Top 20 Worst Cover Songs Ever

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Top 20 Worst Cover Songs Ever

VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild
No offense to those involved, but there's not much nuance here. For this list, we'll be looking at song covers that really don't measure up to the originals. Our countdown includes “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”, and more!
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Top 20 Worst Cover Songs


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Worst Cover Songs.

For this list, we’ll be looking at song covers that really don’t measure up to the originals. No offense to those involved, but there’s not much nuance here.

Any lackluster covers we missed? Drop us a comment below.

#20: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (1968)

William Shatner (Originally by the Beatles)
Is this tongue-in-cheek, or for real? Honestly, it’s pretty hard to tell. The “Star Trek” actor’s take on the Beatles classic is, by all accounts, messy. John Lennon’s dreamy lyrics worked incredibly well in the psychedelic, melodic setting of the original. But here, Shatner reduces them to just plain silliness. He claimed to have tracked his vocals in the style of someone tripping on LSD, which misses the point, unfortunately; according to Lennon, it’s not supposed to be a narcotics song at all. The bizarre vocals make this cover a must-listen, if only so you can understand just how crazy it really is.

#19: “Crush on You” (1997)

Aaron Carter (Originally by the Jets)
Carter was just nine years old when he released his debut album, featuring this cover of the Jets’ classic R&B hit. At this point, you’re probably asking yourself, are we really going to criticize a nine-year-old? Well… yes. Musically, his take on “Crush on You” is very similar to the original. But his youthful vocals understandably come off pretty childish and whiny, and feel like a very awkward fit with the ‘80s-inspired sound of the track. This was bafflingly a global hit, even making it into the Top 10 in the UK and Australia. We’re honestly surprised anyone wanted to listen to it twice.

#18: “Lose Yourself” (2008)

The Script (Originally by Eminem)
That entry title is sure to strike fear into any self-respecting Slim Shady fan. The Script, an Irish band best known for their hit “Hall Of Fame,” attempted this rather ambitious cover on BBC Radio’s Live Lounge back in 2008. It’s fair to say they didn’t exactly nail it. Danny O’Donoghue seems caught between singing and rapping the lyrics, and ends up doing neither very well. Essentially, all the energy and directness of the original are lost, replaced with awkward, karaoke-style stuff. It’s all a bit Michael Scott after a few office party drinks too many.


#17: “Three Little Birds” (2018)

Maroon 5 (Originally by Bob Marley and the Wailers)
It takes a brave band to cover this Bob Marley classic, one of the most instantly recognizable songs all over the world. Maroon 5 probably aren’t the first act that comes to mind as suitable candidates for the job. And the fact this was a corporate collaboration with Hyundai rings alarm bells before listening to a single note. Perhaps wisely, the track itself doesn’t deviate much from the original. But it’s undoubtedly far glossier than Marley’s version, and that detracts quite a bit from the charm. Adam Levine’s vocals just can’t compete with Marley’s here.


#16: “Imagine” (2007)

Avril Lavigne (Originally by John Lennon)
The beauty of Lennon’s “Imagine” is in its simplicity. The instrumentation is sparse, allowing the message and clarity of the vocals to shine through. Wisely, Lavigne follows this approach, and isn’t tempted to over-do the arrangement or production. Unfortunately, this exposes a fatal flaw: her singing lacks the crucial pathos. Namely, the heartfelt quality of Lennon’s vocals just isn’t there. Lavigne’s performance is decent, but lacking in emotion and vulnerability. And for a song that really hinges on that raw sense of hope and optimism, Lavigne’s take doesn’t really cut it.


#15: “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2016)

Panic! at The Disco (Originally by Queen)
Brendon Urie’s theatrical stylings have always owed a good deal to Queen. But covering “Bohemian Rhapsody” - one of the most ambitious and beloved songs the world has ever seen - was always going to be a challenge. Instrumentally, the Panic version is very similar to the original, which is hardly a surprise given how iconic it is. But while Urie’s vocals are very strong, Freddie Mercury he is not. He somehow manages to make this already bombastic song even more-over-the-top. It’s technically impressive, but it feels like he’s trying way too hard. This, combined with the rather unoriginal approach musically, make it feel rather forgettable.


#14: “...Baby One More Time” (1999)

Travis (Originally by Britney Spears)
You obviously need no introduction to Britney’s magnum opus. The Travis version completely changes the vibe, swapping the slick pop beats for a more indie, Britpop sound. Unfortunately it comes across as a little twee. And it’s hard to tell if this is a quote unquote “ironic” cover or not, which does it no favors. The song is far more suited to being a straight-up pop banger than it is an acoustic, rock jam. Britney’s vocals are just iconic on the original, but Fran Healy’s Scottish brogue doesn’t lend itself especially well. Simply put, the Travis version takes itself too seriously.

#13: “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (2004)

Fall Out Boy (Originally by Joy Division)
Yeah, Fall Out Boy, if you could just go ahead and NOT touch the classics, that would be great. Joy Division’s original is an iconic ‘80s track thanks to its instantly recognizable keyboard and bass melodies, and Ian Curtis’s bass-baritone vocals. The single was released one month after his tragic death, giving it a melancholy importance. And then there’s this. Patrick Stump’s teen rock angst is far inferior to Curtis’s genuine pain, and the angry sound found in the chorus, complete with a crescendo of drums and Stump’s forceful vocals, takes away from the personal and emotional sound of the original. Sorry FOB, but this song is not in your wheelhouse.

#12: “American Pie” (2000)

Madonna (Originally by Don McLean)
Madge herself turned Don McLean’s eight-minute folk classic into a four-minute dance-pop track… as you do. Her choice to cut about half of the song was probably for the best, as her take on the verses she left in is pretty questionable. The dance vibes just don’t gel with the nostalgic, allegorical lyrics, and you’re left longing for the emotional qualities of McLean’s vocals. This is certainly an ambitious take on the song, and Madonna gets points for trying something new. But tamper with classics too much, and you’re left with subpar results like this.

#11: “Under the Bridge” (1998)

All Saints (Originally by Red Hot Chili Peppers)
“Under the Bridge” is one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ most distinguishable songs. It features Anthony Kiedis’s signature blend of emotive and funky vocals, and it keeps things fresh by beginning rather understated before launching into Flea’s groovy bass line and choir vocals. It’s an instantly recognizable song, which is more than we can say for the All Saints version, which sounds just like every other pop R&B tune of the late ‘90s. It’s instantly… forgettable, which is certainly the last thing you want when trying to stand out alongside a timeless classic. Just water under the bridge.


#10: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (2014)

The Flaming Lips feat. Miley Cyrus & Moby (Originally by the Beatles)
What did “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” do to deserve two covers questionable enough to make this list? This time, it’s the frankly bizarre line-up of the Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus and, for some reason, Moby, who are to blame. The triple act triple down on the psychedelic qualities of the original, and then some. The Cyrus-led acoustic verses are actually quite pretty. But the comically distorted chorus is so loud and fuzzy it’s really hard to listen to. And by the time Moby appears, it all feels way too much. This song deserves so much better.

#9: “Seven Nation Army” (2012)

Marcus Collins (Originally by the White Stripes)
“Seven Nation Army” is a rock classic thanks to its stadium-rousing guitar riffs, thumping bass line, and Jack White’s hostile vocal performance. There’s a reason why it’s become a staple at sporting events – it has the ability to rile a crowd and get them pumped for battle. And then “The X-Factor’s” Marcus Collins destroys all its power by turning it into a slinky pop tune. Collins’s soul-pop vocals don’t suit the song’s aggressive lyrical content, and the instrumentation results in party fun rather than antagonism. The lively production is great, but “Seven Nation Army” was not a great pick to showcase Collins’s soul-pop sound.

#8: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1995)

Take That (Originally by Nirvana)
Covering “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is never a good idea, even if you put an original twist on it like Daniel Johns. Take That mistakenly performed Nirvana’s genre-changing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” live at Earl’s Court, and viewing it is just as cringe-worthy as anything Michael Scott has ever done. What were they honestly thinking? Covering this classic so soon after Cobain’s death was ill advised enough, but they proceeded to tarnish the reputation of the original with amateurish guitar playing, flat vocals, and a complete lack of energy. Sorry, Take That, but this is so bad it verges on surreal.

#7: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (2000)

Britney Spears (Originally by the Rolling Stones)
Britney has a track record of dubious classic rock covers. Check out her version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” for some evidence of that. But it’s her take on this iconic Rolling Stones tune that catches the ear - for all the wrong reasons. Where Britney’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” stayed faithful to the original, her “Satisfaction” is completely reinvented as an early 2000s pop tune, with drum machines and shimmering synths. It’s a huge mismatch. Add to that the fact that Spears’s vocals lack the power and raw energy of Mick Jagger’s, and the end result becomes clear: this was a misstep.

#6: “My Generation” (2004)

Hilary Duff (Originally by the Who)
The processed drum beats that introduce Duff’s interpretation of the Who classic are an early sign that something is wrong. Then the tinny pop-punk guitars come in, and, well, those early suspicions are proved correct. It’s in that incredibly awkward middle ground between being too similar to the original it’s boring, and too different in a way that doesn’t suit the song. Duff’s vocals struggle to stand out amongst the questionable production choices, too. This ended up as a bonus track on Duff’s critically panned third record, which probably says it all about the track’s quality.

#5: “Back in Black” (2004)

Shakira (Originally by AC/DC)
Shakira performed a cover of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” for her “Live & Off the Record” album, and it has next to no reason for existing. It begins with a swing, coffeehouse sound, which is actually pretty interesting and original. But then the guitars blast, and what follows is a carbon copy of the original, only with Shakira’s relatively inferior vocals in place of Brian Johnson’s iconic screech. If you’re going to cover a song, at least put an original spin on it and make it your own. Shakira unfortunately didn’t, and it just comes across as boring and bizarre. But hey, at least the band rocked.

#4: “911 Is a Joke” (1995)

Duran Duran (Originally by Public Enemy)
Take a vital American hip hop song about poor emergency response calls in black neighborhoods, give it to a British synth-pop group to cover, and what do you get? Unfortunately, this. It’s only natural for Duran Duran to admire the original track - who doesn’t? - but quite why they thought they were in any way suitable to perform it in this style is another question. The hybrid of blues-y guitar licks and singer Simon Le Bon’s attempts at rapping really, really does not work. However well intentioned it may have been, this cover tries to genre-hop and fails miserably.


#3: “Comfortably Numb” (2004)

Scissor Sisters (Originally by Pink Floyd)
Make no bones about it: this is a radical change from the original. The iconic, slow-burning groove of the “The Wall” classic is gone, replaced with an up-tempo, arpeggiated disco groove. And it really, really doesn’t suit the mood of the track at all. It’s obviously hard to compare to the vocals provided by David Gilmour and Roger Waters. But the trademark falsetto of Jake Shears and Ana Matronic are grating in this context, and jar with the lyrical content. It’s so different, it might as well be a completely different song, and not necessarily in a good way, either.


#2: “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” (2005)

Jessica Simpson (Originally by Nancy Sinatra)
Simpson was riding a real publicity high back in 2005. This cover came attached to the “Dukes of Hazzard” movie, in which she starred as Daisy Duke. Her decision to completely rework the song to tie in with the movie, however, was a real head-scratcher. The modified lyrics contain some serious eye-rollers, and the combination of country-style banjos and drum machine beats mix about as well as tacos and marshmallows. Ultimately, this song has the feeling of a movie commercial, and has very little of the heart and charm present in Nancy Sinatra’s original. It all comes across as a bit cynical, and clinical.

#1: “Faith” (1997)

Limp Bizkit (Originally by George Michael)
Just like with “Behind Blue Eyes,” Limp Bizkit has made it abundantly clear that covering the classics wasn’t their forte. And yet... Limp Bizkit and George Michael are about as incompatible as oil and water, and what results is a terribly lame rendition of Michael’s classic. Limp Bizkit have honestly turned this timeless dance rock tune into something of a screaming mess of dated nu metal, complete with Durst’s whiny vocals, embarrassing screaming, and poorly timed record scratching. We suppose it would be cool if you were thirteen-years-old, but for the rest of us, this is nothing but a shameful take on a classic song.
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#0: Hotel California Al B. Sure! (Originally by the Eagles)