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The Cover Changes The Meaning
A popular song (or even a nearly unknown one) has a cover version released. Rather than stick to the tone of the original, the band covering it decides to take it a different way. If the original was a happy song, it may be redone sarcastically or sadly. If the song was about the breakup of a relationship, it could be changed to being about the character's Sanity Slippage. Either way, the meaning or the tone of the song is completely different in the cover version.

See also Softer And Slower Cover. Can overlap with The Cover Changes The Gender and Repurposed Pop Song. Can also overlap with In The Style Of if the cover changes the tone or the style of the music as well.

Compare Dual Meaning Chorus, where the original song is written to offer up several different interpretations of its chorus. Not to be confused with the Weird Al Effect, in which a parody of a song becomes more popular than the original. If the new version becomes more popular, it may result in the original being Covered Up. When done with a song meant for small children, it's an Ironic Nursery Tune.


Examples:

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     Songs 0- 9 
  • Three Dog Night's original version of "One" is soulful and regretful and wishful, with the singer lamenting that his relationship turned south and he lost his love. Filter's version, on the other hand, is more of a message of "Screw you for leaving me, you bitch!"
  • Hugo's reinterpretation of Jay Z's "99 Problems" takes a rap song enumerating the many problems Jay experienced as a young, successful black rap artist from Brooklyn and turned it into a more existential bluegrass piece about reclaiming one's soul and finding meaning in life.

     Songs A-M 
  • "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks. Early in 1990, the song had been recorded by a fellow country music artist named Mark Chesnutt for his first album, to be released later in the year. Chesnutt's reading is that of a man depressed over the breakup (from sometime earlier) with his girlfriend and intends to wallow in his misery on the night of her wedding. Brooks – who incidentally recorded a demo version – decided to completely change the meaning ... while still reeling from his breakup, he turns it into a kiss-off version and decides that his ex's wedding night is one to party with his real friends at a nightclub and that she can screw herself. Even though Brooks' version (on his second album No Fences) was actually released before Chesnutt's version (on his self-titled debut album), guess which one became the hit?
  • "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" by Neil Sedaka. A rare case of an artist covering one of his older tunes, Sedaka had his first No. 1 hit in August 1962 with the song, which spoke of a typical teen-age romance that ultimately failed but that it was still difficult. In 1975, Sedaka – in the midst of his mid-1970s comeback – re-recorded the song in a vastly different arrangement; now done as a ballad, Sedaka changed the meaning to one of reflection and that while still difficult and bittersweet, there is still a lot of good that can be taken from the relationship; the remake was a top 10 hit in February 1976.
  • Nathan Oliver's cover of Ace of Base's "All That She Wants" sounds like a Nick Cave murder ballad crossed with a Spaghetti Western soundtrack and makes the woman in question sound more sociopathic than shallow.
  • The original "I'll Be Home For Christmas" had a melancholy soundtrack and was meant to echo the feelings of troops overseas who had hoped the war would be done in time for Christmas. More recent versions have replaced the original melancholy music with an upbeat music and the most melancholy lyric is sung almost triumphantly.
    • Several country versions have recently returned the troops feel by adding Christmas messages from soldiers stationed overseas.
  • The Crystals, a 1960s girl band, sung "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)" in a way that is easily interpreted as sincere. It's worth noting that their producer was Phil Spector, who was never known for the most positive attitudes towards women, and was eventually convicted of murdering a woman he was on a date with. Grizzly Bear covers the song and makes it haunting and tragic. Also, Grizzly Bear's lead singer is male.
    • The story behind the song might qualify as an example in itself — Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote it in response to finding out that Little Eva (who was moonlighting as their babysitter at the time) had an abusive boyfriend. Spector somehow got his hands on it and gave it to the Crystals as a punishment.
  • 16 Horsepower's cover of Credence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" is genuinely creepy instead of humorous.
    • Rasputina does a pretty damn eerie version of it with cellos.
  • One WMG about Morrissey's creepy-as-hell cover of "Moon River" is that it is either sung from the perspective of a murderer, or addressed to a murderer, possibly Perry Smith.
  • Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" has been covered a number of times, often with minor changes to the lyrics, and while the overall environmentalist message remains, the titular "Big Yellow Taxi" (which is the one part where politics gives way to the personal) keeps changing. Bob Dylan's version takes out the taxi entirely and replaces it with a bulldozer, thus keeping with the rest of the song, and by necessity the more recent versions make the taxi a literal taxi—which it originally wasn't. It referred to the Metro Toronto Police cars which were, up until 1986, painted yellow, and thus the line "a big yellow taxi took away my old man" actually means that he was taken away by the authorities.
  • Christina Aguilera's cover of The Beautiful People for Burlesque by Marilyn Manson was criticised by Manson for completely changing the intended meaning of the song from a criticism of the standards of beauty enforced by the media to a celebration of fame and the celebrity life.
  • Related to the David Bowie example below, Stephin Merrit has had the following to say about Peter Gabriel's cover of "The Book of Love".
    It’s a totally different interpretation. My arrangement and recording of it is emphatically skeletal and all about the insufficiency and helplessness [of love], whereas his sounds like he’s God singing to you about his creation.
    • Gabriel's Cover Album, Scratch My Back, really is all over this trope.
  • The folk song "Cotton-Eyed Joe" has a large number of traditional verses. Depending on which ones the singer chooses to include, it might not be saying anything at all, it might be a song about dancing and having fun - or it might be a murder ballad.
  • The Armenian song "Dle Yaman" about a woman who misses her beloved changed after the genocide.
  • "Honey Honey" from ABBA as used in the Mamma Mia! musical: by cutting out the male vocals, and changing every use of "you" to "he", the song is changed from being a song about being aroused to Sophie reading aloud from her mother's diary entries about her flings with Sophie's three possible fathers.
  • Say Anything covered "I Got Your Money" by ODB and it becomes extraordinarily sarcastic.
  • By changing a few words, and the gender of the singer from male to female, Cyndi Lauper turned Robert Hazard's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" into a bouncy feminist pop anthem.
    • And Greg Laswell then turned it from a giggly pop song into a Break the Cutie ballad.
    • Emilie Autumn's cover puts in self-destructive undertones.
  • Richard Berry's "Louie Louie" has been covered by a crapload of artists, and talks about a sailor at sea thinking of his lover. Iggy Pop's cover only keeps the chorus - the rest is changed to a very politically charged rant (context: The Great Politics Mess-Up and contemporary events).
  • Muse's cover of "Feeling Good" from the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd is downright creepy.
  • Ugly Kid Joe turned Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle" from a song of regret into something far more... wrathful.
    • Debatable. There are just as many who see this cover as being Joe's Pet the Dog moment, and tellingly, it's been played on soft rock stations nearly as often as the original, as well as derided by more metal-oriented fans as the song they can't believe the band did. The only thing that really feels "wrathful" about the cover is the heavily distorted guitars during the chorus, and that still makes it feel pretty tame from a band who wrote a song about a serial killer in Disneyland.
    • At one point during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, "Cats in the Cradle" was used in a TV anti-terrorism ad, with the lyrics kept the same but the video showing that the reason the singer wasn't around for his son was because he was in prison - by the time he gets out and tries to reconnect with his grown up son, it's too late, his son's followed in his footsteps (gunning down an unarmed man in front of the man's child).
  • The cover of Don McLean's "American Pie" by Madonna. Turns a fairly downbeat and abstract song about MacLean's life starting from the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper ("the day the music died") into a patriotic American pop-dance song.
  • The original Black Sabbath version of "Iron Man" is about a time traveler killing those he attempted to save, after being turned into a statue and slowly going insane. The Cardigans' version turned it into... well, the same, but with a lot of added Lyrical Dissonance.
    • The Cardigans did something a little more subtle with another Sabbath cover, "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath": Both versions are basically about feeling betrayed by society - the original is an angry take on this, while the cover is more of a sadly resigned ballad.
  • The Revolting Cocks' cover of Do Ya Think I'm Sexy. Watch the parody first. Now watch the original.
  • Jonathan Coulton's version of "Baby Got Back" is a marginal example, making one of Sir Mix-a-Lot's most well-remembered songs less a song about liking fat ass, and more a love song about... fat ass.
  • Frou Frou's cover of Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For A Hero" turns a silly, peppy disco song about waiting for a Knight in Shining Armor into a cynical song that seems to be questioning if there are any heroes left in the world.
    • The Fairy Godmother's version in Shrek 2 double subverts it. It's the main villain singing a song about heroes coming to the rescue, while unbeknownst to her heroes really are coming to the rescue.
  • David Bowie's "Heroes": mildly disinterested and cynical about the world and the capacity for heroism. Peter Gabriel gets a hold of it, and it's a The Ruins I Caused shot in lyrical form.
  • The Lost Dogs covered Alvin and the Chipmunks' "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)." By altering the banter between the verses, they changed it from a song about wanting a hula hoop for Christmas to a song about synthesizeritis, Y2K paranoia (the cover version was recorded in 1999)... and wanting a hula hoop for Christmas.
    • The Nostalgia Chick, on the other hand, changed the meaning of the original recording simply by slowing it down to the speed at which the singers' voices were originally recorded. Juxtaposing it with assorted Nightmare Fuel clips didn't hurt, either.
  • A Perfect Circle changed John Lennon's "Imagine", an upbeat ode to idealism, to a cynical ode against totalitarianism.
  • Some have claimed that Britney Spears' cover of Madonna's "Material Girl" completely missed the irony of the original and sincerely believed its message.
    • Then again, a substantial portion also thought the original song sincerely believed in its lyrics. This interpretation may have gotten worse after the song debuted, as since then, The Eighties have become very known and parodied for crass consumer capitalism, to the point people may not actually believe a similar parody could have been written during the era.
  • God Dethroned covered the psychotic and menacing "Fire" by Arthur Brown. Originally the song was a gleeful upbeat song that chimed about creating suffering and misery for others. However this version is extremely aggressive and features the same lyrics accompanied by death metal guitar storms and demon like screams and growls.
  • Tom Waits' cover of "Heigh Ho" from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs turns it from a chipper work song into something decidedly more depressing, if not nightmarish. The tempo is slowed to a crawl, and the arrangement features the clanking percussion and minimal, dissonant instrumentation his later material is known for, along with some ominous subterranean reverb. Kind of puts the idea of dwarves putting in hours of back-breaking potentially deadly labor in a mine for no clear reason in a different light. At least one reviewer commented that it sounded like "noises from Gacy's basement."
    • His cover of "Danny Says," by The Ramones, sounds like he's been riding on a bus for several days and his heart has just been broken at a truck stop.
    • And "Army Ants," which is made entirely out of quotes from nature encyclopedias, sounds like a psychotic conspiracy theory.
  • The two versions of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" showcase similar but very different messages. The original NIN version is an introspective ode to self loathing and alienation. But Johnny Cash covered the song and made it into a reflective, contemplation on his whole life, looking back at what he had gained, and more importantly what he had lost. Instead of a young guy in his late 20's writing down his depression, it's an old man looking back at his life that was soon to end. Trent Reznor himself, the writer, expressed himself as having goosebumps and tears when he heard the Cash version and feeling like he'd "lost a girlfriend, because he'd lost the song" to Cash's version.
    • He also used the lines "I wear this crown of thorns/Upon my liar's chair" from the censored version instead of the original "I wear this crown of shit/Upon my liar's chair" to draw a connection to Jesus.
    • The song was actually (though it could also have been additionally) about drug addiction ("The needle tears a hole / The old familiar sting / Try to kill it all away / but I remember everything"). The shift in focus is still the same, though; Reznor's original is about someone still struggling with his addiction, whereas Cash's character overcame it long ago, yet still greatly laments that part of his life.
    • On the same album, Cash covered Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," turning it from a cynical blast against organised religion into a spiritual song about the power of Christ.
      • The original version is a reference to a quote by Elvis Presley's wife
    • "God's Gonna Cut You Down," also known as "Run On," is a traditional folk song that has been recorded by several artists. Perhaps the best known recent examples are Johnny Cash and Moby. Cash's version almost sounds like it's being sung by an Old West gunslinger about to clean up town. Moby's version is more upbeat and gospel-inspired.
  • While we're on the subject of the Man in Black, "Folsom Prison Blues" was never exactly Lighter and Softer, but Nine Pound Hammer's cover of it is grittier and rawer than the original, making it come across as resigned, rather than regretful.
  • HIM did a cover of "(Don't Fear) the Reaper." Rather than the spaced-out mellowness of the original, it now sounds like someone is actually being murdered in the studio. It also happens to be completely devoid of cowbell.
    • Unto Ashes also did a cover. It's really depressing.
    • Evanescence did a live cover in their early days of performing, slowing the tempo down and adding violins. It sounds like a wistful song about longing for death.
  • What happens when the Black Eyed Peas release a song ("My Humps") that tries to parody the mindless materialism and misogyny of crunk rap, and winds up sounding just as stupid as the source material? Have Alanis Morissette sing the song exactly as written in her famous angsty style, turning it into a tongue-in-cheek lament of the same while simultaneously getting the song's original intended message across.
  • Pete Townshend's electro-pop cover of Bob Dylan's folk ballad "Girl from the North Country" alters two lines in the song's final verse, changing it from a song about a man wondering how his old flame is doing these days, to a song about a man wondering if his old flame is still alive after a devastating nuclear war.
  • The Dead Kennedys "covered" the Bobby Fuller classic "I Fought the Law" in the loosest possible sense - about half the lyrics were altered to make it into a Protest Song about the murders of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, and the song's refrain becomes "I fought the law, and I won."
    • They also covered "Viva Las Vegas" in a similar manner. Although in that case they only used a few lyrical changes ("Let me roll a 7 with every shot" notably becomes "Got coke up my nose to dry away the snot") and just let the dripping sarcasm in Jello Biafra's voice do the rest.
    • Bell X1 covered "I Fought The Law" as an acoustic country song and turned it into a quiet little tale of the consequences of mis-spent youth. It turns out there's a really pretty melody in there.
  • Obadiah Parker took OutKast's upbeat "Hey Ya" and cut through the Lyrical Dissonance to spotlight the message about a troubled relationship in all its introspective glory.
    • Scrubs had Ted do an accoustic version with a guitar at a wedding. It was turned into an actually sweet love song.
  • Type O Negative actually recorded two versions of their cover of Black Sabbath. The notable example of this trope is the second version which rewrote the lyrics so that it describes the same scenario (Satan rising from Hell and conquering the world.) But from the perspective of Satan himself. The lines parallel the original in speaking to the person depicted in the original.
    • Not to mention their cover of The Beatles' "Day Tripper", which transformed a lighthearted ode to LSD into a mournful lament on being driven to suicide by an apathetic lover.
    • Or their cover of Seals and Croft's "Summer Breeze," which becomes a song about domestic violence. At the very least.
  • In Flames covered the synth-pop number "Everything Counts" by Depeche Mode and completely altered its meaning. The original was a simplistic synth driven pop song about the greed, competitiveness and materialism of 80's Wall Street capitalism. However in the In Flames version the song describes the failure of humanity as the greedy and selfish nature of people destroys their Utopian society. And how only after the world ends the people realize their failure.
  • "Get It On The Long Hard Road," from the Kleptones' mashup album ''24 Hours'', takes the playful Intercourse with You lyrics from T.Rex's song "Get It On" and makes them creepy and possessive... using the original vocals. The only alteration is the music that plays behind them.
  • Everyone in the world may well have covered Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl", but Scottish indie band Travis totally change the meaning with their cover, turning a Les Yay-infested hit single into a folk-tinged ballad about a gay man questioning his sexuality.
  • Hillary Duff's cover of The Who's "My Generation" actually does seem to have a theme similar to the original: "older people don't get it." But one word addition brought the whole thing crashing down: "Hope I don't die before I get old."
  • "Fashion Party" by Ace of Base: disdainful decadence. "Fashion Party" by Beatdrop: nightmarish inquisition.
  • Angélique Kidjo covered the The Rolling Stones song "Gimme Shelter," adding in African choral vocals and changing the instrumentation to change a song about the apocalypse and Vietnam into a Lyrical Dissonance filled song about the situation in some parts of Africa.
  • The Animals' cover of the folk song "House of the Rising Sun" (arguably the most famous version of that song) changed the lyrics so that the narrator is male and struggling with gambling and addiction, casting the titular house as a "gambling house." It was originally a song about a woman with tremendous money woes who turned to prostitution, making the house a very different house indeed. Most covers of the song after 1964 hearken back to The Animals' version leaving the original all but lost.
  • Reel Big Fish takes the Duran Duran song "Hungry Like The Wolf" and turns it from an Intercourse with You song into a surprisingly Stalkerish Ska song through the magic of Lyrical Dissonance, a jazzy scat section, and a crazy Motor Mouth section of singing. The whole effect makes it seem like a happy murderous Schizophrenic wants to eat you.
    • On the same album Jimmy Eat World turns the song "New Religion", originally a hyperactive rant about information overload, into a somber reflection on belief.
  • Nouvelle Vague takes the upbeat Billy Idol Hit "Dancing With Myself" (originally by the band Generation X which included Idol) and changes it into a Bossa Nova song about depression and alcoholism.
    • Applying this trope to '80s songs via Bossa Nova versions is basically Nouvelle Vague's raison d'etre. The best is their take on The Clash's "The Guns of Brixton", which turns the bouncy gangster tune into a deeply creepy (yet sexy) cabaret number about life in a fascist dystopia.
  • Joan Jett covered quite a few songs, but her cover of "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" is the most blatant use of this trope. At the end of the song, where the lead vocals would usually name a bunch of random tools of destruction, she just leaves that part out, meaning you can take a far different meaning from it than the original.
  • A strange example of self-cover with Juan Luis Guerra, he recorded two versions of his song "Amor de Conuco" about ten years apart. The original was a happy song of a humble man declaring himself and his love interest accepting him anyway, sung in a duet with a female singer. The second version was more slow and downbeat... and he sang the parts that were originally from the girl's perspective, making the song the man's own full declaration and turning it in a declaration of hopeless love.
  • Barathrum's "Last Day in Heaven" is about an invasion of Heaven, with demons slaughtering angels and so forth. In the second verse of Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus' cover, God enters the fray and shows why raging against Heaven is a bad idea.
  • The Dropkick Murphys turned "Fields of Athenry", which is typically played by bands like the Dubliners as a sad, wistful ballad about carrying on in the face of a sad parting, into an enraged rant against an uncaring and destructive government. It's amazing how differently one can interpret a line like "Against the famine and the crown/I rebelled, they cut me down/Now you must raise our child with dignity."
  • Armcannon did a heavy metal cover of the famous Ghostbusters theme (Bhost Gusters to fans). And the Drummer dressed up as a pizza just for this song during a rehearsal. Pure. Awesome.
    • And then its slooooooooow version in "Black Hole Enlightenment".
  • "I'm Your Boogeyman" by KC and the Sunshine Band: Intercourse with You. "I'm Your Boogeyman" by Rob Zombie: unnerving as all heck.
  • Ben Folds' cover of "Bitches Ain't Shit."
  • The Gourds' commonly misattributed cover of "Gin and Juice."
  • R.E.M's "It's The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)", a song whose humor is extremely subdued, was put in the hands of upbeat Canadian East Coast folksters Great Big Sea, sped up (requiring Motor Mouth lyrics, given the sheer obtuseness of them) and turned into a a great happy tune about meeting the end of the world with a smile on your face.
  • Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine recorded cheery showtunes version of Disturbed's "Down with the Sickness". They also alter the lyrics slightly to make it about an actual sickness, rather than a metaphor for societal oppression.
    • This is basically Richard Cheese's entire bit. He covers preexisting songs, mostly rap and metal, in the style of a schmaltzy lounge singer.
    • For that matter, Disturbed's covers themselves usually become this (usually much angrier and occasionally cynical). The only time they don't do this is when covering bands they like.
  • Scissor Sisters' not universally loved cover of the Pink Floyd classic "Comfortably Numb" brings out a different facet. The original is overflowing with angst, about someone who can't quite get numb enough. The remake sounds like someone who really has been medicated into oblivion, to the point of losing both their neuroses and their identity, and is loving every minute of it.
    • Dar Williams and Ani DiFranco also did a cover that was closer to the original in overall feel, except that Ani's higher-pitched backing vocals matched with Dar's mezzosoprano sound less like Roger Water's creepy doctor singing through a drug haze and more like auditory hallucinations in the midst of a thundering hangover.
  • The original "The Girl From Ipanema", in Portuguese, was more of a praise to said girl. The English version (you know the one) is all about the Unrequited Love.
  • Nine Inch Nails' Closer done by Jane Distortion has the the psycho-sexual oddness of the original, but it's very... different, mood-wise.
  • "The Metro" by Berlin: A poppy, somewhat sad song about moving on after a bad breakup. "The Metro" by System of a Down: a rage-filled rant about being abandoned by a loved one.
  • Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck once turned The Beatles "Hello, Goodbye" into a Duck Season, Rabbit Season argument.
    Daffy: I say goodbye, and you say hello.
    Bugs: Hello, hello, I don't know why you say goodbye,
    Daffy: I say hello!
    • Bugs & Friends Sing the Beatles did this to a number of songs.
  • Lenny Kravitz's version of "American Woman" by the Guess Who. The original is a Canadian's opposition to certain unsavoury bits of Americana (loose women, warmongering, shoddy lower-class living quarters), directed at the Statue of Liberty (the American Woman). Lenny's version sounds like he's singing about an actual woman.
    • And the music video reinforces this, indicating the titular woman (played quite well by Heather Graham) is sexually tempting, but the singer realizes that they are no good for each other.
    • While the Butthole Surfers' version... God knows what it does to it, exactly. Safe to say they don't exactly approach it with the most reverential tone.
    • Also, Krokus' version, where it becomes just another song about dumping a groupie.
  • Jenny Owen Youngs took Hot In Herre, an Intercourse with You hip hop song, and turned it into a rather romantic and cheery pop-rock song.
  • The Pet Shop Boys' cover of "Always On My Mind" completely changed the meaning of the song by ending it with the line "Maybe I didn't love you".
    • Creepy and sorrowful cover in Silent Hill Shattered Memories does it's share of changing mood and meaning.
    • Their cover of the Village People's "Go West" turned an idealistic song about San Francisco as a utopia for the gay rights movement into a somewhat sad and nostalgic song about the hopeless optimism of the movement in the aftermath of AIDS.
      • The orchestral instrumentation, allegedly not intentionally based on the Soviet anthem, and the music video also give a nod to an entirely different context: former Soviet citizens having the ability to literally "go West" to freedom after the fall of Communism. This context also has a layer of hopeless optimism.
  • Five Finger Death Punch did a cover of Bad Company's song, "Bad Company". While the original was a song with a premise similar to the movie of the same name, about a gang of thieves in the old west, FFDP's version is about a Military overseas fighting a war (more specifically, in the music video, the US Military in Iraq and Afghanistan).
  • Chris Cornell's cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" is perhaps a lesser example: while it doesn't change the meaning per se, it very much changes the tone of the song, from a catchy dance song in which the singer seems to (at least try to) dismiss the titular character as crazy (considering the original inspiration of a fan letter that made this very allegation of Jackson himself) to a mournful, emotional song where the singer must face what he knows to be true.
  • "Merry Christmas From The Family" by Robert Earl Kean is a song about a dysfunctional family in a trailer park having a drunken Christmas filled with disasters and red-neck jokes. Jill Sobule's cover uses the exact same words to produce a song describing a dysfunctional family in a trailer park...having a wonderful Christmas filled with singing children, quirky relatives and a relative performing a last minute Christmas miracle.
  • Screeching Weasel did a cover of "Johnny Are You Queer?" by Josie Cotton. Cotton's version is about a girl who is concerned that her boyfriend might not be interested in her because he's gay. Screeching Weasel's version has a male singer similarly worried about the sexuality of his male love interest. Both versions are ridiculously catchy.
  • Swedish Lotta Engberg's "Juliette & Jonathan", which reached third place in Melodifestivalen 1996, describes a young couple who find love together in spite of racial and cultural differences. When Finnish singer Anna Eriksson covered the song one year later, it retained the "us against the world" theme, but reverses the outcome of the story; instead of being protected by nature itself and serving as inspiration for other lovers, "Juliet ja Joonatan" end up as restless spirits and love "shatters into pieces, sharp as the shards of glass marbles." Finnish schlager is hardcore, indeed.
  • "Breaking The Law" by Judas Priest is about a guy who is down on his luck, bored and has nothing to lose. So he decides to have some fun and get some excitement by breaking the law doing things you'd expect from a young rebel. It's all done in a "rebel without a cause" sort of way. "Breaking The Law" by Fightstar however tells a very different story, by simply changing music and revamping the chorus we get a tale of someone who is driven to his edge, psychologically and physically to the point where all he cares about is his own survival. Taking out his bitterness on society, the chorus serves as a soundtrack to his rampage of destruction.
    • And Pansy Division's version inserts the word "sodomy" and takes it to a different place. Though, given Rob Halford's more recent revelations, perhaps not...
  • "Further" by VNV Nation carries Lyrical Dissonance by having such lines as "I know in darkness, I will find you've given up inside like me." while having a distinct upbeat tone to it. The Lifeforce cover resolves this by giving the song a more somber tone. It was later used in the ending of Iji... Let's just say it was appropriate.
  • The OC Re Mix "Eyes On Me: Obsession" by Children of The Monkey Machine feat. Dani changes the Silly Love Song from Final Fantasy VIII into an Obsession Song. The lyrics are spoken out loud and sound like Julia explaining to the police in an interrogation room why she had to murder Laguna.
  • Eric Clapton did this with his own song "Layla". The original electric version is a young man, pining so hard for the woman he loves that he's raging. The acoustic version, a few decades later, is an older man softly regretting the love that was lost.
  • "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" has been performed many times, and understandably falls into this a bit. The Gladys Knight and the Pips version is hurt, but almost more puzzled and wondering if it's true. Marvin Gaye's seems more heartbroken, and Creedence Clearwater Revival's version, with the instrumentation almost thundering, sounds wrathful about the situation.
  • Brian Setzer plays an extremely upbeat rock version of Danny Boy as "Irish" Terry Conklin's boxing ring entry music in The Great White Hype. However, this version was never released on CD and fans have been clamoring for it for years.
  • The Irish traditional song "The Foggy Dew" has been played in a variety of manners by many artists, anywhere from a melancholy lament to a furious rebel anthem.
  • The Bruce Springsteen version of "Because the Night" changes the tone from a song about the passion of two lovers to a song about the plight of the working man, longing for the comforts of being off-the-clock (So, in other words, he sings it as a Bruce Springsteen song). Consider for example some of the lyrical differences: where Patti Smith's lyrics have "Come on now, try and understand / the way I feel when I'm in your hands", Springsteen has "Come on now, try and understand / I work all day pushing for The Man," and where Smith has "Touch me now," Springsteen has "They won't hurt us now."
    • "Because the Night" is interesting, as, while Springsteen first wrote the song, he did not release or perform itnote  until after Smith's version, and later performances have shifted closer to Smith's lyrics. He has since released two recordings using her lyrics.
    • Speaking of Patti Smith, her cover of Van Morrison's Gloria contains just barely enough elements of the original song to qualify as a cover, as she nearly triples its length, averts The Cover Changes The Gender with gratuitous amounts of Les Yay, and conflates the song with the hymn of the same name and her personal disillusionment with organized religion, to the point that the song's refrain is "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine".
    • And her cover of Wilson Pickett's "Land Of A 1000 Dances" is a 10-minute psychedelic freakout about a male-on-male rape victim who commits suicide by slitting his throat.
    • Patti Smith's cover of "Hey Joe," a song of dubious authorship but famously recorded by The Leaves and especially Jimi Hendrix, adds a spoken word intro about the Symbionese Liberation Army's 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst. In addition, the lyrics themselves cast Hearst as the titular "Joe."
  • Let's not forget The Doug Anthony All Stars' baritone version of "I Am Woman" (here), which lends a whole new meaning to the feminist anthem.
  • Northern Kings' cover of "Creep" by Radiohead is infinitely more creepy, changing the mood from that of a shy, depressed man unable to express his feelings to a possibly mentally ill stalker, especially with the raspy whisper of "I don't belong here" that ends the song and the discordant sound resembling a broken music box. And while the original "Sledgehammer" was full of double entendres, Northern Kings' cover expresses a man's loyalty to do anything for his woman.
    • Amanda Palmer's ukelele version of "Creep" changes the mood from that of individual isolation and depression to that of people acknowledging they're alone in the world like everyone else - especially in this (sing-along version) from the 2009 Coachella Festival.
    • Ingrid Michaelson's cover turns it around completely. It goes from being critical of the narrator to being critical of the other person.
  • When dance-punk band !!! covered Nate Dogg's party jam "Get Up," it seemed to be relatively straightforward... until about three minutes into the song, when it suddenly became clear that the band is interpreting the line "Shake it baby / Driving me crazy" literally. The remaining 6 minutes are thus comprised of sonic insanity.
  • Dweezil Zappa's cover of "Baby One More Time" (yes, originally sung by her) is... well, it's odd. And decidedly creepy. Gone from a song which seems to be about break-up sex to something straight out of masochistic stalker love.
  • Elvis' "Hound Dog" is edited for content and therefore sounds like it's about a dog. "You ain't never caught a rabbit" has nothing to do with bunnies, rabbit is innuendo for "nice girl" (virgin), making the line "You ain't never screwed a virgin". The Big Mama Thorton version is actually about a cheater and what should happen to him (making Elvis' version ironic). It also had more lines that The King replaced with repeating the chorus.
    • That's a mighty interesting tidbit considering Big Mama Thornton's version didn't have the "rabbit" lyric. That lyric was added by Freddie Bell on his version, and though I question that he meant for it to be about virgins, I think it's not outside the realm of possibility. Also, Elvis's version is not about a dog... unless you thought he was THAT oblivious. It's meant to be a metaphor about a guy who's useless, like a dog that's never caught a rabbit.
  • Rufus Wainwright's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" changes...well, suddenly it sounds like its set amidst a casino underworld that's about to crumble and is having one last revel in its own shallowness and debauchery. Worth a listen
  • Great Big Sea took a 19th Century advertising jingle (Cod Liver Oil), changed the key, and transformed it from another happy, mindless bit of fluff into a dark, suspicious diatribe.
  • Black Nail Cabaret actually managed to turn the Britney Spears pop anthem "Hit Me Baby One More Time" into a dark, gothic, and Head-Tiltingly Kinky bit of Fetish Fuel.
  • Dynamite Hack's cover of Eazy-E's "Boyz in the Hood" takes a hardcore rap about drinking, smoking crack, and throwing hoes at their fathers and turned it into a pleasant accoustic guitar song about the same damn thing
  • Save Ferris did a cover of Dexys Midnight Runner's famous (see: only) hit "Come On Eileen." The original is a herald to Eileen to stop being fleshcandy and trying to seduce him, while Save Ferris's version seems to be more in the vein of not growing up so quickly and making foolish choices.
    • Save Ferris also did a cover of The Waitresses' 'Christmas Wrapping' with entirely original lyrics. The original is about a woman wanting to spend a quiet Christmas alone while reflecting on a guy she met and, thus far, had not been able to connect with. The Save Ferris version is about a Jewish woman dealing with the holiday season.
  • When [spunge] covered J. Geils' Band's Centerfold, the upbeat, yet regretful tale of a crush-turned-nudie model, into a quick paced skaterpunk's tale of almost drunken woe over a lost love's new life as a magazine model.
  • Reel Big Fish covered Sublime's "Boss DJ," turning a mellow acoustic song into a reggae-styled ska song.
  • "Gloria" as originally written in Italian by Umberto Tozzi: a mushy, erotic, slightly obsessive ode to a nearly unattainable woman. Adding Covered Up and an extreme case of Lost in Translation, Laura Branigan's In Name Only cover is a scornful hatchet job directed at a lonely, obsessively promiscuous frenemy of the singer.
  • "If I Had A Hammer" is a fun ditty about a man saying he wants to use a hammer, a bell and a song to spread happiness. The Italian version "Datemi Un Martello" is a fun ditty about a woman wanting to Drop the Hammer on the head of people she doesn't like (plus the telephone before her parents tell her to go home).
  • 'I Put a Spell on You'. One can count on one hand the number of times the original intent of the song comes out in both the music and the lyrics- it's usually sung almost as a love ballad, leading to some real Lyrical Dissonance.
    • It was meant as a love ballad. The "original intent" mentioned in the above entry became such after Screamin' Jay Hawkins and company got liquored up in the studio, recorded the song as it's known today, and decided that way sounded better.
    • And then, of course, the version sung by Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus makes the titular "spell" literal.
    • Then Sonique turned it into a trancy dance anthem.
  • The legendary J-Pop producer Miyuki Nakajima's classic Ashita (Tomorrow) has two very different sounding cover versions:
  • Babes In Toyland's cover of "Bodies" by The Sex Pistols is so much fiercer and more punk because it's an all-female group singing about abortions and a 'screaming bloody mess' in rather sweet voices.
  • One where just the artist name and the song, if you're familiar with the latter, is enough to make clear the change of meaning of the song: Sarah Jane Morris, "Me and Mrs. Jones".
  • The cover band the Bon Bon Club released as part of their first EP an incredibly, incredibly creepy version of the song "Dreams" that seems to make it about a someone imprisoning their lover.
  • "Feelings", originally a romantic song made by Morris Albert in The Seventies, was picked up by The Offspring and reworked into a fast and furious song about hatred.
  • Boys of Summer, originally by Don Henley (male) and covered many, many times (most notably the female vocals used by DJ Sammy) changes the perspective depending on the gender singing. It's either the male singing he's still be waiting for the woman after her summer relationships are over or the woman singing she'll return to him once her summer boyfriends leave. All without changing a single word, just the gender of the singer.
  • "A Whole New World" has had this happen twice. First, it was covered by Late Night Alumni—a female group who didn't even change the word "princess," so now it's a Les Yay song. And before that, Ruben Studdard and Chauncey Matthews covered it here—but Ruben's an adult and Chauncey's a kid.
  • Northern Kings are rather good at this sort of thing. The addition of a telephone, some heavy breathing and a very slow and doomy growled vocal style turn Kylie's "I should be so lucky" into the ultimate creepy stalker tune.
  • Machinae Supremacy has a cover of "Gimme More" that sounds more like a mockery of Britney Spears herself.
    • And their cover of "I Turn To You" by Mel C sounds very aggressive.
  • Emilie Autumn's cover of Crazy He Calls Me, by Billy Holiday, turns it simultaneously into a post-apocalyptic echo and a song about a woman's slide into madness.
  • Depending on how the femalenote  part is sung, "Baby It's Cold Outside" can either be a coy flirtation between two lovers or a date rape waiting to happen (though it was originally intented as the former by its writers).
    • The version by She & Him ends up flipping the genders of the speakers, thus adding another interpretation of the woman trying to seduce the man.
    • Additionally, the original appearance of the song in the film Neptune's Daughter has it sung alternately between two couples, one with the man pursuing the woman and the other with the woman pursuing the man. Unfortunately, the cover most often played on the radio omits the Gender Flip, thereby eliminating the comedic juxtaposition and creating the Unfortunate Implications the song is most famous for nowadays.
  • The Checkmates' "Black Pearl" was originally about falling in love with a black woman, but Kandystand, who has a female vocalist, turned it into a Les Yay song.
  • Alphaville's "Forever Young" is about making the most of one's youth in the face of the fear that they'll drop the Bomb any day now. Jay-Z did a rap number based on and sampling the tune, which is based more on the idea that you can be young forever as long as people remember you after you die.
  • The cover of OMD's Enola Gay by Nouvelle Vague completely changes the tone of this poppy, bouncy Hiroshima bombing themed song into something yet more creepy and intense.
  • John Mellencamp did two covers of "Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis Presley. The original was a silly showtune with a somewhat notorious moment of (intentional?) Ho Yay, but Mellencamp recasts the song in a minor key with mostly acoustic instruments to make a song that sounds like a hot prison yard with absolutely nothing for the inmates to do except party half-heartedly.
  • A soundtrack example: Kidnap the Sandy Claws from The Nightmare Before Christmas. In the original movie, it was Lock, Shock and Barrel gleefully singing about all the ways to capture Santa they can come up with, and what they'll do with him once they have him. The lyrics were kinda creepy, but it was a song about a prank. On the cover album Nightmare Revisited, Korn took the song and mixed it up to sound more like a group of psychopaths planning to violently kidnap someone and torture them in many horrible ways. Brrr...
  • "Kill Your Sons," an unreleased Velvet Underground anti-war Protest Song, was later rewritten slightly by Lou Reed to be about his parents' attempts to "cure" his bisexuality.
  • The well-known cover of Mad World (originally by Tears For Fears) by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews turns it from a synth-filled catchy song into one much slower, more somber, and depressingly down-to-earth (though still catchy). In an odd case, this version has somewhat Covered Up the original AND become the basis for nearly all future covers of the song, such as the one by Alex Parks.
  • The original "Jozin z Bazin" performed like a folk song with over-the-top cheesy sound effects is a comedy about a local "drop bear"-like scare story turned into Munchausen style tall tale. Its cover by Dawid Mika ends up somewhere between a parody on action songs and speed metal ballad.
  • The Hoosiers' cover of Justin Timberlake's "Love Stoned" changes it from a poppy dance song to a melancholy ballad of addiction, or something. Just watch here.
  • UB 40's cover of Jimmy Cliff's Many Rivers To Cross turned the song from one of melancholy to one of empowerment.
    • Their cover of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love" was done for the soundtrack of Sliver (which was way better, overall, than the movie) and makes very effective use of synth to turn a mushy love song into an icewater-creepy, Stepford Smiler stalker song.
  • Most versions of "Mack the Knife" contrast a light, peppy tone with disturbing lyrics about murdering prostitutes. The Psychedelic Furs cover, though, has an aural menace to match the lyrics.
    • Ella Fitzgerald sang it (in the style of Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darrin) for the first time on her live album Mack the Knife: Ella in Berlin. Three verses or so into the song, she forgot the rest of the lyrics and improvised her own. Ella's version went metafictional, as she poked fun at herself for botching the song and at the label executives who suggested she cover it in the first place.
  • Sparks' cover of The Beatles' "I Want to Hold your Hand" is performed as slow and smooth Philadelphia Soul, making the song much more mature and heartfelt than the teen love Pop of the original.
  • Bruce Cockburn's song "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" is a stark guitar ballad that was written to emphasize anger (especially in the music video) about the racial, socio-economic and political issues of the decade, and how they reflect on love. The Barenaked Ladies' version from the 1992 Kick At The Darkness: The Songs of Bruce Cockburn tribute album is a faster-paced, softer and almost wistful tune. The group is resigned and cheerful about the fact that "sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime". The Ladies' music video, which goes from floaty slo-mo to frantic, and includes lots of comedic bits, just emphasizes it.
  • A particularly egregious example with Israeli composer Naomi Shemer, who in 1973 decided she would write new words for The Beatles' Let it Be inspired by the breakout of the Yom Kippur War. When she played it, her husband said that this is a Jewish song now and it should have a Jewish melody to go with it, so she... Tweaked... The melody to be more in the spirit of the new lyrics, ending up with less of a cover and more of a Gritty Reboot. Here is an Israel's-American-Idol contestant performing it. The lyrics with an English translation can be found here, and note that this is the watered-down version without the verse that starts with "If your soul wishes for death".
  • Seal's "Crazy" is a somewhat whimsical love song based around the line, "But we're never going to survive unless we get a little a crazy." When Me First and the Gimme Gimmes covered it, the song's tone was kept intact, but when Cleveland-based metal band Mushroomhead released their version, it comes across as a man losing his religion and resigning himself to madness.
  • Gary Numan's "Down In the Park": a dark '80s synth song about robots. The Foo Fighters cover is substantially more apocalyptic, somehow.
  • David Gates's original Everything I Own was the lament of a grieving son at the death of the father who had brought him up and was responsible for much of the person he became. Boy George's cover version was the lament of a man for the death of his gay lover, presumably from AIDS.
  • Stuart Gorrell originally wrote the lyrics of "Georgia on My Mind" for Georgia Carmichael, sister of Hoagy Carmichael, who wrote the music. However, Georgia native Ray Charles, finding the lyrics to be ambiguous enough to refer to the state as well, dedicated his performance of the song (the B-side of his hit single "What'd I Say?") to the state. "Georgia on My Mind" became the Georgia state song in 1979, mostly because of Charles' cover.
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter did this to her own song; the original album version of "Can't Take Love For Granted" was slow and regretful, but a later compilation album featured a live version that had a much more upbeat, rock-type tempo. It turned it from a sad post-breakup song into a "well, you're gone and I learned my lesson, but hey, I'm feeling okay about it!"
  • Mario Winan's "I Don't Wanna Know" is a song about your girlfriend cheating on you and coming to terms with it. "I Don't Wanna Know" performed by Florence + the Machine becomes a song about a girlfriend coming to terms with her boyfriend being homosexual (giving the lyrics "if you're playing me, keep it on the low" a delightful double meaning).
  • The Polyphonic Spree's celebratoy cover of Lithium works about as often as it doesn't since some lyrics can be taken at face value and others are "I killed you, I'm not gonna crack"
  • When blues singer Keb' Mo' covered "Folsom Prison Blues" for a Johnny Cash tribute album, he altered a couple of lyrics, so that in his version the narrator is a wrongly imprisoned victim, rather than an admitted murderer who hates being imprisoned but fully realizes he deserves it: The famous line "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die" becomes "They said I shot a man in Reno, but that was just a lie", while "I know I had it comin', I know I can't be free" becomes "I didn't hurt nobody, I know I should be free". Cash fans generally were not happy about this.
  • Gloria Gaynor's perennial disco hit "I Will Survive" was originally a triumphant feminist anthem about moving on from a bad relationship; when covered by CAKE, it becomes a last quavering cry of defiance from a man about to fall back into one. (they even add a Precision F-Strike which Gaynor hated)
  • "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen is a teenage fantasy about a girl shyly flirting with a boy she has a crush on. The cover by Pomplamoose, retitled "Do Not Push", changes it into a disaffected and plaintive song about a relationship that's being torn apart by replacing its chorus with that of "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye, and setting it to a video based on the Twilight Zone episode "Button, Button".
  • A minor example is "Me and Bobby McGee", written in 1969 by Kris Kristofferson. Since the name "Bobby" can apply to either a man or woman, very little change in the lyrics is necessary (at least if the singer wants the relationship to be heterosexual) and in fact it was originally written for a male singer (the Statler Brothers), though Roger Miller was first to chart with it. The version by Janis Joplin, is the best known, and it was the first time the song had been performed by a woman.
  • Warren Zevon recorded a slower version of Steve Winwood's "Back In The High Life Again" with minimal production and instrumentation, turning it from an upbeat comeback celebration to a wistful retrospective and perhaps a prayer for the next time 'round.
    • Incidentally, it had nothing to do with his fight with cancer, which wasn't diagnosed for another two years after the cover's release. Zevon was just dark like that.
  • "Angel of the Morning": Merilee Rush's version is about a woman who wants to spend the night with a man she loves, even though she knows that it isn't likely to be anything but a one-night stand. Shaggy's cover is about a convict thanking his girlfriend for being true and waiting for him to get out of jail.
  • Filter's version of "Happy Together" changes the normally cute song about puppy love to a twisted tune about a Yandere Stalker with a Crush.
  • Ghost's cover of the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" changes the key from major to minor and the meaning from a happy celebration of spring to a song about the coming of The Antichrist ("Here comes the Son").
  • Amy Gerhatz and John Roberts' cover of 'Fame' takes a peppy, upbeat number about wanting to be famous and makes it sound like a tragic, desperate song about needing to be ubiquitous. It doesn't help that it was used in the trailer for a Lifetime movie about Anna Nicole Smith.
  • "Johnny B" by The Hooters is about a bad relationship. Down Low reworked it into a song about a thief.
  • Crush 40 did a cover of "His World" by Zebra Head. Originally, it was a fast paced Punk Rap song with rebellious and carefree lyrics that perfectly fit Sonic. Crush 40's version was slower paced, and had a more epic feel to it. Its lyrics were mysterious and weighty and more befit Shadow.
  • Eamon's "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" is a song about a man pissed off with his girlfriend and leaving her. The Italian version, "Solo" ("Alone [with you]"), sung by Eamon itself... is about a man thinking back about the girl he met on the beach last summer which he'll never see again.
  • The steampunk band Steam Powered Giraffe did a cover of Rihanna's "Diamonds." The SPG band members' stage personas are robots. Instead of being about love and loss, it becomes a song about how shiny one of the robots is.
  • "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk is a pretty straightforward nu-disco "up with our glasses, down with our pants" party song. "Get Lucky" covered by UK indie band Daughter, is a dark, creepy-as-hell song about a confused woman being led through a dark, unfamiliar club in a roofie haze.
  • Finnish country rock band Freud, Marx, Engels & Jung made a Finnish language cover Buuri Johannesburgista (Boer from Johannesburg) from Kinky Friedman's song Jerk from Johannesburg, as a VERY satirical take on Apartheid system. Unfortunately too many people understood it as a white power anthem...
  • Apparently, The Joker's version of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart" (performed by Troy Baker) in Batman: Arkham Origins has turned a brokenhearted love ballad into a crazy Obsession Song about Batman. Many of the words are changed slightly: "Another love before my time made your heart sad and blue / And so my heart is paying now for things I didn't do" in the original becomes "Another crime before my time made your heart sad and blue / And so now you make me pay for things I didn't do"; and "The more I learn to care for you the more we drift apart" becomes "You won't admit that we're the same, and it's tearing me apart!" The entire third verse is changed from the original so it now reads like this:
    You'll never know how much it hurts
    To never see you smile.
    You know you need and want to laugh,
    Yet you claim it's not your style.
    Why do you hide behind that mask?
    I'm trying to do my part!
    Why can't I free your doubtful mind
    And melt your cold, cold heart?
  • Hunter Hayes' "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me" is an upbeat (though bitter) song about being single, surrounded by couples, and wanting to get back together with an ex-girlfriend. Sam Tsui's cover of this song is exactly that- but without the "upbeat" part of the equation, turning it into a regretful, heart-wrenching piano ballad.
  • Neil Young's "Down By The River" is creepy enough. It's a murder ballad, possibly inspired by Banks of the Ohio, combining Neil's mournful voice with occasional frenetic blasts of guitar jamming, over minimal background and an implacable walking bass line. Indigo Girls' version is fairly straightforward aside from the Les Yay, but Mc_Kendree Spring's version sounds more like Johnny Rivers, Low and Dirty Three's version sounds as if it were recorded in the river, and Empty Mansions' version sounds like it's coming from the afterlife...

     Songs N-Z 
  • N-Trance did a cover version of Rod Stewart 's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" but it comes off more as a Eurodisco crowd song than Rod's original intentions!
  • Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" is upbeat and poppy, a 180 degree turn from the Ednaswap original, which is emotionally raw and more in line with the actual lyrics.
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds covered "Death Is Not The End" with pretty much an all-star cast of singers: P.J. Harvey, Kylie Minogue, Shane Mc Gowan, and various members of the band. The orchestration and singing are deliberately upbeat, which somehow makes the apocalyptic content of the song bleaker than the original.
  • When Straight Gay singer and voice actor Cam Clarke covered "Son Of A Preacher Man", it was changed from a song about a preacher's son sneaking around behind his dad's back to a song about a preacher's son sneaking around behind his dad's back... with another boy. The entire song takes on quite a different and altogether more scandalous feel.
    • Ironically, it's actually Flanderizing of the most popular version: Dusty Springfield was openly bisexual, so you can imagine how "the only boy who could ever reach me" went over when the song was first released.
  • Uncle Tupelo's cover of "No Depression" is about...well, depression, whereas the original song was written about the Great Depression.
  • Ana Belén's cover of "Piano Man" has little to do with the original's lyrics. The titular piano man is now an old man who can't forget about the woman that refused to stay with him "locked up in a cage", and now only plays sad songs that "taste of honey and defeat".
  • "Le moribond" ("The Dying Man") by Belgian singer Jacques Brel is better known to English-speaking audiences as "Seasons in the Sun". In this form it has been covered by multiple artists, most recently Westlife. The original is a song about a cheating wife, and it was freely modified when translated into English by Rod Mc Kuen (and bent even further by Terry Jacks); the original is substantially snarkier, with the singer taking digs at his best friend, who is the one who his wife was cheating with, and who apparently didn't realize the husband knew everything.
  • The Delaney & Bonnie/Carpenters song "Superstar" is about a groupie who's fooled herself into thinking that the one night stand she had with a rock star [1], but the ghostly, eerie quality of Sonic Youth's cover makes it sound like it's about a dead lover. That, or a vengeance-obsessed hookup who's stalking an unaware victim.
    • Luther Vandross' version sounds like someone wondering about a long-lost love.
  • Recently, Glassjaw covered one of their own songs, Star Above My Bed (Call of the Tiger Woman), and retitled it as simply Stars. But it's not so much that they changed its meaning as they spiced it up and altered its lyrics.
    • For further comparison, hear this, and then this.
  • Vanilla Fudge's cover of "Season Of The Witch" turns a largely tongue-in-cheek Donovan tune and plays it dead straight in the most horrifying manner possible.
  • Joey Ramone's cover of ''What A Wonderful World" changes the song from bittersweet observations about the transient beauties in the world to someone experiencing dance-inducing synesthesia over how fucking awesome the world is.
    • Mr. Ramone recorded the album while dying of cancer, which just seems to add another layer of Awesome to it.
  • Bill Bailey, during his Part Troll routine, suggests as a new British National Anthem: "Zippe-dee-doo-dah" as performed by Portishead. He then goes on to play what he thinks that would sound like. Unsurprisingly the song loses some of its upbeat tone.
    • He also reimagined the theme tune to The Magic Roundabout. Complete with the "secret middle section" which reveals that Zebedee is a deformed, demonic megalomaniac with a Dark and Troubled Past.
    • He also did a reimagining of "The Hokey Kokey" and "Combine Harvester" by The Wurzels as if they were both done by Kraftwerk of all people.
  • Talking Heads took Al Green's rather upbeat "Take Me to the River" and turned it into a funky, eerie narrative, complete with ominous atmospheric keyboards and David Byrne's menacing, on-the-edge delivery.
  • Go to the Dead Space website to download the creepiest version of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" ever recorded.
  • Spineshank covered the legendary Beatles' song "While my Guitar Gently Weeps." This version turns a guitar driven song about the relative connection between all things into a critique of society and human nature through the eyes of a unchanging passive observer. The vocalist screams and chants the lyrics as if calling out the world around him for its mistakes.
    • ...The original "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" is a critique of society and human nature through the eyes of a unchanging passive observer.
    • On the other hand, Lemon Demon's "While My Keytar Gently Weeps" is probably a joke about synthesizeritis.
  • The Blind Boys of Alabama took Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," which is supposed to be about Elvis Presley and sounded like a mocking of religious faith, and turned it into a straight-up Gospel song.
  • Sign's cover of the Iron Maiden classic "Run to the Hills" seems to be sung exclusively from the Indian perspective with a much more somber tone in contrast to the original which was much more aggressive and sung mostly from the white men's point of view. (except for the first verse.)
  • Bob Dylan's song "When the Ship Comes In" is an apocalyptic protest song about all the people who will be up against the wall when the revolution comes. In the hands of The Pogues, however, it sounds like the boat is full of drunken, cheerful pirates.
    • The Bank of Montreal's use of a children's choir to sing The Times, They Are a-Changin' was not only vaguely weird, but also completely subverted the meaning of the song. As comedien Rick Mercer once put it: "What used to be an anthem against people like the bank is now a jingle for the bank. If you listen closely you can hear the sound of Woody Guthrie spinning in his grave."
  • Jimi Hendrix famously played a live version of "The Star Spangled Banner," that, through his use of noise, feedback, and guitar wizardry, managed to sound like a village getting destroyed in the Vietnam war, complete with explosions, machine gun fire, screaming, and the sound of bombs falling, all interspersed with the actual anthem. The resulting song was not exactly intended to be patriotic.
  • Iron & Wine covered the Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" and changed it from a synthpop acid trip of a love song into something more poignant and sweet.
    • It should be pointed out that Iron & Wine could cover anything from Metallica to John Phillip Sousa and make it sound poignant and sweet.
  • Shudder To Think covered Atlanta Rhythm Section's southern rock Intercourse with You song "So Into You" and somehow simultaneously played the Obsession Song angle to the hilt and made it sexier. In particular, Craig Wedren sings the refrain "I am so into you / I can't think of nothing else" as though he means it literally.
  • Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones is a mid-tempo song about a man's frustration with his sex life, Satisfaction by Devo is a fast-paced rant against consumerism, and Satisfaction by PJ Harvey and Björk is what happens right before insanity.
    • Satisfaction by The Residents (at the very beginning of the vid) is about a guy who is just down right Ax-Crazy.
    • Cat Power's cover drops all the choruses, leaving only the parts of the song that nobody knows.
    • Phyllis Diller's version of the song is a self-deprecating tune about how much it sucks to be Phyllis Diller.
  • Not so much "The Cover Changes the Meaning" as "The Cover has Absolutely Nothing to do with the Original": The Yardbirds recorded a somewhat obscure ambient chanting-type song called "Still I'm Sad." Rainbow then took the basic melody, removed all the words, and rerecorded it as a 70s hard-rocker. The live version has the lyrics again, but expands the whole thing into 10 minutes of Epic Rocking.
  • Scrubs once had an episode which guest starred Sesame Street characters. It ended with a mournful cover of the ''Sesame Street' theme, which makes it sound like someone trying to forget their troubles, in keeping with the theme of the episode.
    • The sitcom fantasy episode also ended with a melancholy cover of the Cheers theme, as JD is seen leaving the harsh tragedies of the hospital to seek some comfort and escapism in television sitcoms. Tragically, this performance is removed for the DVD release of the season.
    • They also had Ted singing an acoustic version of Hey Ya while J.D. monologued about relationships. Wow.
  • The Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra takes the love Theme from the Godfather and turns it from a love theme into a song which seems to be about a fast paced chase, possibly running away from madness. They do this by changing the instrumental portions and discarding the original lyrics replacing them with barely understandable Engrish.
  • Amanda Palmer's cover of "What's the Use of Won'drin" from Carousel is a depiction of domestic violence and misogyny. Even when done straight, Values Dissonance makes it pretty hard not to see the song any other way. The creepy music box style Amanda does it in makes it even more obvious, though. At some points in the song, a woman can be heard faintly sobbing.
    • She covered her own song, "Oasis", making it more "serious" when people complained that the song was making light of rape and abortion.
  • Recently, the Rihanna song "Only Girl (In the World)" was covered by Boyce Avenue. The original comes off as a girl telling her boyfriend that he will spoil her and make her feel special or else there's no more relation stops. She wants to be spoiled, and dammit, you will do it. Which isn't how a good relationship works. With this cover, the perspective changes to the guy singing to the girl about how he chooses to make her feel so special. This changes it from a spoiled woman demanding worship, to a man devoting himself to his beloved. When you add the fact that the music and tone changes from less of a from club type music to more of a romantic tone, it truly changes it entirely.
    • Similarly, Boyce Avenue also did one of "Teenage Dream" from Katy Perry. Similarly made into a more romantic tone and removed the Intercourse with You aspect of it. "Lets just talk all through the night, there's no need to rush." Works well.
  • The Maia Hirasawa version of The Ark's "The Worrying Kind" takes the over-the-top Camp lyrics of the original and sings them, slowed down, without a hint of irony. The effect is surreal, to say the least.
  • Flyleaf's cover of "What's This?" from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
    • To elaborate, the original is incredibly excited about Christmas, while Flyleaf's cover sounds scared of the changes.
    • Similarly we have Marilyn Manson's cover of "This Is Halloween." Whereas the original is talking about a land of wonder - albeit a morbid one - the Manson cover comes off as truly being a hellish place where they delight in the torment in store for you. When Manson sings "That's our job but we're not mean," you know he's lying.
  • This cover of "What's Up" by the 4 Non Blondes turns it from a morose grunge anthem about trying to get through an empty, directionless life into an inspirational gay disco number about having a good time no matter what your troubles are. Sung by He-Man. It seems to have been inspired by an actual dance mix of the original, though that remix could be considered as just adding a massive dose of Lyrical Dissonance.
  • Richard Thompson covers the traditional Irish song, "She Moves Through The Fair", and changes one word. The last verse usually goes, "Last night she came to me/my own love came in", and RT changes it to, "Last night she came to me, my dead love came in". Changes the meaning of the song completely
    • And on the subject of Richard Thompson: Britney Spears' original version of "Oops, I Did It Again" was sung as if she genuinely didn't realise she was leading someone on so much. Richard Thompson's performance was of someone who knew exactly what he was doing.
    • Interestingly, that is the lyric as originally put down by Padraic Colum — the person on record as collecting the traditional song — so it's not so much a case of "The Cover Changes The Meaning" as "The Cover Restores The Earliest Recorded Meaning."
    • In the original Irish ballard, the lover merely "came softly in". The ambiguity of what has become of her is probably deliberate.
  • Erma Franklin's "Piece of My Heart" is a song of defiance in the face of her unfaithful man. Janis Joplin sang it with a rage not commonly seen from female vocalists. Faith Hill, who really should have known better, then pissed all over both their graves with her flighty, bubble-gummy cover.
    • She probably didn't know better, honestly. She rerecorded the song later (it's on some rare foreign hits collection) and it's much harder-edged now.
  • Soft Cell's version of "Tainted Love": A poppy, up-beat take on a failing relationship. Coil's take on "Tainted Love": A slow dirge likely reflecting the last thoughts of a man dying of AIDS.
    • Gloria Jones' version of "Tainted Love": An angry and defiant take on a failing relationship.
    • Marilyn Manson's version of "Tainted Love": an angry, paranoid, descending-into-homicidal-madness take on a failing relationship?...
  • People who've only heard the Joe Cocker or Tom Jones versions of "You Can Leave Your Hat On" will know it as an amourous come-on; the original, by Randy Newman, is a lot more sinister - the narrator is meant to sound seedy and lecherous.
    • Any version of the song can sound a bit seedy and definitely lecherous.
  • When iconic band The Rolling Stones play "Paint It Black," it sounds moody and vaguely depressing. When heavy-metal band The Black Dahlia Murder play "Paint It Black," it sounds angry and vaguely homicidal.
    • Gob's cover of it has a relentless, driving feeling of a losing grip on sanity, and somehow also manages to sound almost happy about it.
    • When The Residents play "Paint it Black", it's a song about complete insanity and hatred for all living things or near-suicidal depression and loss, depending on the performance.
    • The Tea Party's cover is unsurprisingly, dramatically over-the-top and emphasizes the Middle Eastern elements of the song.
  • Paloma Faith took what can only be described as the most typical song ever written ("Sexy Chick" by David Guetta ft. Akon) and recast it into a ballad of envy tinged with lesbian lust that really has to be heard to believed.
  • Cascada has a very energetic pop version of—wait for it—What Hurts The Most.
  • Sanctuary, a Heavy Metal band that would later be known as Nevermore, covered Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", and turned it from a catchy drug song that referenced Alice in Wonderland to a creepy, ominous crusher about a drug trip that goes wrong with fatal consequences, and replaced Grace Slick's enchanting vocals with Warrel Dane screaming his balls off.
  • The original version of Respect by Otis Redding was about a henpecked husband pleading with his wife for respect and recognition. Aretha Franklin's cover transformed it into to a song about a woman telling a lover that she wasn't going to accept his dismissive attitude toward her any longer, thus giving birth to a major theme song for Second Wave Feminism.
  • During the 2009 Australian Idol season, when contestant Toby chose 'Please Don't Leave Me' for a Pink-themed night, it created this trope along with a slight helping of Double Standard and Unfortunate Implications or even Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male coming from the lyrics, especially lines like "I'll cut you into pieces", and "You're my perfect little punching bag". Judge Ian 'Dicko' Dickson lampshaded this by pointing out that sung by a female (and further example the somewhat lighthearted, Affectionate Parody / Black Comedy-esque portrayal of the subject matter in the music video), Pink sounds much like the badass Femme Fatale, but Toby's version would probably come off with a creepy serial killer/wifebasher vibe. {
  • The cover of "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" (the one you've probably heard) is WAY cleaner than the original. The original has a line ("I'm like a one-eyed jack glaring at a seafood shop") that is easy to understand if you have a dirty mind (one-eyed jack= "cycloptic trouser snake", seafood shop= "fish taco"). That particular line is nothing compared to the later line that basically describes what the 1-eyed jack is doing inside the seafood shop in the most detailed way possible for the 1950s.
    • That's mighty interesting considering Bill Haley's cover has that "one-eyed cat" lyric intact. It doesn't have the "get over hill" line later, though.
  • The girl group Girlicious recorded a cover of the David Guetta song "Sexy Bitch." Instead of the male narrator admiring a sexy bitch, the song is turned around so that a female narrator is referring to herself as a sexy bitch.
  • Brazilian song "Rap das Armas" (widely known for its use in The Elite Squad) was originally written by MC Junior and Leonardo a protest on the violence in Rio de Janeiro. The better-known cover by Cidinho and Doca instead tells a story from the point of view of drug dealers about to fight off the police.
  • The original Rolling Stones version of "Under My Thumb" has Mick Jagger being very smug, self-satisfied and quite pleased with his place in the world. Mike Ness performing it with Social Distortion, on the other hand, is extremely angry, depressed and comes off with the air of intending to exact a brutal, hateful vengeance.
  • In Ash's "Shining Light" the subject of the song is a girl. In the covers by Emm Gryner and Annie Lennox, it's God. It does make the line, "a full on chemical reaction," sacrilegious.
  • Chris Daughtry's cover of "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga sounds more like a cad's depressing lament than an upbeat ode to promiscuity like the original.
    • Same thing goes for Marina And The Diamond's version of "Starstrukk". While the original singers were proud of stringing their lovers along, she sounds far more regretful about it.
  • Placebo's version of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill". The original version is quite upbeat and hopeful; Placebo's version is a depressive (and somewhat Nightmare Fuel-y) lament. It changes the song from about finding God to about a deal with the devil.
  • Yael Naim's cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic"? Her voice makes the song all the more awesome. It's soft, slow, sensual, and truly gives off the air of an addict. Go listen to it NOW.
    • Maurice White's cover version Tomorrow changes a classical J-pop sequence into Rhythm And Blues; comparison here.
    • The cover version by the Canto-pop singer Hacken Lee, Daybreak downright changes the meaning of the song from star-crossed lovers to a male apologizing for hurting her girl.
  • Buckethead's cover of "Pure Imagination" is much more downbeat than the original.
    • And jazz saxophonist Steve Lehman's version is FAR in the opposite direction. His intention was to give it the same sort of manic, dervish energy that John Coltrane gave to "My Favorite Things".
    • Fiona Apple's cover is very downbeat and haunting as well, to the point where it was used very appropriately in a Chipotle ad called "The Scarecrow". On the contrast Music/Maroon5's version of the song makes it sound more into an Intercourse with You song.
  • There are 18 million versions of the Irish folk song "Siul a Ruin". Solas does a sweet, wistful version. Lorelei's verges on emo. The version done by Rosheen, sounds as though the singer is going to pick up her own sword and follow her love into battle.
  • The original version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a chainsaw of anger hitting an iron spike of angst over something deserved but never received. Tori Amos's cover of that same song is a soulful lament for something once possessed but now lost.
    • Pansy Division's cover ("Smells Like Queer Spirit") is about homophobia and gay sex.
  • "Secret Agent Man" by Johnny Rivers has a romanticized third person view on the secret agent in question, portraying his life as one of danger, intrigue and mystery in exotic locations. Devo's warped semi-cover of "Secret Agent Man" alter the lyrics and changes to a first person view, in which the secret agent is portrayed as a Punch Clock Hero everyman who is just doing his job of "safeguarding America's health" which rarely gets him "off [his] ass".
  • "Word Up" by Cameo is a flashy dance riff filled with braggadoccio. It's all about the "Look at me, Ladies!" vibe. The covers by Korn, Melanie B, and Gun play this same vibe. But then you get to the cover by Country-Soul artist Willis and suddenly it turns haunting and desperate.
  • Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love" plays almost like a desperate cry for help, asking the woman the song is being sung to to not give up on the singer despite the hard times. Garth Brooks's take on the song is confident, rather than desperate, promising the woman that he (the singer) will soothe her hurts and make things all better. A cover by Adele is more like an offer being made to a potential love interest that if he chooses her, she would do anything for him.
  • "Sweet Dreams" by Eurythmics is about finding fulfillment in your own way. Marilyn Manson's cover makes it about the futility of finding meaning in life.
    • Emily Browning's cover is sung in a slow, emotionless voice that has an effect similiar to Manson's version, with the added bonus of sounding defeated and numb to the world that wants to use and abuse.
  • "Tonight", originally performed by Iggy Pop, is a teenage death song about a drug overdose, as the singer assures his dying sweetheart that "everything will be alright". Co-writer/producer/backup singer David Bowie recorded a cover version as the title track of a 1984 album, but dropped the opening section that establishes the girl's dying — which leaves only a straightforward love song, one he performed as a duet with Tina Turner.
  • "Wild Thing" by The Troggs is about loving a Hot-Blooded woman. Sam Kinison's version is an extremely bitter (albeit tongue-in-cheek) song about a woman who broke his heart. The Goodies version is a very tounge-in-cheek song about two Wild Children who end up getting married, until the singer realises he doesn't love her anymore.
  • Jane Sibbery's 1985 hit "One More Colour" (an upbeat Canadian pop song inspired by a developmentally-disabled boy she once met who found joy in looking at the sky) has been covered, to very different intent, by other Canadian musicians. Sarah Polley's version (used in The Sweet Hereafter) turns it into a melancholy, almost mournful reflection on the death of innocence, while The Rheostatics' version plays it up as a schizophrenic, fast-paced track full of guitar solos and a "party-like" atmosphere.
  • Karmin recorded a duet cover of Adele's "Someone Like You". The original was about a childhood friend settling down with someone else, but the cover seems be about the two wishing to get back together, although at least one of them is already married.
  • The song "Parachute" was originally written by Ingrid Michaelson, but she wrote it for Cheryl Cole who released it several months before Ingrid's was released; whichever is the cover is a matter of opinion and definition. Cheryl's is far more upbeat (being R&B-Pop) while Ingrid's is mellow. Cheryl's sounds like someone falling in love with someone or who has recently began a relationship, while Ingrid's sounds more like someone talking about a long-time relationship
  • Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down a Dream" has the singer following his muse. Wednesday 13's cover sounds like the "Dream" being run down is a person. The lyrics putting the singer in a car don't hurt that image.
  • Devo's "Beautiful World" is a sarcastic anthem to the facade of happiness in a very flawed and imperfect world. Devo 2.0's "Beautiful World" is a peppy tribute to life and how great it is. It almost seems like the first is a deconstruction of the second.
  • Not quite a cover, but Scroobius Pip did a track based on a quotation from Soulja Boy's much maligned "Crank Dat" to make it about literal soldier boys. "Soldier Boy, now kill 'em, we need YOU!!!"
  • Joy Electric actually changed one important word from the chorus when he covered "Viva la Vida": from "I know St. Peter won't call my name," to "I know St. Peter will call my name."
  • Imogen Heap's cover of "Thriller" changes it from a slightly creepy but mostly catchy dance number into an eerie, melancholy song that in some ways matches the lyrics much better.
  • The english song Slowly by the swedish band Gemini, it's a ballad in which the lyrics talk about how the love in a relationship is gone and they're about to part ways, while the spanish cover Muriendo Lento by the mexican band Timbiriche, while retaining the same music and guitar riff, changed the lyrics so that the relationship is over, but the couple miss each other and want to be together again.
    • Add the cover of the cover, by group Moderatto and singer Belinda, which now is a perky pop-rock song, that still has the same guitar riff.
  • "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People is a very upbeat, catchy dance tune about a school shooting. Rapper Yonas took the chorus, added rap verses, and set it to a music video of children running around with water pistols.
  • Nina Simone's cover of "Pirate Jenny" (from Threepenny Opera) is still essentially about an frustrated hotel maid's revenge fantasies, but has racial and political overtones (the "Black Freighter" serves as a metaphor for a black uprising.)
  • "Sixteen Tons" is a Protest Song about a coal miner who complains about being "owned" by the Company Town. The Brazilian version "16 Toneladas" is a party song, where "16 tons" is just the nickname of a particularly fun person.
  • The poem "Richard Cory" by Edwin Arlington Robinson is from the point of view of the people of the town where the title character lives and describes how they envy his wealth and standing, until the last line, in which he commits suicide. The Simon & Garfunkel song is more pointedly sung by an individual person who works in a factory owned by Cory and repeats even after reporting the suicide that he hates his life and wants to be Richard Cory, making it a commentary on wealth and poverty rather than a warning that money doesn't buy happiness.
  • Corey Hart's "Sunglasses At Night" is an energetic but mournful tune about a man turning a blind eye to being cuckolded by his out-of-his league girlfriend. In this cover by The Megas, the singer is much more competitive and determined to win her affections, and seems self-assured enough to actually wear Sunglasses at Night.

     Serial reinterpreters 
  • Absolutely any cover made by Laibach. One notable example is their version of Queen's "One Vision," which is translated into German to highlight the unintentional fascist undertones of the original. Compare this to this.
    • Another good example is Laibach's cover of "Sympathy for the Devil". While the original Rolling Stones version sounds as if Lucifer is just some sort of Trickster, the Laibach version makes it sound as if Lucifer is just toying with someone before sucking their soul out of their nose.
  • Tori Amos's cover album Strange Little Girls is entirely based on this trope—every song is originally male-written and sung and reinterpreted from a female point of view. The musical arrangements are changed wildly but the lyrics are nearly the same — the largest change is a missing verse in "I Don't Like Mondays", and none of the changes are enough to change the meaning of the song without the radical changes to the arrangement. Most notable is a cover of Eminem's "'97 Bonnie and Clyde," done from the perspective of the dead woman in the trunk. It's good but insanely creepy.
    • The results were mixed: she did lovely, lovely covers of "Rattlesnakes," "Enjoy The Silence," "Time," and "Real Men." However, the covers of "Heart of Gold" and "Happiness is a Warm Gun" were... not some of her best work, to say the least. (The cover of "Happiness is a Warm Gun" is something like ten minutes long.). It is worth noting that "Heart of Gold" is practically a garage-rock song in her hands.
      • Her version of "Raining Blood" managed to creep out Slayer. They sent her a T-shirt.
    • And then there's Tori Amos' version of Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby One More Time" which turns it into something sensual and dreamy.
    • Amos enjoys doing this in general: since she can pick up a song just by listening to it, she tends in live concerts to, say, turn "Livin' On a Prayer" into a sensitive piano ballad. Part of the reason her concerts get so heavily bootlegged is that this is pretty much the only way to get those covers.
  • Prince's "When You Were Mine" was about a guy whose live-in kinda-sorta girlfriend gets involved with another man. Lauper's version is about a woman whose live-in kinda-sorta boyfriend gets involved with... another man. And is a transvestite.
  • Pineapple Princess went from being sung by a female, ending with "I'll be his pineapple queen" to being sung by a male, ending with "I'll be your pineapple queen".
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's polka medleys deserve an honorable mention.
    • In particular, the line "Dont'cha wish your girlfriend was fun like me?" sounds way different coming from Al than Ms. Fanservice.
    • As does the "I Kissed A Girl" lines from "Polka Face"
  • The film Across the Universe seemed to enjoy doing this to various Beatles hits, the most memorable being "I Want To Hold Your Hand" re-imagined as a tragic song about a closeted lesbian pining for an unrequited crush. "Dear Prudence", following up on that theme, has said character literally locking herself in a closet, with the main characters urging her to "come out". On the opposite side was "Come Together," which was performed just right.
    • The best example has to be "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," which John Lennon originally wrote about his obsession with Yoko Ono. Across the Universe had it sung by army recruitment officers (who happen to live right in the middle of the Uncanny Valley) as Max is being drafted. Towards the end of the song, the drafted soldiers are carrying the statue of Liberty as a battering ram through the Vietnamese jungle while they lament "She's so HEAVY!". It is very symbolic.
  • Another Beatles example: The soundtrack to I Am Sam is full of modern covers of Beatles songs. While most are just straight-up covers, Howie Day's cover of "Help!" and Paul Westerberg's "Nowhere Man" are both slow, sad, minor-key versions of the original upbeat major-key songs, and change the meaning of the songs significantly. Interestingly enough, John Lennon's original take on "Help!" was closer to Day's cover, but he was told to make it up tempo so it would sell as a single. In that regard, the cover is closer to the song's original meaning, since Lennon was fairly distraught when he wrote it.
  • A third Beatles example is In My Life, an album of Beatles covers produced by George Martin, sung or performed entirely by famous people. Most of the songs are straightforward but a few have their original meaning amplified or even changed entirely:
    • A Hard Day's Night (Goldie Hawn) is turned into a sexy swing song.
    • A Day In The Life (Jeff Beck) amplifies the despair inherent in the original to the point of Tear Jerker.
    • Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite (Billy Connolly) turns the whole thing back into the PT Barnum poster it was, by having Connolly sound like a ringleader and playing up the circus music sound.
    • In My Life (Sean Connery) is turned into a spoken word song, that sounds like an old man reflecting on his long life and on what he has now, effectively reversing the original meaning. This carries some extra weight considering this was the last song on the last album George Martin ever produced.
      • Ozzy Osbourne's cover of "In My Life" is similar - it's slowed down considerably to the point of being a mournful tribute to the people in Ozzy's life who he lost too soon (particularly his first wife and Randi Rhoads), with the second verse becoming an obvious tribute to Sharon.
  • In the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Paul's bouncy tribute to his father "When I'm 64" is turned into a creepy song sung by the evil old Mr Mustard as he kidnaps young Strawberry Fields.
  • Jad Fair and Daniel Johnson's cover of "Tomorrow Never Knows" turns what was merely a trippy ode to LSD into a song about demon possession. The lyrics fit unsettlingly well.
  • "I Wanna Be Your Man", a Lennon-McCartney "throw-away", was written as Ringo's signature song for live performances, but also given to The Rolling Stones. The contrast between the two recorded versions nicely sums up the classic Beatles vs. Stones debate: the Beatles version is bouncy, cheerful and up-tempo, while the Stones version is darker, brassier and more insistent.
  • The Beatles themselves did this with Ringo Starr's cover of the song "Boys", a case of The Cover Changes The Gender. The original, by girl group The Shirelles, was about how great boys are. Their version is from a male perspective, but it's about how great his own gender is, coming off as a tongue-in-cheek number about the singer and his friends attempting to pick up girls. The lyrics are changed slightly to support this ("Mama says when you kiss my lips / I'll get a thrill through my fingertips" becomes "My girl says when I kiss her lips / She gets a thrill through her fingertips"). It arguably works far better than the original.
  • Several of the cuts on the album that Tom Waits did Heigh-Ho for (Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films) is made up of these:
    • Sun Ra and His Arkestra do a cover of Pink Elephants On Parade that's positively surreal.
    • Buster Poindexter and The Banshees Of Blue do Castles In Spain. Their version sounds like it's being sung by a completely amoral monster.
    • What Sinead O'Connor does to Someday My Prince Will Come has to be heard to be believed. "Cynical" doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • The Residents have made not one, but four albums consisting of experimental covers of music from the 50s and 60s. Most of the material on these albums either make the song sound darker or more ridiculous, or actually amplify the original's true meaning.
  • They Might Be Giants have done this to their own songs, "Robot Parade". The original is a synth filled kid friendly song, while the "Adult" version is pure heavy metal that makes you figure that the cyborg in the said song annihilates the world. Or at least runs around blowing up bad guys.
    • They also redid "She Thinks She's Edith Head". Long Tall Weekend has the original, angry, slightly grating version - the singer is obviously very frustrated by the girl's pretensions. On Mink Car, though, the signer is scornful, but not angry, and the melody and vocals are much smoother.
    • And on the same album, the rerecording of "First Kiss". The new version is a touching ballad love song. The original, as featured on their live album Severe Tire Damage, is hard rock and is rather jarring if you heard the studio remake first.
      • Alternatively, if you heard the live version first, the lust and passion seem to have gone out of the song and it sounds a little wistful and nostalgic (though contented enough).
    • They also have a song called "Pet Name" which does this within the same song. It starts out sounding unhappy and frustrated about the ebbing of the tenderness in the relationship, and ends up upbeat and happy that the couple have got past the lovey-dovey stage and on to something real. This is all conveyed through the arrangement and delivery, not the lyrics.
    • In a more traditional version of this trope, John Flansburgh recorded an eerie, drum machine heavy version of Gary Glitter's "Hello Hello, I'm Back Again" with Joshua Fried that makes the song sound almost like a death threat.
  • Blue Oyster Cult has also done this with a few of their own songs; a country song called I'm on the Lamb But I Ain't No Sheep was re-recorded with heavy metal instrumentals for their second album as The Red and the Black, and Subhuman and Astronomy on the Secret Treaties album both received mellower, synthesizer-heavy redos for Imaginos.
  • Puncolle Voice Actress' Legendary Punk Collection is a collection of covers of punk and grunge songs by J-pop idols, turning songs like "Anarchy in the UK" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" into something rather surreal. Samples here.
    • And on the flip-side to that, the Punk Goes... album collection is arguably trying to evoke this trope. Such as Punk Goes Pop, or Punk Goes Crunk.
      • Which is silly. We all know that Punk goes "OI!".
  • All of the Disneymania CD's where Disney music, from ballads to comedy routines are re-imagined as jazzy speed-pop music. It's surreal to say the least and in many cases ruins the gentle flow of the music. Ironically enough, the covers of 'Cruella De Ville' mostly avert this trope.
    • Notably, the Jonas brothers' cover of "Poor Unfortunate Souls" gets a lot creepier with a gender flip. When a noticeably villainous female is telling you to "hold [your] tongue" to get guys to like you, you know it's not true. (Well, except that in Real Life it sometimes is....) When hot boys are singing it, and the hot boys are supposed to be virgin icons of teen hormones... yeah.
      • Is it just me, or does the slight change in the lyrics -that is "well, a witch" being changed to "kinda strange" and "magic" being changed to "secret" in the first verse- make the whole song sound like a drug dealer talking about his customers? Seriously.
      • Of course, the video [makes the changes more positive - what was a song about making a Deal with the Devil becomes a song about how adults are forbidding kids to play in a pool, making them poor unfortunate souls.
    • The additional lyrics of Emily Osment's version of "Once Upon a Dream" from Sleeping Beauty seem to change a song about a princess finding the prince of her dreams into a song about a girl wishing to get back together with a boy she went on at least one date with.
  • Metallica has a habit of covering songs and making them... somewhat darker. For example, Bob Seger's "Turn The Page" - the original was was a slightly-bitter lament about a musician's life on the road. Metallica's version sounds like said musician is one bad gig away from turning a shotgun on somebody.
    • The the video for Turn the Page turned it into a song about either A) a stripper who had a kid or B) a single mother who turned to stripping; either way the entire thing screams of hardship and desperation, and an anger at the world that looks down on her for being stuck in such a spot... Yet somehow ends on a Hope Spot with her realizing that life is hard, but she and her daughter will keep pushing and make it through in the end.
      • For added Mood Whiplash, watch the video, then listen to No Leaf Clover. "Then it comes to be, that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel, is just a freight train coming your way."
    • Their cover of Garbage's "Only Happy When It Rains" drains all the irony from the original song. What was once a mocking look at the prete ntiousness and self-absorption of the grunge scene is now a completely straight-faced emo song.
    • Also, Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy" is certainly tongue-in-cheek ("walking down the street/shooting people that I meet/with my rubber tommy water gun"). Metallica's version is certainly sociopathic ("walking down the street/shooting people that I meet/with my fully loaded tommy gun").
  • The entire "vocalese" subgenre of jazz does this by necessity, as it consists in adding lyrics to songs that were originally instrumentals.
  • Modern jazz trio The Bad Plus has made some mainstream success in doing this. Some of their covers capture the same energy as the original, but some defy the original intention. For example, their take on "Iron Man", for the most part, is loud and doom-y like the original, but the last time they play the famous riff, they change the key from minor to major, giving it a finish-line-style feeling of triumph. Maybe their best example of CCTM is the Bee Gee's "How Deep is Your Love", in which they employ vocalist Wendy Lewis to turn the lovey-dovey disco hit into a quietly psychotic plea from an obsessed woman to her love interest.
  • Recent Disney stars cover other Disney songs. However, it's possible that they don't really fit under this trope, since they don't change the meaning—they rip it away completely.
  • Susanna and the Magical Orchestra's album Melody Mountain was a whole album of these. Their cover of AC/DC's 'Long Way to the Top' is positively tragic.
  • The Kid Stuff Repertory Company recorded this album in which they sang their own version of the songs from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Among their weird interpretations of the songs, the most notable is that their version of the title song goes from sounding fun and boisterous to something you'd expect to hear at a funeral.
  • Hong Kongers are actually masters of this trope. Another example: Green Water, Clear Breeze, Hong Konger cover for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind's Ending Theme Tori no Hito, not only changed the style from a light classical that resembles Ode of Joy into a majestic 1980s pop With Lyrics more fit of a National Anthem:
    With you we prospect
    and new paths we'll pave
    May it shine, this new light and spirit
    together we create the glorious and resounding!
    • Another example: Luis Miguel's Culpable o no? cover Who hasn't been wrong? were of completely different content. The former is "just tell a lie to me that you haven't cheated" while the latter is mainly "why do my life sucked so hard?"
  • Neofolk group Death in June covered some songs from a gospel album recorded by Jim Jones's People's Temple Choir. It got creepier.
  • Richard Cheese cover of The Killer's Somebody Told Me turns the song from the angry, in your face brit pop styling to a melancholic reflection by a washed out alcoholic with no game. Richard Cheese in general is known for taking songs of various meanings and turning them into lounge-type music, often to hilarious results.
  • Glee does this regularly:
    • They managed to turn "Poker Face" into a bittersweet duet between ingenue Rachel and her biological mother about how it's best that they keep their distance from each other.
    • They also managed to turn I Want to Hold Your Hand into a solo about a son's love to his father. It is heartbreaking. Glee's version is based on the cover from Across the Universe, where it's about one girls inability to tell another that she's in love with her.
    • They also turned Landslide from a song about a woman questioning wheter she whould break up with her childhood sweetheart into a song about a young woman realizing that she is in love with her (female) best friend. It is utterly insane how the lyrics fits both these scenarios.
    Well, I have been afraid of changes, / because I've built my life around you / But time makes you bolder, and children grow older / And I'm getting older too!
    • "Only The Good Die Young" goes from a song about wanting to get into a Catholic girl's pants to a song about ignoring religious restrictions and enjoying life.
    • "Losing My Religion" seems to be a song about embarrassment over a public quarrel, possibly between lovers (we're talking about R.E.M. here), and the title comes from the band's home state of Georgia, where it's an expression for losing one's temper and behaving violently. Glee on the other hand seem to have taken the title literally since they made it into a song about Finn questioning his faith in God.
    • Their cover of "Isn't She Lovely?" changes it from being about the singer's new born daughter to Artie serenading Brittany in order to apologize for accidentally calling her stupid the previous episode. They whack a giant lampshade on it by having Mercedes point out "I thought this song was about a baby." to Kurt.
    • "I Kissed A Girl" is originally a song about a girl simply fooling around and kissing other girls because she thinks it's fun. The second time it was used on Glee (the first being as Tina's audition song), it was a Take That against the entire concept: all girls in the show, gay and straight, get together to sing it in public to support a lesbian student who was being bullied. note 
    • Their cover of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know" tried to change the meaning from a Breakup Song to a song about an unfulfilling platonic relationship between two brothers. Of course, it still sounded a lot like a Breakup Song, and the fact that it was sung by Blaine (a gay character) and his brother (played by Matt Bomer, who is gay) really didn't help things.
    • The acoustic cover of Katy Perry's Teenage Dream manages to do this for both the original and the first cover Glee did. Back on season 2, it was as happy a song as the original, only between two gay guys. The second version is also sung by Blaine to Kurt, but here he breaks down crying, because he's cheated on him and they'll soon break up.
      • This version is also an example outside the show: it was a piano arrangement made by Darren Criss, which he often sang at his own shows. There it changed from a song about teenage sex to a thank you to his fans for letting him live his teenage dream.
    • "If I Were A Boy", sang by Unique Adams, who is a transgender character about the harassment and bullying she faces from the jocks. Her version reflects the incomprehension of others and how they treat badly people who are different. Overall, a very heartbreaking cover.
  • The Red Hot + Blue AIDS benefit compilation consists of reinterpretations of Cole Porter songs. For example, Erasure's version of Too Darn Hot from Kiss Me Kate.
  • Pretty much Me First and the Gimme Gimmes whole hat. They only release covers, with each album focusing on a specific type of song (Classic pop standards on Blow in the Wind, show tunes on Are a Drag, etc.), all covered as upbeat pop-punk versions. For some of the sadder songs ("Rocket Man" and "Delta Dawn" come immediately to mind), this makes them come across much Lighter and Softer.
  • The Muppet Show did numerous cover versions which often gave a literal twist to the lyrics. For example, The Beatles 'I'm Looking Through You' was originally about a couple arguing. The Muppets version is sung by two ghosts to a third.
    • Much more blatant was their alteration of "For What It's Worth" (aka "Stop, Hey, What's That Sound") from a war protest song to one protesting hunting, sung from the animals' perspective.
    • There was also a cover of Al Jolson's signature song, "You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want To Do It)". Some of the words are changed as Cookie Monster is singing a love letter to a cookie, which he eats. It was covered by Judy Garland earlier, which makes it about a young girl's crush on movie star Clark Gable.
  • Homestuck has a lot of Recurring Riffs, and some of the more popular ones are reinterpreted in a lot of different moods and ways. For example, Homestuck Anthem is a very slow, somewhat melancholy song. Anthem, on the other hand, is upbeat and victorious.
  • Mark Kozelek's What's Next To The Moon, a whole album of AC/DC songs turned into folky acoustic ballads, tends to make Bon Scott's frequent Intercourse with You songs such as "Walk All Over You" and "Love At First Feel" seem outright romantic.
  • Vitamin String Quartet, Vitamin Piano Series and Pickin' On Series make a business out of making songs into string instrumentals, piano instrumentals, and bluegrass tunes respectively. In some cases this vastly changes the feel of the song.
  • The radio panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue has a round entitled One Song To The Tune Of Another, which consists of the panel singing, well, one song to the tune of another. This has resulted in some massive Lyrical Dissonance and changed meanings — one of the most beloved is "Girlfriend In A Coma" to the tune of "Tiptoe Through The Tulips", which makes the tone sound way more cheerful than in the original, as if sung by someone who really doesn't want his girlfriend to survive and sees this as a great opportunity.
  • The Beautiful South's 'Golddiggas, Headnodders and Pholk Songs' takes, among many others, S Club-7's "Don't Stop Moving" from a up-beat pop song about good music at a club to a slow, almost threatening song about spinning out of control under the hand of an unseen puppet-master, and their cover of "You're The One That I Want" from Grease takes it down a few notches and turns it sensuous and decadent.
  • The Better Beatles' whole formula was turning The Beatles' cheerier-sounding hits into deliberately cold, detached Post Punk - usually making the songs virtually unrecognizable except for the lyrics. The main point seemed to just be trying to dismantle the "sacred" reputation of The Beatles with irreverence, but at times this approach did paint the lyrics in a different light: For instance, The Beatles' "Paperback Writer" seemed to be mocking the narrator's ambitions, but The Better Beatles version brings the tempo down to a dirge and has the lyrics sung in a more pleading manner, making it feel more like a sincere depiction of a desperate starving artist.
  • Limp Bizkit did it twice, helped by modifying the lyrics. George Michael's "Faith" becomes more egocentric ("I know not everybody has got a body like you" -> "has got a body like me") and The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes", in addition to losing a whole verse in lieu of a spelling bridge, adds even more angst ("No one knows what it's like, to be mistreated\ To be defeated, behind blue eyes \And no one knows how to say, that they're sorry \ And don't worry, I'm not telling lies").
  • Pretty much any cover by Boyce Avenue manages to change a pop song into a genuinely romantic ballad.
    • The best example is, of all things "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" by Taylor Swift. Original version is about a woman cruelly denying her ex a chance with her and sarcastically saying how she'll miss fighting and hating each other. The cover actually shows genuine regret in ending an on/off relationship that isn't good for either party, and wishing things were different, showing that they may legitimately miss the fighting.
  • Karaoke Advice: Never EVER gender-flip Blondie's One Way or Another.


The Cover Changes The GenderMedia Adaptation TropesCovered Up
The Cover Changes The GenderMusic TropesCovered Up

alternative title(s): Cover Changes The Meaning
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