The mood is bleak and the vibes are non-existent at Tottenham Hotspur after a dour 3-1 loss that saw Spurs give up a 1-0 halftime lead in their final home match of the season. The end of this campaign can’t come soon enough. Harry Kane had a glorious “free kick” goal and Tottenham played champagne football in the opening 45. But if the first half was champagne, was the second half was a half-empty can of flat La Croix.
Everyone loves a good cover song. They’re the backbone of the music industry — find a track you love by another artist and give it your own spin. Covers can sometimes backfire, but every so often you end up with a masterpiece: an artist who has taken what has come before and made it even better than the original. That’s what we’re discussing here today.
The songs on this list are NOT rated in the traditional with some good and some poor — all of them are good (though I put the best of the best at the top). So when you see a good cover at the one-star rating, it’s not because it’s bad. This is just a celebration of excellent cover songs, and it’s intended to give us something to talk about besides that crappy second half vs. Brentford. And of course this is a HUGE category so I hope it sparks discussion of other cover songs that you think should be included.
Here are your player ratings to the theme of cover songs that are better than the originals. Put your favorite cover in the comments, and tell me why it should be on this list.
5 stars: Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah” [Leonard Cohen]
I’m a huge fan of Leonard Cohen and it’s not often that another artist is able to do a Cohen song better than him. Jeff Buckley did it. It may be one of the more overused songs especially as part of a soundtrack, but that’s just because it’s so damn good. The key is the sparseness — the simple electric guitar, and Buckley’s haunting vocals.
Honestly, it feels like it’s been a long time since we had a player in this category. It hasn’t been, but it feels like it. Nobody’s here.
4.5 stars: Johnny Cash, “Hurt” [Trent Reznor]
If you chose an artist to successfully cover a Nine Inch Nails song, I’m certain it wouldn’t have been a 70-year old Johnny Cash, but he absolutely nails it. Cash’s tremulous voice still carries an impressive grativas even in his old age, and he turns it from an electronica power ballad into something significantly more intimate and haunting. This isn’t just one of the best cover songs of all time, it’s one of Johnny Cash’s best songs of all time, and that’s even more impressive.
No one was here either.
4 stars: Aretha Franklin, “Respect” [Otis Redding]
How do you out-Otis an Otis Redding song? Give it to Aretha. My god, but her voice and creative interpretation takes the bones of a perfectly fine (if basic) Motown song and just cranks everything up to 11, turning it into one of the most recognizable songs of the era.
Harry Kane (Community — 3.5): Pedants will say that wasn’t a free kick goal, but it was close enough for me. The flip side is now he’ll take every free kick opportunity from now until infinity.
Yves Bissouma (Community — 3.0): One of the standout performers for Spurs in this match... again. Really showed more of what he can bring to a side with the shackles taken off. Visibly tired in the second half and his effectiveness waned.
3.5 stars: Cowboy Junkies, “Sweet Jane” [Velvet Underground]
Sometimes the best covers are the ones you hear first and fall in love with and don’t realize until much later that there was an original version. That’s my experience with “Sweet Jane,” which was on regular rotation in my CD player in college. The Velvet Underground original is almost unrecognizable in comparison — it’s fine, but the Cowboy Junkies took it and distilled it down to its very essence. A masterpiece.
Weirdly, no one’s in this category.
3 stars: UB40, “Red Red Wine” [Neil Diamond]
“Red Red Wine” is a Neil Diamond classic, but some songs you can’t really do justice to as a cover unless you do something kind of dramatically different. So how about putting it to a reggae beat? It’s a pretty simple change, but it dramatically alters the song, and makes it instantly more catchy and listenable. A small, but genius tweak.
Emerson Royal (Community — 2.5): Had an effort cleared off the line and was, for the most part, fine playing wide left in a back four. Will be interested to see what the new guy does with him next season (yes, I think we should keep him).
Arnaut Danjuma (Community — 2.5): Played almost like a Sonny Lite in a more advanced role. Doesn’t really have the stamina to be a starter, which makes sense since he’s hardly played. Appreciated the energy he brought.
Son Heung-Min (Community — 2.5): Dynamic and exciting in the first half, faded spectacularly in the second.
Dejan Kulusevski (Community — 2.5): Deployed in a free 10 role which is something we really haven’t seen much from him. Loved the dynamism in the first half, but he disappeared in the second. I think he might be better in that wide channel, though I’ve seen enough to want to see more... could be very good as a 10 under Slot.
Richarlison (Community — 2.0): Had two late shots inexplicably saved, but was bright when he came on in difficult circumstances. Tried to earn a penalty that was (rightfully) not called.
Ryan Mason (Community — 2.0): Another interesting system tweak, moving to a 4-2-3-1. And it looked like it’d work! But Mason was also slow to adapt after Brentford shifted formation and let the match escape him.
2.5 stars: The Clash, “I Fought the Law” [The Crickets]
Some of the best covers are just borrowed from a past generation and reimagined in a new one. The original to “I Fought the Law” is vintage 50s bubblegum pop, strangely about crime, recorded in 1960 by The Crickets. It was covered once in 1966 by the Bobby Fuller Four, and then appropriated (more appropriately) by the punk scene via The Clash in 1978. It’s better this way — gritty, rawer, more interesting.
Fraser Forster (Community — 2.0): It’s not that he could’ve necessarily gotten to any of Brentford’s goals, but Brentford only had three shots and all of them went in the net. That’s... bad.
Clement Lenglet (Community — 2.0): Not great, but better than Davi.
Pedro Porro (Community — 2.0): Brought on too late to really be effective. Had one blocked shot but otherwise not much.
2 stars Joe Cocker, “With A Little Help From My Friends” [The Beatles]
A lot of covers are just the original song performed exactly the same way by different artists. Joe Cocker says: that’s boring. I’ll take a truly excellent, jaunty Beatles track, slow down the tempo, and turn it into a bluesy ballad that, to quote Daniel Durchoz describing Tom Waits’ voice, sounds like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left out in a smokehouse for a few months, and then run over by a car. But in a GOOD way.
Davinson Sanchez (Community — 2.0): Pretty not great! Got beaten a number of times in the second half and nearly gave away a penalty. Davi gets more stick than he probably deserves, but he needs to be moved on.
Ben Davies (Community — 1.5): Messed up defensively in both Mbeumo goals. Remember how a bunch of us didn’t like Davies playing as a left back in a back four? He needs the extra protection of a back three if he’s in that role.
Oliver Skipp (Community — 1.5): Good god, Skippy. A traffic cone defensively and had the most egregious giveaway that directly led to Brentford’s third goal. At the moment, he’s not really useful except as emergency depth.
Lucas Moura (Community — 2.0): Just... why?
1 star: Devo, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” [Rolling Stones]
OK I’m breaking my own rule here because I’m not sure Devo’s cover of the Stones is REALLY better than the original. But I do find it incredibly interesting, as it takes a rock classic and makes it unmistakably into a Devo song while still respecting the original (in their way).
No Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad as... you know what, this bit doesn’t work this time.
Tom Carroll Memorial Non-Rating: