, lead rapper Zack de la Rocha shocks the world and actually sings, almost whispering the lyrics about the world being wonderful and beautiful, like he's trying to convince himself it's true. As he reaches the final chorus and a second guitar comes in sounding like a buzzsaw, Rocha starts growling "for you" over and over again, before dropping the mic with a single "not me." He makes it perfectly clear, more than the original ever did, that he doesn't care one bit for how anyone combs their hair.

Marilyn Manson: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) [original by Eurythmics]

The original "Sweet Dreams," by the Eurythmics, is a fun piece of '80s synth-pop whose lyrics can mean nothing or everything, depending on your mood. There really aren't many words, and the ones that are there get repeated over and over, almost like a series of mantras. The "hold your head up / keep your head up / moving on" part in particular seems to convey a message of optimism and hope, whether it jives with the rest of the song or not.

Marilyn Manson, on the other hand, had no time for such silly things. Its version of "Sweet Dreams" sounds more like a dark nightmare, and aside from the vocal melody being largely similar to the original (albeit slowed down), nothing about it even remotely resembles what the Eurythmics gave us. As you might expect from a band like Manson, they're far more interested in the "Some of them want to use you / some of them want to get used by you" section of the song. In fact, they add to it, writing a new section where Manson repeatedly screams, "I gotta use you and abuse you / I gotta know what's inside," which can't be what Annie Lennox had in mind.

Even the optimistic "hold your head up" part is mutated, with Manson simply bellowing "moving on" over and over again. He couldn't care less if you hold your head up, you just best move on.

Devo: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction [original by Rolling Stones]

Devo might've had its work transformed completely by Rage, but decades before that, Devo proved it could dish it out, too. Devo's version of the Rolling Stones classic "Satisfaction" has so little in common with the original, there was legitimate concern the band could even release it.

Aside from the lyrics, Devo's "Satisfaction" is 100 percent them. The music is different, the melody is different, and the mood is completely changed. Instead of grimy and gritty, like how the Stones played the song, Devo's is, well, Devo-esque. They basically "de-evolved" the song, a trademark of theirs and theirs alone. (That's the mark of a truly unique band, when the one way you can describe them is "they only sound like themselves.")

Releasing the cover on an album, however, wasn't guaranteed. As the New Yorker explained, Devo had made such a weird, bizarre, warped version of "Satisfaction," the label wouldn't release it without Mick Jagger's permission. And considering how out-there it was, that was no slam-dunk. So when Jagger, his manager, and members of Devo gathered in a Manhattan office, the band members were truly nervous about how Jagger — one of their rock idols — would take the song. After about 30 seconds of silently listening, he delivered his verdict: by dancing around and exclaiming "I like it, I like it." Even if Devo had no satisfaction, at least Mick Jagger got plenty of it from them.

Johnny Cash: Hurt [original by Nine Inch Nails]

Johnny Cash could turn just about any song into gold, but it's still beyond impressive that he took a brooding, noisy piece of industrial angst like Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" and transformed it so completely that, to many people, his version is the one and only.

Trent Reznor's original version of "Hurt" was rife with atonal guitars, super-loud and sudden bursts of noise, and the tortured mumble of a depressed 20-something on the verge of something much darker. Cash, on the other hand, made the guitars sound more normal and folksy (they're the same chords Reznor uses, but they don't sound at all similar), and changes "crown of sh**" to "crown of thorns." (Johnny Cash was no potty-mouth.) Still, somehow the whole thing comes across as even heavier and more depressing than before. That might be because Cash was an octogenarian on the verge of death, making this song almost a eulogy to himself, as he reflects on all the times in his life he hurt himself.

Cash's "Hurt" has tons of fans, none more notable than Reznor himself. Reznor has said he first felt the cover was "invasive," and that hearing another person sing such an intensely personal song was "like someone kissing [his] girlfriend." He's since come around, though, and absolutely loves the cover and considers it an honor that a legend like Cash wanted to record it. The fact that he completely knocked it out of the park is simply a nifty bonus.

Nevermore: Sound of Silence [original by Simon and Garfunkel]

In 2015, millions went ga-ga for Disturbed's slow, dramatic, piano-driven take on Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence." Thing is, that version sounds much like the original, so if it's a truly unique cover you're looking for, Nevermore has you covered.

The progressive thrash metal band's 2000 version of the folk-rock classic is, save for the lyrics and a brief riff at the beginning, almost completely different from the original. For one thing, it isn't silent or even reminiscent of peaceful quietude. From start to finish, Nevermore gives us pounding drums, crunching guitars, and vocals that range from menacing to bellowing. It's basically Simon and Garfunkel on Nightmare Mode, and the song sounds far less like a man nonchalantly accepting that nobody listens anymore, and more like someone stuck in a dystopian hellhole and desperately screaming for someone, anyone, to pay attention to him.

The end of the song showcases Nevermore's vision perfectly. Fast, double-time drums start pounding nonstop as the singer yells about how "silence like a cancer grows" and how badly he wants someone to hear him. Sadly, it seems everyone chilling on the narrow streets of cobblestone was too busy listening to Disturbed to respond.

Tori Amos: '97 Bonnie and Clyde [original by Eminem]

It should be impossible to add to the creepiness of an Eminem song about bonding with his daughter by tossing her dead mother into the water, but it happened and the artist responsible was Tori Amos, of all people.

Everyone's favorite piano pixie took Marshall Mathers' song — already super-dark due to the topic and how Em raps it like a happy, silly daddy having a fun night out with his baby girl — and stripped away any pretense of happiness. In her version, the piano and strings are just plain scary, like something straight from a horror movie. And Amos doesn't rap, nor does she sing — she just whispers the lyrics, but not in a soothing, gentle way. No, hers are the whispers of pure terror, almost like they're coming from the dying mind of the woman inside Eminem's truck, as she attempts to reassure her daughter one last time that everything will be alright.

In fact, that's almost precisely what Amos had in mind. In a 2001 interview with MTV, she explained how she got inspired to sing a song about every woman's worst nightmare: namely, that the woman in the trunk spoke to her. As she explained, "There was one person who definitely wasn't dancing to this thing, and that's the woman in the trunk. And she spoke to me. ... [She] grabbed me by the hand and said, 'You need to hear this how I heard it.'" Unconventional muse, but it works.

Chris Cornell: Billie Jean [original by Michael Jackson]

Michael Jackson's original take on "Billie Jean" might never be topped for pure funky goodness. So when Chris Cornell took on the challenge of covering such a beloved classic, he didn't even try to out-funk it. Instead, he made it his own, and completely changed the song in the process.

His "Billie" can't be funk-danced to at all — it's just him and a single, lonely guitar. Half the time, the vocal melody doesn't even resemble what Jackson put out. In many ways, it sounds like a Chris Cornell original, only with lyrics everyone knows. And speaking of those lyrics: when sung by Jackson, they barely hint at the despair and depression that someone singing them must be going through. After all, the story is about a strange woman claiming Jackson fathered her son, and while he denies it, a part of him acknowledges the child somewhat resembles him, so he clearly has no idea what to do. In Jackson's case, he chooses to dance. In Cornell's case, he chooses to brood, not letting anything in the song mask the heavy, desperate emotion behind the lyrics.

Once he hits the chorus and starts loudly wailing the words, you can feel every bit of the song as heavily as he does. Don't expect to moonwalk (or hilariously fail to moonwalk) to Cornell's "Jean," but definitely expect to get a little verklempt.

White Stripes: I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself [original by Dusty Springfield]

On the surface, it might seem odd that the White Stripes, a grungy garage band, covered a '60s blue-eyed soul classic like Dusty Springfield's "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself." But it actually makes perfect sense, both because Jack White is really into old music and because he couldn't care less what you find odd.

The Stripes version of the song isn't an unrecognizable departure from the original. The vocal melodies are similar, as is the basic strong structure. The tones, on the other hand, couldn't be more distinct. Springfield's take is lovely, but sad and resigned — she knows her lover isn't coming back, but she leaves the door open anyway, with the closing verse stating, "Baby, if your new love ever turns you down / come on back, I will be around / just waiting for you / I don't know what else to do." Don't feel ashamed if Dusty Springfield makes your eyes dusty, too.

The Stripes, meanwhile, are just as heartbroken, but actively and angrily grieving. The music is louder and harsher, while Jack's vocals are more pained and desperate, as if he just finished crying before stepping up to the recording mic. Also, they harbor no illusion their lover is ever coming back, omitting the "come on back" verse entirely in favor of screaming the title repeatedly until the song's end. Both versions are ultimately awesome, but which one you prefer probably depends on how optimistic you are about love eternal.

Jimi Hendrix: All Along the Watchtower [original by Bob Dylan]

Some covers are so famous, people legitimately get shocked to hear it's a cover. Such is the case with Jimi Hendrix's "All Along The Watchtower," which is so iconic that many still think he wrote it and won't believe you when you tell them Bob Dylan did.

Dylan's original "Watchtower" is quiet and simple — a clean acoustic guitar, a simple rhythm, and Dylan's decidedly unique sense of melody. Hendrix, meanwhile, takes that song and transforms everything. The chords might be the same, but they don't sound it, and Hendrix's electric, revolutionary-even-today style of guitar gives the song's mysterious lyrics the epic feel they deserve. With Dylan, the music works for a joker and thief stuck in prison with no real hope of escaping. With Hendrix, his high-energy playing and soul-piercing solos place the focus on the final verse: the one where riders approach, the wind howls, and a climactic battle is teased but never revealed.

You know who else loves Hendrix's version (besides everyone)? Dylan. He's gone on record as saying he likes it better than his own, saying in a 1995 interview with the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, "It overwhelmed me, really. ... He probably improved upon ["Watchtower"] by the spaces he was using." Additionally, Hendrix owned this song so much, that Dylan now plays the cover instead. Now that's when you know you've nailed your art.

Florence and the Machine: Stand By Me [original by Ben E. King]

Ben E. King created such a timeless classic with "Stand By Me" that it would be next to impossible to turn it into anything else and have people accept it. Florence and the Machine came as close as anyone probably can.

Recorded specifically for the video game Final Fantasy XV, the vocal melody of Florence's "Stand" is very similar to King's, as is the basic progression of the song. It even (from the second verse on) features the creeping plucked violin sound that defines the song's verses. But Florence ups the string quotient many times over, adding enough epic flourishes throughout that the song does justice to the original and sits perfectly in the sweeping fantasy world that awaits fans of Square-Enix's latest epic quest. As great as King's version is, it might not have worked for the game the way Florence made it work. And if Florence had simply copied King wholesale, hers probably wouldn't have worked either.