The 20 Worst Cover Songs in Pop Music History

The 20 Worst Cover Songs in Pop Music History

Covering other people's material is a mainstay in pop music. Why bother taking the time to write an original song when you can just recycle somebody else's hit, redo it with an acoustic guitar (or, if it's an acoustic song, with an electric guitar) and generate the same result? But it doesn't always work out as planned, especially if you don't bother to figure out what made the original song popular in the first place (or in the case of our #1 choice, even bother to learn the damn lyrics first). Below, 20 great songs that received sound butcherings by artists who should've known better. A lot better.

"You Shook Me All Night Long" - Celine Dion and Anastasia

This is the perfect song to play if you've just ingested poison and urgently need to induce vomiting. But even if it's a life or death situation, you might want to think twice before clicking play. While it may save your life, you will be haunted by the image of Celine Dion playing air guitar for the rest of your days.

"Downtown Train" - Rod Stewart

Did Rod Stewart just wake up one day in 1977 and decide to become a pathetic, grotesque parody of himself? Or did he ease into it over time, like a pair of his stretched-beyond-relief leather pants? "Lead singer of The Faces"-era Rod was known to drop some kick-ass covers. But then came the "shoulder pads and blow-dried '80s"-era Rod and this nauseating version of Tom Waits' "Downtown Train." All you need to know about post-Faces Rod can be encapsulated in the seizure he has at the 15-second point of this video. It's like he remembers that there is such a thing as rocking out, has a vague sense that people used to enjoy it when he rocked out, but can't muster up enough enthusiasm to do anything other than awkwardly twitch his head back.

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" - Guns N Roses

To be honest, G'N'R could have taken three places all on their own. In addition to the 10-minute "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", Axl Rose also drilled out overlong, tepid versions of "Live and Let Die" and "Sympathy for the Devil," managing to hit an unlikely trifecta of brutalizing The Stones, McCartney and Bob Dylan in a single badly chosen career.

"Demolition Man" - Manfred Mann


"I'm a walking nightmare, an arsenal of doom / I kill conversation as I walk into the room." This sums up Manfred Mann's music quite nicely, actually. They struck gold with their cover of Springsteen's "Blinded by the Light," but one hit does not excuse the litany of brutal covers with which they've ear-raped us with before and since, from The Jam's "Going Underground" to Dylan's "It's All Over Now (Baby Blue)". But the absolute nadir is probably this, their slaughter of The Police's "Demolition Man," which somehow manages to beat out Sylvester Stallone for the title of worst Demolition Man ever.

"American Pie" - Madonna

Poor Madge. She started off with a groundbreaking spark, pushing both boundaries and buttons. But for the last decade, she seems more like that Molly Shannon character on SNL who can still high-kick in a leotard even though she's 60. Why a woman with an exclusively gay fan base would cover an allegory about classic rock history is beyond us; it's not like you can make a retro-dance remix that radio DJs will play in exchange for bribes from the record company that bought your soul.

"My Generation" - Hilary Duff


People try to put your generation down, do they, Hilary? Maybe it's because your generation has a habit of mistaking glorified Mouseketeers for musicians. Or maybe it's because your generation gave rise to a version of the music industry that asparagus-pisses in the face of everything rock stands for. Either way, it looks like Hilary's in the process of following her own advice and just f-f-f-fading away.

"It's My Life" - No Doubt

No Doubt's note-for-note recreation of this song by Talk Talk isn't excruciating
, in the same way that having to make small talk with Gwen Stefani for ten minutes would be, but you have to ask: why do it in the first place? So that you can act in an incoherent video that has nothing to do with the song? Because you've already done that at least five times by now. If you're still practicing, stop: you've got the chops.

"Video Killed The Radio Star" - The Presidents of the United States of America

With so many brilliant tunes out there to cover, why would you pick The Buggles' goofy hit from 1980? Were the Presidents seduced by the questionably hot chicks in the headbands and legwarmers? Was it the timely nature of the lyrics, which had become completely irrelevant by 1998? Or, most likely, did the POTUS just assume you could drench anything in wink-nudge irony and the kids'd lap it up like bong resin? Regardless, adapting this '80s classic to fit the late '90s is like adapting the patent for the first automobile into a screenplay for a romantic comedy: the only way it'd sound like a good idea is if you were high or stupid. So what I'm saying is it makes sense they'd give it a shot.

"Walk this Way" - Macy Gray


The fact that this loose stool made the cut for Gray's "Greatest Hits" album proves that nobody in Macy Gray's career is really paying that close attention to it, Gray included. (Also, we have our researchers looking into why the word "hit" is plural in that title). This version of the Aerosmith classic sounds just as you would imagine it to sound: "He told me to walk this way / Talk this way!" Wait, someone told you to talk like an alcoholic who's just sucked back a zeppelin full of helium? Who?
And why would you listen?

"Another Brick in the Wall" - Korn


In case you ever wanted to know what Pink Floyd's masterpiece would have sounded like if, instead of using heroin and songwriting to cope with their depression, they'd just used heroin and crystal meth: well, here you go.

"I'm A Believer" - Smash Mouth

The trivia geeks will know that this was originally written by Neil Diamond. But here's the thing-how bad a cover version do you have to create to look bad compared to The goddamn Monkees? That's like losing a paralyzation contest to Stephen Hawking. Smash Mouth manages to pull that off here. FU Mang indeed.

"Satisfaction" - Britney Spears

Imagine the American Idol judges reviewing this. Simon: "Absolutely awful. Dreadful. I hope you're run over by a flaming 18-wheeler filled with POW diarrhea." Randy: "Wasn't good, dog." Paula: "What they said." Of course, instead of throwing a hysterical sobfest in the green room like any other respectable contestant, Britney would flash her vagina while screaming, "Y'all don't know me!"

"Sweet Child O Mine" - Sheryl Crowe


Her folksy-country-rock-pop take on this G'N'R classic makes about the same level of sense as recording "Layla" without all those noisy guitars. Or "In the Air Tonight" without those troublesome drums. Or porn without that pesky physical contact of any sort whatsoever. If you got Sheryl Crowe and Axl Rose on one of those SAT analogy things, the paper would probably catch on fire and self-destruct.

"Big Yellow Taxi" - Counting Crows

We absolutely loved the way that lead singer Adam Duritz (the hairy Fraggle wearing the arty-fart Dr. Seuss hat in the video) changed up the phrasing to make it more liberal than the original Joni Mitchell version. Because if there's one thing that Joni Mitchell could've improved on, it was being more liberal. That made all the difference to us. We've since started buying organic apples.

"911 Is a Joke" - Duran Duran


We are not making this one up. Duran Duran's Public Enemy cover is perhaps the most ridiculously mismatched since Pat Boone's "Tutti Frutti" or Haley Joel Osment's "Face Down, Ass Up." (Okay, one of those was made up.) Just how deluded do you have to be to cover this song not just as a bunch of white guys, but as a bunch of the Whitest Guys on Earth?
Duran Duran is from Birmingham, England, not Birmingham, Alabama. If you slathered them in mayonnaise and slapped them between two pieces of Wonder Bread, they couldn't be any whiter... though admittedly it would make them a good deal more sexually attractive.

"Anarchy in the UK" - Motley Crue

Just to prove it travels both ways-what does a California hair band know about working class life in 1970s Britain? We don't know what's scarier, the fact that the Crue thought they could cover the Sex Pistols or the fact that this track was released on a Motley Crue double album. They did poetically change "UK" to "USA" in their version, although they kept the same title and lead singer Vince Neal decided to affect a shitty English accent 7,000 times less belivable than Gwyneth Paltrow's, so it still levels out at Awful.

"Behind Blue Eyes" - Limp Bizkit

"No one knows what it's like to be hated." We're pretty sure Fred and the boys had a good idea long
before their dire rendition of The Who's introspective classic. There's actually a website called That really says it all. Not even a frowny Halle Berry mouthing along saves this awful cover.

"Feel Like Making Love" - Kid Rock

It's pretty difficult to feel sorry for a man who's paid millions of dollars to wrap himself in an American flag and scream into a microphone, but Kid Rock's performance of Bad Company's rock anthem manages to bring us to our knees every time. It's like one of those '80s sitcoms where the protagonist has somehow convinced everyone that he was good at something, and is about to get exposed. Lucky for Kid, he's too drunk to learn any life lessons. Lucky for us, he's sober enough to turn in a performance that's reminiscent of the scene in Boogie Nights when Dirk Diggler keeps blaming the background music for screwing up his horrendous vocals. Kid actually gets his band to start over a couple of times. Because, you know, it's their
fault that he can't sing a song that's too easy for Karaoke night at the Special Olympics.

"Dock of the Bay" - Michael Bolton

What is it about Michael Bolton that raises such ire? Is it that puckered "I'm doing long division in my head" face he pulls when he's about to tackle an R&B classic? Is it his steadfast resistance in hanging onto that middle-aged-woman-in-1994-mullet for so long? Is it his ability to blithely continue trashing great songs of the past with impunity? Maybe it's just the simple fact that Bolton makes soul music for white people who are afraid of black people. Otis Redding's long gone, but maybe we can still get Aretha Franklin to kick his ass.

"And It Stoned Me" - Bob Dylan


We're going to let this musical AIDS do the talking here. There's really nothing to say, though Dylan's butchering of Van Morrison's "And It Stoned Me" does leave us with one question: what the fuck did Van Morrison ever do to Bob Dylan? It should also be noted that Bob Dylan didn't bother to learn more than a third of the lyrics before performing this, the Worst Cover Song in Pop Music History.
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