Nothing beats the original…except for when it does. There are times when taking away from a great song can make it even better. It can showcase the vocals more, bring deeper meaning to the lyrics or change them entirely and it can make you fall in love with a song all over again.
Alternative artists do a great job at busting out acoustic covers. Normally the songs are written with the guitar in mind in the genre so when you peel back the layers, it still works. The mark of an incredible artist is one who can re-imagine their own work multiple ways. Take a look at some of those musicians below.
1. Chris Cornell – “Black Hole Sun”
A great talent who lost his inner battle. Chris Cornell was the heart and soul of Soundgarden. This is an acoustic favorite that still, a lot of people haven’t heard. His words are therapeutic to many and bringing the song down just the acoustic guitar gives it an extra healing energy.
2. Birdy – “Skinny Love”
Originally from Bon Iver in 2007, Birdy breathes new life into the song. One of the few times the cover done by a different artist might actually be better than the original. See for yourself and fight me in the comments.
3. The Offspring – “Gone Away” (2021)
Yes, you saw that date correct, 2021. The Offspring originally released “Gone Away” in 1997 but for their new album Let The Bad Times Roll they brought us a new rendition. Stripping the song back to the basics is something fans have wanted for a long time and the band really delivered with a version that really tears through your heart.
4. Florence + the Machine – “Shake It Out”
This should have been the album version. Back in the day, I ripped an mp3 version of this video just so I could listen to it easily all the time. Now I’m a responsible consumer who added the video to my YouTube and you’ll probably do the same after listening to it. Scaling the song back showcases her vocals more than the original and she holds nothing back.
5. Glass Animals – “Heat Waves”
Dave Bayley could really be a one-man-show. (But the whole band has an incredible story of overcoming a huge adversity recently that you should read about! Click HERE.) He proved that ten times over during the pandemic giving fans SO much content. He is a producing wizard but that being said, he creates songs that don’t need the extra production behind them. Without the flash, Glass Animal songs still have a leg to stand on. The acoustic version of Heat Waves does a good job of showing that.
6. Foo Fighters – “Everlong”
Another hit from 1997 flipped into an acoustic jam this year. (Ref: see The Offspring) Recorded out of Studio 606 in Northridge, CA and aired as part of Oates Song Fest in support of Feeding America. Dave Grohl is constantly revisiting old hits of his and showing us how to make them new again. Not only are the lyrics to the song captivating as they tell a break-up story but it’s incredible to hear Dave pick up a guitar when he swears to not be a “trained” musician. Would never want to train the creativity out of this guy.
7. Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know”
This song has an awesome guitar which you would assume is carrying the whole song. Not true. Alex Turner strips the song down for this live version of “Do I Wanna Know.” When you don’t have the added instruments, you get a heavier feel for the lyrics. The song sounds a little more sad and this is an example of where slowing it down can change the meaning of the song to you a bit.
8. Richard Ashcroft – “Bittersweet Symphony”
Bet you didn’t think a song with “symphony” in the name could be dialed back to just a guitar and voice but here we are. And it works so well! Turns out Ashcroft’s voice (lead for The Verve) can carry the song on its own.
9. Brandon Flowers – “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine”
From the Hot Fuss era of The Killers, “Jenny was a Friend of Mine” is a surprisingly good acoustic jam given how anxsty the entire album is. “Mr. Brightside” tends to overshadow the rest of the songs but Brandon Flowers showed Jenny some love in this acoustic version he did live in 2015.
10. Twenty One Pilots – “Tear in my Heart”
Last but NOT least. These guys can do no wrong. In their beginnings, they used to walk around downtown with a ukulele and play their music. It’s no surprise that Twenty One Pilots has an acoustic version to most of their songs in their back pocket. Give Tyler Joseph a uke and he’ll give you a song.
The greatest songs can be remastered time and time again. Remixes are cool but nothing shows the strength of your favorite artist like taking one of their songs down to the roots.
What is your favorite song with an acoustic cover?