There are songs held up in such high regard that they become legends beyond the artist behind them. No matter who performs it, the feeling is still present, connecting with millions of people. These are music royalty, the tunes that can stand the test of time.
There are some songs that cannot be replicated with the same feeling as the original artist. Then, there are others who take a classic song and bring a new shimmer to it. And artists who love the songs cover it. Again. Again. And again. Then one more time for good measure, just in case you forgot about the song in the last 10 minutes. These are songs that are great, but as a society, we’ve seen more than enough covers of them. We’ve covered them to death, and maybe it’s time to let the song lay to rest, or at least let the original speak for itself. These are the 5 that came to mind when I thought “What song needs to stop being covered?” What song comes to your mind?
1. “Wonderwall” – Oasis
What would save me is if artists decided to stop covering this song. If someone pulls out an acoustic guitar, everyone in the room is inwardly groaning, hoping with everything they have that the guitarist won’t bust out “Wonderwall.” The cliched nature and basic chords make it popular among novice guitarists, meaning it’s been covered to hell. It’s become such a common song to cover that it’s become a meme with the catchphrase, “Anyway, here’s Wonderwall”, a universally understood phrase on the internet. The phrase became a popular way to caption photos of people with guitars and other string instruments on Tumblr. Even Oasis, the original creators of the song know it’s become something people are sick of. “It’s unclear exactly when ‘Wonderwall’ first became known as a cliché, such notoriety of the song was noted by the band's lead singer-songwriter Noel Gallagher in an interview for the June 2002 issue of the Guitarist magazine, in which he recalled running across a sign in front of a guitar shop in Manchester that forbade people from playing the song.” (Source)
It's been covered by over 120 artists, and that’s just including the studio-recorded versions. If you factor in all the novice guitarists, it’s likely in the thousands. There may be some decent B-list artist’s versions out there of the somber track, but I think the original Oasis version is plenty.
A few notable covers of “Wonderwall” include…
One Direction (because of course I had to include this cover)
Ryan Adams (the cover was praised highly by Oasis)
Paul Anka (his swing cover was used as figure skater Paul Fentz's backing track during his 2018 Winter Olympics, which sparked the meme in the first place)
Mike Flowers Pops (this is a funny take on it that I actually enjoy)
Our Last Night (the rock band known for releasing dozens of covers a year)
...and 1 million acoustic guitarists by a campfire
2. “Creep” – Radiohead
We get it. You’re a creeeeeeep. You’re a weeeeirdooooo (calm down, Jughead Jones). When “Creep” was released as a single in 1992, it didn’t gain much traction except on alternative rock stations. However, when it was reissued in 1993, it became a worldwide hit, falling into the popular category of alt-rock "slacker anthems" such as ''Smells Like Teen Spirit'' by Nirvana and ''Loser" by Beck. To this day, it's the band’s most successful single. “Creep” was also named one of the greatest debut singles and one of the greatest songs by Rolling Stone. Naturally, a song with that much popularity is going to lead to a lot of covers.
You can listen to Radiohead’s original version here if you’d like to compare it to the covers below. (Sidenote: I can’t believe this music video has over 740 million views!)
With over 200 noted covers and parodies (and likely more from the everyday person), “Creep” is one song that has been covered to death. This is an example of a song where the original cannot be beat in my opinion. People have tried and will likely continue to try to put their own unique spin on it, but there’s something magical and perfectly melancholy about the original that I don’t think can be perfectly replicated. Some artists that have covered “Creep” include Korn, Anberlin, Brandi Carlile, Ingrid Michaelson, Tears for Fears, and even the Glee Cast.
The song itself has also become a meme, mostly jokes about edgy sad people. There’s also a lot of memes out there changing the words. Then there’s a subsection of the internet that makes edits of problematic or misunderstood people with the song (such as The Joker and a character from The Book of Life for some reason). For all these reasons, I think we’ve had enough covers of the song.
Now, I know that I said that no cover could measure up to the original, but there are a few notable ones that I wanted to highlight that I think have something special…
This old jukebox version of the song is an interesting one.
There’s a scene in the Netflix show Lucifer where Lucifer covers “Creep
He covered the song in April 2008 at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Apparently, he didn’t want the cover to be out in the world, however, because he ordered a bootleg recording of the performance to be taken down. It’s available online now, but Radiohead had to fight to get it put back, despite it being their copyright. The quality isn’t great, but you can watch it below.
3. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – The Rolling Stones
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” may be about not getting enough, but I think we have had enough of these covers. The Rolling Stones song was released in the US in June 1965 as a single. It was also featured on the American version of the Rolling Stones' fourth studio album, Out of Our Heads. In the UK, the song initially was played only on pirate radio stations, because its lyrics were considered too sexually suggestive, but it went on to later become the Rolling Stones' fourth number-one in the United Kingdom. Today, it’s considered one of the most popular songs. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 and ranked number 31 in the Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list in 2021. With that kind of notoriety, it’s no surprise it’s been covered so many times.
There have been 375 listed covers of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” but as I’ve said in other entries on this list, there are likely many more from the average person. Many have tried over the years to replicate the same energy into the track or reimagine it in different musical genres. Some have succeeded, and others have missed the mark. This is one where I think we’ve seen enough covers over the last 55+ years. Over the years, artists who have covered this song include PJ Harvey and Björk, Jimi Hendrix, Jack White, Vanilla Ice, and most recently, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
While I really like the original, my second favorite version comes from the pop icon Britney Spears. Yes, you read that right. The Oops I Did It Again singer covered this iconic The Rolling Stones song, and it may surprise you, but it’s pretty great. Reimagining it as an R&B, dance-pop song with lyrics to fit Spears and her life at the time works well. But if you can’t bring something new to the track, I think you ought to leave it be. Covers of this song have run their course.
Since it’s only fair I highlight some other covers that are notable, here are a few others…
The Britney Spears version first because it’s great.
Devo’s version because they’re such a unique group so they brought a cool spin to the track.
Otis Redding’s version because his blues/soul take on it is a solid, upbeat cover worth nothing.
4. “Hallelujah” – Leonard Cohen
Baby, we’ve been here before. Over 500 times, in fact. "Hallelujah" is a song most everyone has heard before. It was written by Canadian singer Leonard Cohen, and originally released on his album Various Positions in 1984. The song didn’t find much initial success but in 1991, John Cale released a new version of the song that found greater acclaim. Cale's version inspired a 1994 recording by Jeff Buckley that in 2004 was ranked number 259 on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time." Even to reach its success, this song has been covered, and covered, and covered again.
This is actually a song that I prefer a cover to the original. My personal favorite version of this song comes from Rufus Wainwright, whose version was in Shrek, one of my favorite childhood movies, so I have a personal connection to this one. Still, I think we’ve seen enough of this cover now. Over 500 times!! We’ve seen covers released from the likes of Bono, Justin Timberlake, Willie Nelson, Pentatonix, and Bon Jovi. It’s understandable why everyone would want to get their hands on this song because it is a beautifully written track. But the trouble is that we’ve seen so many covers and with so few bringing anything new to it, it’s getting stale. Let’s allow the great covers to keep being great and stop trying to bring new ones into the mix.
Some notable covers I want to highlight…
John Cale’s version (because he’s probably why the piano version became so popular)
Rufus Wainwright’s version (obviously since it’s my favorite).
Jeff Buckley (a version that somehow strips the emotional track down even more, making for an even more emotional time)
Bon Jovi (he incorporated violins and backup singers to really elevate the track and feel like Cohen’s original)
“Hallelujah” has the highest number of covers on this list so far, but it’s still not the highest…
5. “Yesterday” - The Beatles
According to Guinness World Records, “Yesterday” holds the record for the most covered song ever written. There are so many covers, that it’s unclear what the true number is. Some sources say over 2,200 while others say more than 3,000. You find both numbers in the book of their song info here. One thing is absolutely for certain, however, and that’s that this song is very well-loved.
Released in 1965 off their album Help! “Yesterday” features Paul McCartney's vocal and acoustic guitar, together with a string quartet. Different from their other tracks at the time, the song was essentially made for the first solo performance of the band. It took the world by storm, and became instantly popular, reaching number one in the US. The final recording was so different from other works by the Beatles that the band members vetoed the release of the song as a single in the United Kingdom, although other artists were quick to record versions of it for single release. The Beatles recording was issued as a single there in 1976 and peaked at number 8 (Source). In 1997, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. If you need further evidence of how widely loved this song is, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) asserts that it was performed over seven million times in the 20th century (Source).
“Yesterday” has been covered by many, many artists including Joan Baez, John Denver, Liberace, Frank Sinatra, En Vogue, Boyz II Men, and the Glee Cast. I mean, with over 2,000 versions out there, do I even need to further explain? This is the song from the list that has been covered not only to death but continues to get covered from its grave. We get it, World. You love The Beatles. You love “Yesterday.” I think we’ve heard enough. The band itself even acknowledged that it’s a simple song they don’t love like their other tracks. So, I think it’s time society hung the song up and pulled from the million other choices.
With over 2,000 to choose from, some of the covers are bound to be notable. Here are a few covers that I think are worth shouting out…
Elvis Presley’s version because his voice works so well for the song
Marvin Gaye’s version because he puts his own spin on it which I really admire
Billie Eilish’s version manages to bring new life into a song that’s nearly 60 years old
Before I wrap up..
Honorable Mention: “My Way” – Frank Sinatra
Composed by Jacques Revaux with lyrics by Gilles Thibaut and Claude Françoi, “My Way” became popularized by Frank Sinatra’s recording of it.
With over 500 covers, it’s clear it’s been well-loved. But the reason I wanted to highlight it is that in some parts of the world, it’s taboo to cover the song. At one point, it was so popular to sing “My Way” at karaoke in The Philippines, it’s been said between 2002 and 2012, numerous people were killed for singing this song at karaoke (or commonly called videoke in The Philippines). Whether it’s because people are sick of hearing it or because the lyrics are inherently aggressive, I thought it fit this blog’s theme well. I may be sick of hearing covers of certain songs, but at least I’m not killing people over it. You can read more about the strange phenomena in my blog titled, “The Spooky History Behind Cursed Songs.”
These are five/six songs that I think we’ve seen enough covers of. They’ve been covered to death, and maybe it’s time to let them rest. What do you think? Do you think it’s time the covers of these songs stop, or will you always be game for a “Wonderwall” cover? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments! If you’d like to share this with friends who love any of these songs, we’d really appreciate it. Thanks for reading!
Written by Kristen Petronio