Taking a classic song that’s perfectly fine as is and exhuming it for financial gain is awful enough, but when the result comes out sounding excremental, you want to cover the new artist with a blanket and make them stop.
Here are my 10 least favorite cover tunes:
(1) Britney Spears, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
This one placed a giant “Huh?” into everyone’s eardrums when it arrived in 2000. Had Britney even heard of the Stones? Had she known longing or yearning, other than wondering how to match her mouth to the voice being piped in at concerts? This tonedeaf version of a rock classic was shamefully devoid of energy and range. At age 110, Mick will still do it the best because no one simulates hip-strutting frustration like he does!
(2) Gloria Estefan, “Everlasting Love” (1994)
I like Gloria, but this was a cookie-cutter version of one of everyone’s favorite bubblegum pop tunes (which had already been covered at least three times already, the best being Carl Carlton’s rollicking version in ’74). Why dredge up a nice little pop moment if you’re not going to reinvent it, or at least match it in spirit? The whole thing had an air of pointlessness about it, which contrasted with the pleasing pointlessness of Carlton’s version.
(3) Gloria Estefan, “Turn The Beat Around”
I hate to rag on Gloria again–like I said, I like her–but Vicki Sue Robinson’s 1976 original was passionate, quirky, personal, and exciting–a real disco classic that kept percolating and mounting and driving you nuts with danceable delight. Again, Gloria went through the motions while smoothing out the edges (also in ’94) and the result didn’t turn anything around except my hand to turn it off!
(4) Alicia Keys, “A House is Not A Home”
Alicia did this Bacharach/David gem on the 2004 Grammy Awards, and while the lady is usually brilliant, this time she flopped, seeming to have no clue as to how to convey the depths of despair the song spoke to. (Luther Vandross’s creamy, slow, inspired version was the best one by far. Interestingly, her version was intended as a tribute to the late Luther.) As I wrote at the time, Alicia seemed to think it was actually a song about furniture.
(5) Madonna, “American Pie,” 2000
Sorry to make this list all women, but it’s impossible to leave out this unnecessary, pseudo-danceable revamp of the weird 1971 Don McLean number about America’s lost hopes–or something–which almost made sense when McLean himself sang it. I said almost! But with Madonna doing it, it seemed as depoliticized as decontextualized as her later film Swept Away. Hey, this was the same year as Britney’s “Satisfaction” remake. Lost hopes indeed!