She's not Hannah Montana anymore. Well, she hasn't been — not for a while, but I prefer rock n roll, Miley Cyrus, anyways.
Last week after her iHeartRadio Music Festival cover of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" went viral, the former Disney star dropped her spicy rendition on all streaming services.
The iHeartRadio virtual Music Festival went virtual this year and had a jammed pack schedule of artists for the two-day event. Cyrus was joined by BTS, Migos, Khalid, Alicia Keys, and more as they used the power of music to bring everyone watching at home, peace, joy, and a reminder of the dance floor days.
As she belts, "Once I had a love, and it was a gas / Soon turned out had a heart of glass," in a that edgy, sexy, rock n roll rasp all rockstars have; you can't help but move uncontrollably. It screams cherry red lollipops after school, coca-cola cans, kissing red-stained lips, and messy teenage love. In comparison, Blondie's version feels much more psychedelic and wavy. Pictures of the 1970s, Volkswagen vans, green tea, beach days, and teenagers dancing under disco balls; flash through my mind. It's fair to say I like Miley's version a tad bit more than Blondie's — but lead singer, Debby Harry's vocals, are one of a kind.
Many covers of popular songs surpass the original on the charts because of the new vibe and ambiance they bring. Sometimes the cover becomes so popular, and we don't even know who sung the original. It must sting for someone else's version of your work to blow up ten times more than yours. But all is fair in love, war, and — the music industry?
Now I present seven covers that are better than the original!
Cover - Amy Winehouse & Mark Ronson (2007) | Original - The Zutons (2006)
English indie rock band, The Zutons, wrote "Valerie" for their second studio album Tired of Hanging Around. The song's inspiration was Valerie Star, the girlfriend of The Zutons' frontman Dave McCab, Vice reports. Star allegedly caught a charge after several driving offenses in the States, almost went to jail, and couldn't move to the UK to be with him. Hence, "Why don't you come on over, Valerie?"
A year later, Mark Ronson produced the cover with Amy Winehouse on the vocals, and their rendition surpassed the original to number 2 on the UK charts. There is nothing like Miss Amy's voice.
"Killing Me Softly"
Cover - Fugees (1996) | Original – Norman Gimbel & Lori Lieberman (1971)
"Killing Me Softly" is one of the Fugees most famous works, and rightfully so, with Lauryn Hill's dreamy vocals, that bow-bow-bow, and the tunes that male your feet swerve you onto the dance floor. The song won the group the1997 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and their video won the MTV Video Music Award for Best R&B Video.
More than 20 years earlier, Roberta Flack's cover of "Killing me Softly" became a No. 1 hit in both the United States and Canada. The original song was written and recorded by Norman Gimbel & Lori Lieberman in 1971.
Yet the Fugees' have made their version a classic within its own right. It was rare in the 90s to have a young black female at the center of a hip-hop group, but Lauryn Hill proved to girls everywhere she could do just that! "Hill chose to speak to us, we on the black girl spectrum from browned butter to burnished mahogany with our thick hair and thick lips and thick bodies.., [she was] an archetype of #BlackGirlMagic before the idea had a name and a movement," Janelle Harris writes in The Atlantic.
"Girls Just Want to Have Fun"
Cover – Cyndi Lauper (1983) | Original – Robert Hazard (1979)
The feminist power song, chart-topping, debut lead single sung by Cyndi Lauper has been a household name since its release in 1983. First written and demoed by musician Robert Hazard in 1979, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" was initially sung from a male's perspective and had a completely different feel from Lauper's booming tune. Lauper found the lyrics to be misogynistic and decided to re-write them from a female perspective, making the song we all love "an anthem of female solidarity."
The '80s were a tough time for women to call themselves feminists. In an interview with The Atlantic, Lauper states how she felt, "I would say, yeah, I'm a feminist, I burnt my training bra at the first demonstration. You got a problem with that?" When she first read Hazard's lyrics, it was pretty clear the "fun" he sang about stood for coerced bedroom shenanigans. Lauper re-wrote the track to show a complementary view of the female image and a push for women to own their sexuality. Writing the lyrics :
"Some boys take a beautiful girl / And hide her away from the rest of the world/ I want to be the one to walk in the sun / Oh girls, they want to have fun."
"It doesn't mean that girls just want to fuck," Lauper explained. "It just means that girls want to have the same damn experience that any man could have."
"I Will Always Love You"
Cover - Whitney Houston (1992) | Original - Dolly Parton (1974)
In 1974 Dolly Parton released "I Will Always Love You," which she wrote as a farewell to her former duet partner and mentor of seven years, Porter Wagoner, after leaving his series The Porter Wagoner Show, to pursue a solo career. The song hit No.1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart twice, once upon its original release, and then again when Parton re-recorded it for her 1982 movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. In 1992, Whitney Houston recorded a cover of the song for her movie debut The Bodyguard, starring alongside actor Kevin Costner. Houston's rendition spent 14 weeks at the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 and won the 1994 Grammy Award for Record of the Year and the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Dolly Parton still remembers the first time she heard Whitney Houston's astounding vocals, she explained on The Graham Norton Show: "They asked me if they could use it and I forgot about it until I was driving home and I heard this voice come on the radio. It kind of rang a bell, but it didn't hit because she was kind of talking it, and all of a sudden, it went into the 'I will always love you' bit and I had to pull over to listen to it."
She continued: "It was one of the most overwhelming feelings I have ever had to hear it done so well, so beautifully, and so big. She took it and made it so much more that what it would ever have been. It was such a joy as a songwriter. I don't think I will have a bigger thrill, ever."
Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston were a match made by the music gods.
"Twist and Shout"
Cover - The Isley Brothers and The Beatles (1962-1963) | Original - The Top Notes (1961)
First recorded by The Top Notes at Atlantic Studios in February 1961, American record producer Phil Spector "supervised" the track (as it says on the disc); but he did everything wrong. The rhythm was changed, the words flipped upside down, and it pretty much stank. Co-writer Bert Berns was frustrated during the sessions because he knew the track could be so much better than it was, and he told The Top Notes boys so.
Then, Berns decided to take the record to The Isley Brothers at Wand Records. When Berns first showed them the song, they hated it. After a long and stressful day at the studio, the last thing they wanted to sing was this dance song. But after long arguments with Berns, The Isley Brothers eventually caved in, and a chart-topping classic was born.
A year after The Isley Brothers' cover was released, The Beatles recorded their version and put it on their debut album, Please Please Me. John Lenon sang lead, but when you have a 12-hour recording session, and on top of that, you are singing over a heavy cold, it's no wonder his voice was shredded. Thankfully, he had enough strength to power through one take of the song because his energy was spent by take two. The Beatles cover also became a huge hit, so Bert Berns didn't need The Top Notes after all.
Achy Breaky Heart
Cover - Billy Ray Cyrus (1992) | Original - Don Von Tress (1990)
In an interview with Rolling Stones, Billy Cyrus remembers where he was when he decided the final track of his debut album, Some Tell All, would be a cover of Don Von Tress' "Achy Breaky Heart" – then titled "Don't Tell My Heart."
Cyrus was in his Chevy, a stuffed-to-the-windows and ceilings Beretta. "I was pretty comfortable there. But my car had shit all over it. Well, not shit, though there was probably some of that too," he says. "There were cassette tapes and tapes, and tapes. And guitars and microphones rolling around the floor. If I needed anything, all my shit was in that car. That was my office."
It was on a cassette that Cyrus first heard Von Tress's record. "I stood up and said, 'That's me! That's what I want to sound like, that's what I do, man!'" Cyrus said, standing up from his chair and thrusting his hands in the air." "Thinking back on it, it just turned me on because it moved me." Even though Some Gave All was nearly finished, Cyrus returned to the studio to record this fun, sing-along track in which its writer Von Tress says was "a gift from the ether. I saw kids dancing in my mind [when I wrote it], and I remember telling my wife that and she thought I was a little screwy."
As Rolling Stones says, some people loathe it, and others love it, but the song was a huge hit. It remained at the Billboard in 1992, for five weeks.
Von Tress remembers hearing a debate on NPR on whether the song has merits as a "true American folk song" and cites a "near-mythic" Bruce Springsteen cover of his tune. "Springsteen said, 'I don't care what anybody says, this is a damn good song,'" said Von Tress.
Listen to Miley's papa, "Achy Breaky Heart", loud and proud!
Make You Feel My Love
Cover - Adele (2008) | Original - Bob Dylan (1997)
Over 450 artists have covered Bob Dylan's tender modern classic, each singing "I'd go hungry/I'd go black and blue/And I'd go crawling down the avenue/No, there's nothing that I wouldn't do/To make you feel my love," in a unique way from the next. But no artist does this so effortlessly as Adele.
The album Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" appeared on, Time Out of Mind, won three Grammy awards. But many critics had a problem with the ninth track, which has become the go-to tear-jerker karaoke song for millennials at the club. Rolling Stones even called it "a spare ballad undermined by greeting card lyrics."
However, Adele immediately felt a connection to Dylan's lyrics. The Londoner was recording her 2008 her platinum-selling debut album, 19, when her manager first played her the song during a stormy New York afternoon. She was "bitterly upset" at her own songwriting attempts, but when she sat down a read Dylan's lyrics, she felt his words "summed up exactly what I'd been trying to say in my songs. It's about regretting not being with someone, and it's beautiful."
"Make You Feel My Love" is the only cover on the album, but Adele always says it is her favorite track.
All in all, it is an angelic experience that we get to hear these wonderful spins. When I started writing this post, I thought that "it must sting" for someone else's cover of your song to blow up more than yours, but I realized I was wrong. Music isn't always a competition; it is a unifying experience for each soul on the universe. It must be so rewarding and affirming for the artists who have other musicians look up to them so much and feel the same level of passion for their records that they want to give it a try and sing it for the world. It's incredible how we all can come together when we look for the beauty in each other's hearts and the tunes they carry. Music is the messenger for us all.