Top 10 Acoustic Covers of Songs

Script written by Matt Wende Let's get unplugged. Join as we are count down our list for the Top 10 Acoustic Cover Songs. For this list, we're looking at songs that have been given a new life in a rerecording using unplugged instruments, and minimal production elements to create an acoustic version of the song. Special thanks to our users iamnotarobot, Marauder Irribari, Gareth Ginge Savage for suggesting this idea on our Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comSuggest

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Top 10 Acoustic Covers of Songs

Let’s get unplugged. Welcome to, and today, we’re counting down our list for the top 10 acoustic cover songs.

For this list, we’re looking at songs that have been given a new life in a rerecording using unplugged instruments, and minimal production elements to create an acoustic version of the song. The cover song cannot be performed by the original artist, which means that Eric Clapton’s acoustic rendition of “Layla” is out of the running. The performances must also be by officially recorded by mainstream artists, so no YouTube covers. Finally we will be omitting covers of songs that were already acoustic such as “Skinny Love” which is heavily based around the acoustic guitar.

#10: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Greg Laswell (2007)
Originally by Cyndi Lauper (1983)

Even the men agree that girls wanna have fun. Well at least Greg Laswell the singer-songwriter does! Taking a more melancholic tone to Cyndi Lauper’s '80s classic, Laswell turns the song completely on its head, completely changing the melody and giving the song a whole new meaning. Also changing the perspective of the song from female to male means that male listeners no longer have to hide their love for the tune. That’s the power of a great cover!

#9: “Tuesday’s Gone” by Metallica (1998)
Originally by Lynyrd Skynrd (1973)

It’s true, the words Metallica and acoustic rarely come together in the same sentence. But when they do… oh hell yeah! Lynyrd Skynrd’s knack for bringing rock ballads to life is undeniable, as showcased in their classic, “Tuesday’s Gone”. James Hetfield’s gravely vocals bring an aged wisdom to the already powerful lyrics, as we the listeners examine a man looking back at his life. While the cover features a full band, the song maintains an unplugged sound that rocks just as hard as the original.

#8: “The Suburbs” by Father John Misty (2015)
Originally by Arcade Fire (2010)

Covering the title track from the Grammy Award-winning album by Arcade Fire, Joshua Tillman, otherwise known as Father John Misty, put his spin on this moody classic 5 years after the original's release. While Tillman’s emotional vocals give the song something special, it’s the singer breaking into his beautiful falsetto that gets us every listen. The Arcade Fire tune may be a lyrical masterpiece, but matched with the musical genius of indie icon Father John Misty, you’ll no doubt have this cover on repeat.

#7: “I Can’ Make You Love Me/Nick of Time (medley)” by Bon Iver (2011)
Originally by Bonnie Raitt (1991/1989)

If you owned a radio in the late 80s, chances are you remember listening to countless Bonnie Raitt pop ballads. Tunes such as “I Make You Love Me”, and “Nick of Time” may bring up fond memories, and if so, Bon Iver may have a surprise for you. Covering the two tracks at once as a medley on the piano, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon brings to life the now dated tracks with his impeccable talent and raw passion. Taking a folkier sound to stray away from country original, Bon Iver created a crowd pleaser all thanks to a beautiful falsetto and some moody piano.

#6: “Free Fallin’” by John Mayer (2008)
Originally by Tom Petty (1989)

This classic Tom Petty track is the chocolate milkshake of rock tracks: everyone likes it! Well, okay, not everyone, but we don’t talk to those other people. John Mayer’s acoustic cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A” was also considered, but we chose to go with this track off his live DVD concert, Where the Light is. In the acoustic segment, Mayer dropped this cover, and his slow building performance had us hooked from beginning to the dramatic crescendo that almost has us in tears. Almost!

#5: “Crazy” by Ray Lamontagne (2006)
Originally by Gnarls Barkley (2006)

Remember when you couldn’t get that Gnarls Barkley song out of your head. Cee-lo Green’s voice coupled with the funky rhythm still has us crazy about that track. But if you need a break from groovin’, be sure to check out Ray Lamontagne’s cover. It won’t have you dancing any time soon, but it might just get you in the feels. The same complex lyrics and sweet melody, but with a soothing guitar and smokey vocals? Now you have our attention.

#4: “Hey Ya” by Obadiah Parker (2006)
Originally by Outkast (2003)

Hey, you know that grooving hip hop track that you use to get psyched? Ummm, yeah, about that… Little known folk artist Obadiah Parker’s rendition of this Grammy winner took the already depressing lyrics of the song and made them ever sadder with the help of an acoustic arrangement. As a result, the song went viral on YouTube and kicked off the talented artist’s career. With his soulful voice adding potency to an already great song, Parker’s version will have you pausing in your day, if only for a moment to think about the little things in your relationship.

#3: “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana (1994)
Originally by David Bowie (1970)

With the counter-culture ‘90s grunge acting as a cold reflection to the counter-culture movement of two decades previous, Nirvana found itself reinterpreting the timeless work of David Bowie. Of course Nirvana is also famous for covering the traditional American folk song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”, but we had to go with this early 70s classic. Its themes of societal outcasts were given a home and a new voice, and combined with the melancholy tone of Cobain’s rich vocals, the song became one of Nirvana’s greatest triumphs.

#2: “The Day Before You Came” by Steve Wilson (2004)
Originally by ABBA (1982)

ABBA’s songwriting skills are not in question here, but the heartbreaking sounds created by the Swedish group feels a bit jarring when juxtaposed with disco music. In the best way possible, of course. Steve Wilson’s acoustic rendition strips the song of it’s electronic routes, and allows the song, lyrics and all, to speak for itself. While the original song is amazing in its own right, and is severely underrated held against the rest of the group’s discography, we pray that Wilson’s version can draw some attention to the hauntingly beautiful tune. Does it make for sadder listening? Sure does, but we’re not complaining.

Before we lay back with our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“I Should’ve Known Better” by Nickel Creek (2002)
Originally by Carrie Newcomer (1998)

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by Cat Power (2000)
Originally by The Rolling Stones (1965)

“Wrecking Ball” by Our Last Night (2013)
Originally by Miley Cyrus (2013)

“Heartless” by The Fray (2009)
Originally by Kanye West (2008)

#1: “Hurt” by Johnny Cash (2003)
Originally by Nine Inch Nails (1995)

The idea that art must be destroyed in order to create something new couldn’t possibly resonate more with this track. Nine Inch Nails’ dark and cynical look at a life wasted is torn apart, but rebuilt in new splendor by Johnny Cash. The lyrics are made richer by the vocals of a man who has lived a full life, full of trials and victories, through the highest highs and the lowest lows. It is in this magical retelling that we find the greatest acoustic cover.

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