I was born in the 90s and knowledge of everything prior to my consciousness requires effort, research or a chance encounter. Some artists like Beyonce, Adele or Amy Winehouse have amassed such a huge influence and demonstrated impressive skills in their craft that anything they release turn into originals. Here are 15 successful songs you probably didn’t know were covers.
Make You Feel My Love by Adele
Not a lot of singers can get away with covering Bob Dylan. Then again, not a lot of them have the talent and star power of Adele. Most artists who cover Bob Dylan are bound to fail and end up getting flack for trying. Adele manages to surpass the original and infuses the soul and fire her voice is known for.
Valerie by Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse
The way the credits work for “Valerie” is strange. I can compare Mark Ronson’s role to that of Timbaland’s in “Apologize”. Amy Winehouse and OneRepublic were the definite highlights. But the billing indicated otherwise. In any case, The Zutons actually crafted this masterpiece a year before this injustice arose.
Uptown Girl by Westlife
Westlife has had tremendous success in the United Kingdom. To date, they have accumulated 14 number one hits in the country and ranks third of all time, behind only Elvis Presley and the Beatles. However, their biggest hit in their exhaustive catalog is a cover – “Uptown Girl”.
The Tide is High (Get the Feeling) by Atomic Kitten
I was surprised the cover of Atomic Kitten charted as well as it did. After all, the Blondie version is well known to the general public and also hit number one in the UK. A revival was bound to underwhelm. For whatever it’s worth, Blondie’s recording was also a cover of the work by the Paragons. If I had to guess, the lucky charm was Natasha’s baby. Her bump was featured in an iconic dance sequence in the music video.
I’ll Be There by Mariah Carey featuring Trey Lorenz
If anyone can cover the Jackson 5 and do justice to the original, Mariah Carey would be a safe bet. Along with Trey Lorenz, she brought the house down on MTV Unplugged and took the song to the same heights the Jackson 5 did – #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The feat is remarkable considering the inclusion was a last minute addition to her setlist on the now defunct show.
If I were a Boy by Beyonce
Beyonce is a music goddess. If someone told me “If I were a Boy” was a cover and written by another artist, I would brush the information aside and treat it as fake news. After digging the web, I can confirm Beyonce’s wasn’t the first. The details aren’t exactly secret. In fact, BC Jean, the original artist behind the song, reached an undisclosed arrangement with Beyonce, given the former’s dissatisfaction with how the events unfolded.
Take on Me by A1
Could you believe that A-ha’s version of “Take on Me” never topped the UK Charts but the A1 cover did? Well, you better believe it as the official records can confirm this fact. I’ve always thought the revival was inferior. But the song did introduce me to one of the biggest boy bands of my generation. Having seen them live, this also gets the crowd up on their feet and raises the energy in the room threefold.
Dreams by The Corrs
When I was growing up, Fleetwood Mac wasn’t dominating the radio airwaves or MTV. The Corrs was. The siblings recorded “Dreams” as part of an album tribute to Fleetwood Mac. I guess this is my first introduction to the outstanding music of the rock band. Little did The Corrs know that participating in the commemoration of Rumours would serve as their breakout hit in the United Kingdom and be part of their unforgettable string of hits.
I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston’s trademark hit is “I Will Always Love You”. But the original was actually recorded by Dolly Parton. Whitney proves that you can sing the hell out of one song and make it your signature track. To date, her version is the one people remember and the one the succeeding generations have to match and live up to. She cemented her place in music history with a composition that wasn’t hers. But honestly, who cares?
When You Say Nothing at All by Ronan Keating
When people compare Ronan Keating’s to the Alison Krauss version, I bet they don’t know or forget that both are revivals. The original composition was actually recorded by Keith Whitley. If you ask me, Ronan Keating did the world a favour by sharing this masterpiece to an audience outside of country music. In the UK, this went to number one. In Asia, his solo career outside of Boyzone got off to a great start because of it.
Respect by Aretha Franklin
Given the feminist undertones of “Respect”, it’s hard to imagine this was the original composition and recording of a man. Yes, Otis Redding did his version first. But Aretha infused the confidence and strength of a woman that we now know the anthem embodies. More so, only her single included the iconic “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” that all karaoke sessions and talent shows have come to put on repeat.
Too Close by Blue
The Blue cover stands out because the the revival was made four years after Next dominated the US Hot 100. The initial success didn’t get in the way of Blue topping the UK Charts. “Too Close” is one of their hits originally recorded by others. They would also do a rendition of “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” and “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word”, getting legends Stevie Wonder and Elton John to feature in the group’s modern take.
Torn by Natalie Imbruglia
Many consider Natalie Imbruglia as a one-hit wonder. While chart performance and cultural impact may agree, I find many of her tracks of high quality and a demonstration of how wrong the pop industry gets it at times. The biggest irony is that the song she is known for is a cover. Alternative band Ednaswap released this single a year prior to its breakout. In fact, a Danish version existed as early as 1993 recorded by Lis Sørensen.
I Want Candy by Aaron Carter
While Nick Carter enjoyed more success as part of the boyband The Backstreet Boys, Aaron Carter’s solo career had more traction at the turn of the century. If any music represented bubblegum pop, I feel Aaron Carter’s catalog best embodies that phrase. “I Want Candy” was corny and infectious. But it was a cover of the Strangelove’s recording in 1965 and we don’t give them a hard time about it.
The Power of Love by Celine Dion
Celine Dion’s first number one hit in the USA is a cover of a Jennifer Rush recording. The original already hit the top spot in the UK. However, Celine Dion’s incomparably towering voice managed to cast a shadow on all other versions recorded – Jennifer Rush’s, Air Supply’s and Laura Branigan’s. Have you heard any of those versions in recent history?