10 Terrible Cover Songs

Juli Thanki | April 5th, 2010

For every cover that turns out well–like, say, Del McCoury’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” or Patsy Cline’s “Faded Love”–there’s a cover that isn’t quite so good. Here are a few of them.

  • Twentieth Century10. “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You” – Alabama featuring ‘N Sync

    In 1999 Alabama joined forces with Lou Pearlman’s teen idols du jour for this single. The cool cats with hits like “40 Hour Week” and “The Closer You Get” were reduced to singing lyrics like “your love is like a river, peaceful and deep/Your soul is like a secret that I never could keep.” And, stealing a page from ‘N Sync’s music video, the band sported color-coordinated outfits in their own video. Alabama’s fine harmonies keep this song from earning a higher spot on this month’s playlist, but it’s still a song to be avoided.

  • 9. “You Really Got Me” – Boy Howdy

    Remember these guys, the ’90s country band fronted by Jeffrey Steele? This song was the closing track on their debut album Welcome to Howdywood. The fuzzy guitars and instantly recognizable riff that made The Kinks’ original cool vanished on this cover; Boy Howdy replaced them with obnoxious drums, ill-advised falsetto, and cornball harmonies. They disbanded in ’96, and Steele is probably using his “What Hurts the Most” money to buy the “You Really Got Me” master tape and have it shot into the sun.

  • Permanently8. “Back At One” – Mark Wills

    Wills released his cover barely two months after Brian McKnight released the original. They both peaked at #2 on their respective charts. Perhaps bolstered by this success, Wills’ next single was a version of Brandy’s “Almost Doesn’t Count.” Insert your own pithy comment about the current state of Wills’ career here.

  • I Don't Want To Miss A Thing7. “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” – Mark Chesnutt

    Remember when Aerosmith used to be a rock band? Remember when Mark Chesnutt used to be a neotraditional country singer and not a rehasher of overwrought power ballads? It’s okay; everyone falls off the wagon sometimes. He took this song to the top of his charts, but it was his final Top 10 hit. Here’s hoping Outlaws, his upcoming covers album, erases this song from our minds.

  • Take Me As I Am6. “Piece Of My Heart” – Faith Hill

    Erma Franklin’s 1967 original is one of the best songs ever recorded. Janis Joplin’s cover a year later epitomizes raw, seething rage. On this chart-topper from 1994, Hill kind of misses the point: she seems rather chipper about the whole thing. Want a piece of my heart? Okay! Let me find some festive gift wrap.

  • Jo Stafford's Greatest Hits5. “Jambalaya” – Jo Stafford

    Several of the Hillbilly Shakespeare’s greatest works have been transformed into pop hits along the way; Tony Bennett’s early ’50s version of “Cold, Cold Heart” is probably one of the most famous, but there have been many, many others. When it comes to this cover (which, like many others on this month’s list, was rather successful on the charts), Williams biographer Colin Escott says it all: “If Hank’s version of ‘Jambalaya’ made only a passing nod to Cajun music, Stafford’s record didn’t make that connection at all; it was sung incongruously to a mambo rhythm.” (p. 215)

    But compared to another horrible Hank cover on this month’s list, Stafford’s “Jambalaya” isn’t half bad.

  • jimmy4. “Hey Good Lookin’” – Jimmy Buffet with Clint Black, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, and George Strait

    What’s that sound? Oh, it’s Hank Williams, whirling like a dervish in his grave. Everyone responsible for this should be forced to chop off a pinkie, thus marking them for life.

  • Conway's Latest Greatest Hits, Vol. 13. “The Rose” – Conway Twitty

    Our resident historian Paul W. Dennis calls this version of Bette Midler’s song “probably the worst cover of all-time.” Twitty is a repeat cover song offender, having delivered “Slow Hand” and “Three Times a Lady” like the creepy guy at your local karaoke bar.

  • Imus Ranch Record2. “Fight For Your Right To Party” – Big & Rich

    Licensed to Ill has a new meaning after this horrendous Beastie Boys cover, which finds Big and Rich complaining that mom threw away their best “country mag.” This monstrosity can be found on a charity album benefitting the Imus Ranch. Personally, I’d donate money, time, and a slightly used kidney if it meant I’d never run the risk of hearing this song ever again.

  • Making A Good Thing Better1. “Ring Of Fire” – Olivia Newton-John

    Take a June Carter-Merle Kilgore classic, strip it of all urgency and longing, and this is the finished product. If Wonder Bread could sing, it’d sound like ONJ’s “Ring of Fire” cover. Listen at your own risk.


2 Pings

  1. [...] Here’s the list VN:F [1.8.5_1061]Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "The 9513 issues their list of the 10 Worst Cover Songs", url: "http://coverville.com/archives/2010/04/the-9513-issues-their-list-of-the-10-worst-cover-songs/" }); [...]
  2. [...] am blissfully ignorant of these ten terrible cover songs, and I intend to keep it that [...]
  1. Michael
    April 5, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    OMG, fun! I would love to see this list expanded to include more. The Alabma cover was atrocious. It gives me chills just thinking about the Boy Howdy and Big & Rich ones. And Conway Twitty? Hah!

  2. Leeann Ward
    April 5, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Oh boy, that Big & Rich cover is pretty terrible. They managed to drain the life right out of it.

    This is a fun list. To be fair though, many of these songs weren’t even good in their original forms.

  3. nm
    April 5, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    No quarrels about the list itself, but Conway’s cover of “Slow Hand” is not creepy.

  4. Matt Bjorke
    April 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    What no “Gotta Be Somebody?”

  5. Noah Eaton
    April 5, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Where’s Jack Ingram’s cover of “Lips Of An Angel”?

    (not that the original was good either, but still…) :P

  6. Jeff
    April 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Conway’s “Slow Hand” is great and Chesnutt’s “Dont Want to Miss a Thing” is a much better than the Aerosmith version.

  7. merlefan49
    April 5, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Spot on with your number one pick.

  8. Noah Eaton
    April 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Come to think of it, that “Use Somebody” cover far lacked the vocal passion of Caleb’s in the original by Kings of Leon.

  9. Paul W Dennis
    April 5, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    I actually liked Faith’s version of “Piece of My Heart” although it is not as good as Erma Franklin’s version (yes, Erma is Aretha’s older sister). The version of the song I cannot stand is Big Brother and the Holding Company (Janis Joplin was the vocalist on the track, but it was billed to the band she of which she was a member, not to her as a solo artist)

  10. Lee S.
    April 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Speaking of Big and Rich, why isn’t “You Shook Me All Night Long” from their third album on here?

    Otherwise excellent list.

  11. Cardsgal
    April 5, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Boy, it must have been hard to limit this list to 10. Twitty’s “Slow Hand” would rank pretty near the top of my list.

  12. Cardsgal
    April 5, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    And for those who say Twitty’s “Slow Hand” isn’t creepy, you must be men…

  13. Erik
    April 5, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Faith’s first version sucked hard, but her 1998 rerecording was pretty decent.

  14. nm
    April 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Cardsgal, why would you think that? I know a fairly large number of women who love that song. In what way(s) do you find it creepy?

  15. Noeller
    April 5, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    You guys are insane! The Alabama with NSync version was fantastic, showcasing the harmonies as well as any song they ever recorded. Wills’ version of Back At One was another vocally fantastic song, and Hill’s version of Joplin’s “…Piece…” is maybe my favourite song she’s ever done, to date, with another incredibly strong vocal.

    Man oh man – this has gotta be an American thing :S

  16. Rick
    April 5, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Noeller, list us a couple of covers by Canadian country acts you think suck and we Yankees will tell you what we think about those! (lol) On the other hand, most of us have probably never heard the songs. Oh well…

    John Hartford’s version of “Piece On My Heart” off the bluegrass goes pop compilation “Bluegrass Goes To Town” is pretty sad as well. That same album contains sucky versions of “World Turning” by Tony Trischka and “Can’t Find My Way Home” by Rob Ickes but the rest of it is pretty darn good!

    A also rank Faith Hill’s version of “Piece Of My Heart” as one of her more listenable radio singles along with “Hey Baby Let’s Go To Vegas”. Can’t say I’ve ever been a fan though.

  17. stormy
    April 5, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    The song actually says “You know I cry all the time” and Faith Hill grins through the line. Its not a smiley song.

  18. Steve Harvey
    April 5, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    That Faith Hill cover is absolutely abominable. The odd thing is, I saw her at Fan Fair a few years ago and she ripped the hell of a fierce Joplin-style version. Maybe some people do wise up with age.

  19. Leeann Ward
    April 5, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Didn’t she say that she never heard the Joplin version before she recorded hers?

  20. Kim
    April 5, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    That would explain a lot Leann. It certainly did suck.

  21. Michelle
    April 5, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Shine by Dolly was pitiful. I love Back At One by Mark Wills. It took me a while to warm up to Lips Of An Angel by Jack Ingram, because I liked the original. Piece Of My Heart by Faith is sucky and hopefully her voice got better with age, too! Yes, she’d never heard it.

  22. luckyoldsun
    April 5, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    This list is completely full of it.
    Conway Twitty’s versions of “Slow Hand” and “The Rose” were great and have staying power.

    Chesnutt’s version of “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” was alright, except for the computer correction of his voice that makes him sound like Kanye West.

  23. stormy
    April 5, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    And actually I think Mark Wills did a far worse job covering Almost Doesn’t Count that Start Back At One.

  24. Michelle
    April 5, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I like Slow Hand by Conway, too. I really love It’s Only Make Believe. He really got into that song when he performed it! I never got to see him live, unfortunately!

  25. Andrew
    April 5, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Danny Gokey’s version of “Like It’s A Bad Thing” belongs on this list.

  26. Paul W Dennis
    April 5, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Other bad covers:

    Linda Ronstadt – “Blue Bayou” – one of the worst covers ever

    Elvis Presley – “Always On My Mind” (note – he was covering Brenda Lee – the Willie version was still nine years in the future)

    Robin Lee – “Black Velvet” – not that the original was any good

    Paul Williams – “Making Believe”

    Dolly Parton – “Old FLames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)” – the Joe SUu original is now forgotten but it was much the better version

  27. J.R. Journey
    April 5, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I also think ‘Slow Hand’ is okay, it wouldn’t be on my least favorite list anyway. ‘The Rose’ is one I don’t like at all – no matter who sings it.

    I was surprised that no Dolly Parton tracks weren’t on the list since she’s recorded so many terrible versions of mediocre songs. She’s more than redeemed herself, of course. I’m just saying.

    Great calls on Faith Hill and the entire back 10. I’m not as familiar with the top 5 … great read too.

  28. Steve Harvey
    April 5, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    @Andrew: Yes! Oh god yes! That Gokey cover is awful.

  29. Paul W Dennis
    April 6, 2010 at 5:48 am

    correcting my typo :

    Dolly Parton – “Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)” – the Joe Sun original is now forgotten but it was much the better version

  30. Leeann Ward
    April 6, 2010 at 6:21 am

    I’m with J.R. I don’t mind “Slow Hand”, but then, I like Conway more than I should anyway.

  31. Bob
    April 6, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I disagree with Paul. Love Linda’s Blue Bayou. It’s because of this song that she became a baseball synonym for a fastball – it “Blew by you”. Go Yankees.

  32. Brian
    April 6, 2010 at 9:26 am

    This is a fun list. To be fair though, many of these songs weren’t even good in their original forms.

    That statement is as wrong as wrong can get.

    1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9 were all great songs..#10 has charm for being a boy band song.

    #3 isn’t one of my favorite songs but it was technically fine.

  33. Bob Weber
    April 6, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Disagree completely with Back At One and Don’t Want To Miss A Thing. I thought both of those were at least as good as the originals.

    As for Faith, I don’t think it would be a good cover if she sang in the same way Janis did. If you want to hear Janis’ screams you should listen to her version. Let’s not forget that this was Faith’s breakout single and not only introduced Faith to the world, but also introduced a new generation to that song. I’m sure Faith’s version gave a great boost to Janis’ popularity. Piece doesn’t deserve to be on this list just for the cultural impact it’s had.

  34. Bobby P.
    April 6, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I hated hated hated Aerosmith’s version of I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing. And then Mark went beyond the impossible and made the song worse by totally NOT having the voice for a power ballad. Thank God that song fell into that weird 1998-1999 void of #1 songs that are totally forgotten. I mean, even by December 1999 I had no recollection of Ty Herndon’s “It Must Be Love” (which is great).

    I disliked Conway’s “Slow Hand” too. Kinda creepy, really.

  35. numberonecountryfan
    April 6, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I did not care for Reba McEntire’s version of Cathy’s Clown. The Everly Brothers had a great version of that one. She just slows the song down to less than turtle speed! However, she did redeem herself with Fancy and The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia! Cathy’s Clown was #1 in 1989 and one month before that, Rosanne Cash had a wonderful cover of I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party at #1-during the 25th anniversary of the Beatles hitting the U.S. for the first time!

  36. sam (sam)
    April 6, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    The article says that Alabama was “reduced” to singing lines like, ” your love is like a river, peaceful and deep/Your soul is like a secret that I never could keep…”

    I can’t figure out why these lines are worse than those in “Pass it on Down,” or the lyrics about being guilty of “love in the first degree,” or many of their other singles.

    I don’t think Alabama was “reduced” to singing cheesy lyrics in this song; I do like Alabama, but they had long been incorporating cheesy lyrics into their music.

  37. Lewis
    April 7, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    What about Jimmy Wayne’s Sara Smile? And how about Dolly Parton’s Downtown?

  38. Shannon
    April 7, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Big and Rich’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ is pretty bad too

  39. Ben Foster
    April 8, 2010 at 12:54 am

    The only song on this list that I knew and loved was “Piece of My Heart.” On the positive side, the fact that Faith had never heard the original forced her to put her own spin on it. But you do have a point. Her performance was a little too chipper-sounding. My dad is a huge Faith Hill fan, but he doesn’t like her cover of this song very much.
    By the way, why is Jimmy Wayne’s version of “Sara Smile” not on the list? It’s practically a carbon copy of the original, and it does not sound country at all.

  40. rbh
    April 10, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    I made the mistake of listening to about 30 seconds of LeeAnn Rimes cover of “Purple Rain.” I won’t make that mistake again. I was a little surprised that it didn’t top this list. But then I realized that it deserved a category all to itself.

  41. jayla
    June 18, 2010 at 11:59 am

    i have heard two of the songs above and i am here to say they suck i will tell you a song that sucks i keep on lovin’ you by Reba Mcentire i think but dont know that she took the name from steel magnolia’s song keep on loving you

  42. jayla
    June 18, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    my fave songs are its all about tonight by blake shelton and lover lover by jerrod nieman and lets not forget blakes oneday to be wife miranda lamberts crazy ex-girlfriend and kerosene and gretchen wilsons new the earrings song rough and roudy by trace adkins and farmers daughter by rodney adkins and eric church’s hell on the heart and lee brice’s upper middle class white trash and many others
    just ask me if i know a song i could tell you right off the name or the words if its new and not old it had to be within about 2007 – 2010

  43. Stormy
    June 18, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    June 18, 2010 at 11:59 am Permalink i have heard two of the songs above and i am here to say they suck i will tell you a song that sucks i keep on lovin’ you by Reba Mcentire i think but dont know that she took the name from steel magnolia’s song keep on loving you

    Yeah, well they stole it from REO Speedwagon.

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