All “worst music ever” lists are a lie, and “worst cover versions ever” lists are even more so. Chances are the real most horrible stuff ever came from talentless no-name bar bands and coffee-shop strummers from nowhere who deservedly went nowhere—and of course, lots of those performers are full-time cover bands (or reality show contestants), too unmotivated to write their own songs in the first place.
Even karaoke counts as covers, right? Which means every night of the year, in whatever town you live in, there are probably cover versions just as wretched as the ones below. But all those human-jukebox unknowns have every right to be awful, and hence don’t deserve our grief anyway.
Nope, a list like this only makes sense if it sticks to artists who’ve achieved some degree of success or notoriety. In other words, artists who should really know better—which is to say, ones who a listener is perfectly justified in getting pissed off at.
Sometimes they’re legitimately great bands having a really bad day or making a really dumb song choice or just sticking around way too long after their sell-by date; sometimes they’re worthless acts who never should have made it in the first place. There are many ways to flub a cover! But some offend more than others. (And others that sound terrible on paper turn out to be excellent.)
And there are certainly recurring lessons to be drawn: For instance, if you have no soul (or singing voice, or rhythm section—take your pick), it may well behoove you to avoid R&B songs. If you are trying to be subversive by sonically turning the tables on a ubiquitous multiplatinum pop number that you think your precious underground art is obviously superior to, you are almost definitely deluded.
If the only reason you’re covering an oldie is because you think life was cute back in the old days, you are probably ignoring the lyrics’ meaning and will no doubt embarrass yourself and your family. If you suddenly had a big hit cover version and are still regularly releasing cover versions as singles five years later, you are trying our patience.
If you are updating a song to keep up with current musical fashions, your version has a very good chance of sounding dorky when those fashions aren’t current anymore (and maybe does already). If you tend to sing like you are nodding off, you could save us all some serious boredom if you actually did. And so on.
This Hall of Shame covers all those bases and more. But the selections that follow do have one thing in common: They all stink to high heaven in ways that’ll make you wonder who cut the cheese, and the artists who did them all owe apologies to music fans and the songs’ originators alike. Be prepared to do some major nose-holding.
Written by Chuck Eddy