What Makes A Great Cover Song?

We hear cover songs all the time. Entire bands exist for the sole purpose of covering the work of another artist or group. Big name musicians perform the music of their fellow artists all the time to pay tribute to the ones who inspired them. And more recently, we’ve seen up-and-coming singers become famous from posting their cover songs on YouTube. Fourteen-year-old Greyson Chance, who has already released his debut album, got his big break from covering Lady Gaga‘s “Paparazzi” at a school event. OurStage’s duo Karmin has received over 40 million views on one of their captivating and unique hip hop covers. Just a couple of weeks ago, they performed at the iHeartRadio festival among artists such as Lady Gaga and Jay-Z. But with so many people recording and performing cover songs, we have to wonder “what makes the good ones stand out?” We’ve found some of our favorite from the Cover Bands Channel to show you!



Take, for example, the talented a cappella group called Rockapella, who covered Vampire Weekend‘s hit “A Punk”. The group took a song that is upbeat, fast-paced and performed by a full band, and recreated it with just their voices. Their version is slowed down and focuses on the harmonies created by the members of the group. It sounds more soulful and catches your attention right from the start.

Press Shuffle: Even Better Than The Real Thing

All aspiring musicians have covered songs at some point in their careers. Emulation and repetition are simple methods to improve your technique. But to adapt a famous song into your own style and succeed in creating a musically stimulating experience is a completely different game. With this in mind, we took a gander at the Covers Channel here at OurStage and hand picked the most original imitators for your listening pleasure. We hope you enjoy the fresh twists on these classic songs just as much as we did!


When The Levee Breaks” by Bonerama (original by Memphis Minnie and Joe McCoy and given international popularity by Led Zeppelin). This song was originally performed by a folk blues duo from the United States. So it’s only appropriate that this incarnation of the tune is centered around a New Orleans brass band.

When The Saints Go Marching In” by Donna Lee Saxophone Quartet (originally recorded by Louis Armstrong). For this popular gospel hymn, in a style reminiscent to the golden Dixieland days, an all-saxophone arrangement fills all the traditional band’s roles. It even has a tasty sax solo to boot!

Something” by John McCracken (original by The Beatles). It’s amazing what a striking difference a small change can make. The addition of a slide guitar in this tune takes the song’s feel to a whole new place, and it’s a place we don’t mind being taken to.

A-Punk” by Rockapella (original by Vampire Weekend). As their name suggests, Rockapella have adapted the song for an all-vocal a capella performance. Keeping all the great hooks and slowing the tune down just enough to make you bounce, this unique cover will have you asking for more.

Fight For Your Right (To Party) Blues” by The Tangiers Blues Band (original by The Beastie Boys). Add grittiness of blues to this ironic party anthem? Yes please! Fuzzface, harmonica and shuffle fit perfectly with the devil-may-care attitude of the tune, and the performance is simply top notch.

Complicated” by Nikki Britt (original by Avril Lavigne). This high-school pop tune is surprisingly easy on the ears as a country song. Granted, the reach taken with this adaptation isn’t too far with the instrumentation, but the vocal delivery is not only good, but gives the lyrics a breath of credibility to that can only be attributed to the youthfulness of the voice.

Tomorrow Never Knows” by Tobias Gebb (original by The Beatles). “The Beatles, again?” you ask? Not only are they the most covered band on OurStage, there is also no such thing as “too much” Beatles. This already experimental tune retains its Indian qualities as the musicians explore the percussive side of the song in this jazz arrangement.

Tears In Heaven” by Julius Francis (original by Eric Clapton). This modern take on Clapton’s classic definitely gives the song a new twist. Even though it lacks the rawness and emotion of the original, it gives it a new air with a poppier, technologically powered feel.

Have any tunes in particular that you care to share? Disagree with any of the picks? Want a particular theme to be Shuffled? Let us know by dropping a comment!