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:

    open/close all folders 

     Songs 0- 9 
  • "One" by Three Dog Night: The original version is soulful, 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!"
  • "99 Problems" by Jay Z: The original rap song enumerates the many problems Jay experienced as a young, successful black rap artist from Brooklyn. Hugo's reinterpretation turned it into a more existential bluegrass piece about reclaiming one's soul and finding meaning in life.
  • "99 Red Balloons" by Nena: Jimmy J's Speedy Techno Remake only uses the first verse, thus leaving out the nuclear war references, and changes the line "something's out there" to "someone's up there", making it sound more like a case of Balloonacy.

     Songs A-M 
  • "All That She Wants": Nathan Oliver's cover of Ace of Base's original sounds like a Nick Cave murder ballad crossed with a Spaghetti Western soundtrack and makes the woman in question sound more sociopathic than shallow.
  • "Always On My Mind":
    • The Pet Shop Boys' cover completely changed the meaning of the song by ending it with the line "Maybe I didn't love you".
    • The creepy and sorrowful cover in Silent Hill Shattered Memories does it's share of changing mood and meaning.
  • "Amazing Grace"
    • The Blind Boys of Alabama set the lyrics to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun."
    • Meanwhile, Barry Cryer did the opposite on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.
  • "American Pie": Madonna's cover turns the fairly downbeat and abstract song about Don McLean'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.
  • "American Woman" by the Guess Who 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 titular American Woman). Every other cover changes its perspective:
    • Lenny Kravitz'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.
    • 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.
    • Krokus' version turns it into just another song about dumping a groupie.
  • "Amor de Conuco": In a strange example of self-cover, Juan Luis Guerra recorded two versions of this song 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.
  • "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.
  • "Army Ants," from Tom Waits' Orphans, Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards is made entirely out of quotes from nature encyclopedias, but sounds like a psychotic conspiracy theory.
  • "Baby Got Back": Jonathan Coulton's version 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.
  • "Baby, It's Cold Outside": This Christmas (or rather, Winter, as the closest thing there is to a mention of Christmas is repeated references to a snowstorm) song has been covered numerous times over the years. Depending on the chemistry between the male and femalenote  singers in the duet, it can come across as anything between a welcome seduction and the lead-in to a date rape (its writers intended the former).
    • 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. Meaghan Smith performed a similar cover.
    • 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.
  • "Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears: Dweezil Zappa's cover 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.
  • "Back In The High Life Again" by Steve Winwood: Warren Zevon recorded a slower version 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.
  • "Bad Company" by 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, Five Finger Death Punch's version is about a Military overseas fighting a war (more specifically, in the music video, the US Military in Iraq and Afghanistan).
  • "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival
    • 16 Horsepower's cover is genuinely creepy instead of humorous.
    • Rasputina does a pretty damn eerie version of it with cellos.
  • "The Beautiful People" by Marilyn Manson: Christina Aguilera's cover for her film Burlesque was criticized 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.
  • "Beautiful World" by Devo 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.
  • "Because the Night" by Patti Smith: The Bruce Springsteen version 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 note  Consider for example some of the lyrical differences: where Patti Smith's lyrics on Easter 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." Interestingly, 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.
  • "Believe It Or Not (Theme to The Greatest American Hero)": Pretty much the only difference between the TV and radio versions of the song is a bridge and a repeat of the chorus. But the words of the bridge "This is too good to be true/Look at me - falling for you" change the theme of the song from an everyman being amazed about the fact that he can now do incredible things like fly to an everyman who feels like he can fly because he's fallen in love.
  • "Big Yellow Taxi" by Joni Mitchell has been covered a number of times, often with minor changes to the lyrics. 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.
  • "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson: Chris Cornell's cover 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 note  to a mournful, emotional song where the singer must face what he knows to be true.
  • "Black Pearl" by The Checkmates was originally about falling in love with a black woman, but Kandystand, who has a female vocalist, turned it into a Les Yay song.
  • "Black Sabbath": Type O Negative actually recorded two versions of their cover of this song. The second version rewrote the lyrics to describe 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.
  • "Bodies" by The Sex Pistols: Babes In Toyland's cover 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.
  • "The Book of Love" by The Magnetic Fields: Stephin Merrit said the following about Peter Gabriel's cover:
    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.
  • "Boss DJ" by Sublime: Reel Big Fish turned a mellow acoustic song into a reggae-styled ska song.
  • "Boys of Summer", originally by Don Henley (male) and covered many, many times (most famously by pop-punk band the Ataris) changes the perspective depending on the gender singing, i.e. the female version by DJ Sammy. It's either the male singing he'll 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.
  • "Boyz in the Hood" by Eazy-E: Dynamite Hack's cover 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
  • "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.
    • 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...
  • "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" by Neil Sedaka is 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.
  • "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".
  • "Can't Help Falling In Love" by Elvis Presley: UB 40's cover was done for the soundtrack of Sliver and makes very effective use of synth to turn a mushy love song into an icewater-creepy, Stepford Smiler stalker song.
  • "Can't Take Love For Granted" by Mary Chapin Carpenter: Carpenter did two versions. The original album version 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!"
  • "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You": Muse's version turns it into a Nightmare Fuel Obsession Song.
  • "Cathy's Clown" by the Everly Brothers: Reba McEntire's cover changed it from first mocking of a young man who is to stupid to realize he's being mocked and used by his girlfriend, to a sympathetic, third-party observation in a mournful arrangement.
  • "Cats in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin:
    • Ugly Kid Joe turned it from a song of regret into something far more... wrathful. 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).
    • Rapper DMC, backed by Sarah McLachlan, put his own spin on "Cats in the Cradle", adding his own rap lyrics that explore his coming to terms with the discovery that he was adopted and finally meeting his birth mother. The song ends on a positive note as DMC announces, "I'm alright, Mom."
  • "Centerfold" by J. Geils' Band: When [spunge] covered the song, they turned 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.
  • Cheers theme: The Scrubs sitcom fantasy episode ended with a melancholy cover of the Cheers theme, as JD leaves 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.
  • "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" from Alvin and the Chipmunks:
    • The Lost Dogs' cover altered the banter between the verses, changing 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.
    • Patton Oswalt has a routine where he mimics Dave's "demonic" slowed-down voice.
  • "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses': Save Ferris did a cover 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.
  • "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails: The version by Jane Distortion has the psycho-sexual oddness of the original, but it's very... different, mood-wise.
  • "Cod Liver Oil" (a 19th Century advertising jingle): Great Big Sea changed the key, and transformed it from another happy, mindless bit of fluff into a dark, suspicious diatribe.
  • "Cold, Cold Heart" by Hank Williams: The Joker's version (performed by Troy Baker) in Batman: Arkham Origins turns 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?
  • "Come On Eileen" by Dexys Midnight Runner: The original is a herald to Eileen to stop being fleshcandy and trying to seduce him. Save Ferris's version seems to be more in the vein of not growing up so quickly and making foolish choices.
  • "Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd:
    • Scissor Sisters' not universally loved cover 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.
  • "Cotton-Eyed Joe": The folk song 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.
  • "Crank Dat" by Soulja Boy: Not quite a cover, but Scroobius Pip did a track based on a quotation from "Crank Dat" to make it about literal soldier boys. "Soldier Boy, now kill 'em, we need YOU!!!"
  • "Crazy" by Seal 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 Cleveland-based metal band Mushroomhead released their version, it comes across as a man losing his religion and resigning himself to madness.
  • Crazy He Calls Me, by Billie Holiday: Emilie Autumn's cover turns it simultaneously into a post-apocalyptic echo and a song about a woman's slide into madness.
  • "Crazy In Love" by Beyoncé is a Silly Love Song. Sofia Karlberg's cover is Hotter and Sexier, changing it into a more sensual song.
  • "Creep" by Radiohead:
    • Northern Kings' cover 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.
    • 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.
  • "Dancing With Myself" by Billy Idol (originally by the band Generation X which included Idol): Nouvelle Vague takes the upbeat hit and changes it into a Bossa Nova song about depression and alcoholism.
  • "Danny Boy": Brian Setzer plays an extremely upbeat rock version as "Irish" Terry Conklin's boxing ring entry music in The Great White Hype. note 
  • "Danny Says" by The Ramones: Tom Waits' cover from Orphans, Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards sounds like he's been riding on a bus for several days and his heart has just been broken at a truck stop.
  • "Day Tripper" by The Beatles: Type O Negative's cover transformed a lighthearted ode to LSD into a mournful lament on being driven to suicide by an apathetic lover.
  • "Death Is Not The End": Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds covered it on Murder Ballads with pretty much an all-star cast of singers: PJ Harvey, Kylie Minogue, Shane McGowan, 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.
  • "Diamonds" by Rihanna: The steampunk band Steam Powered Giraffe, whose stage personas are robots, did a cover. Instead of being about love and loss, it becomes a song about how shiny one of the robots is.
  • "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" by AC/DC: At the end of the song, Joan Jett's cover simply omits the usual lead vocals that would name a bunch of random tools of destruction, meaning you can take a far different meaning from it than the original.
  • "Dle Yaman", an Armenian song about a woman who misses her beloved changed after the genocide.
  • "(Don't Fear) the Reaper"
    • HIM did a cover. 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 cover is 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.
    • Babes in Jazzland also covered the song, making it sound like a plaintive reassurance for someone to Face Death with Dignity.
  • "Don't Say a Word" by Sonata Arctica: Xandria's cover changed several lyrics, most prominently changing "I promise you your death before the first light" to "The king is dead but the queen is alive" changing it from a song about a Straw Misogynist attempting to kill his ex girlfriend to a song about a woman killing an abusive ex lover, making it double as an example of The Cover Changes the Gender.
  • "Don't Worry Be Happy" by Bobby Mc Ferrin: Kat Mc Snatch reworked it into "Don't Worry Be Ugly".
    Kat: I've decided that "ugly" is just a word that makes us feel bad for no good reason, so I'm going to have some fun with it instead. I'm tired of feeling the pressure to worry about pimples, bad hair, waxing, crooked teeth, wrinkles, make-up and all the other bullshit that we think we need to make us feel less "ugly." None of it works! I hope this video inspires us to stop worrying.
  • "Down By The River" by Neil Young 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...
  • "Down In the Park" by Gary Numan is a dark '80s synth song about robots. The Foo Fighters cover is substantially more apocalyptic, somehow.
  • "Down with the Sickness" by Disturbed: Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine recorded a cheery showtunes version. They also altered the lyrics slightly to make it about an actual sickness, rather than a metaphor for societal oppression.
  • "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart: N-Trance did a cover version that comes off more as a Eurodisco crowd song than Rod's original intentions!
  • "Dreams": The cover band the Bon Bon Club released, as part of their first EP, an incredibly, incredibly creepy version that seems to make it about a someone imprisoning their lover.
  • "Enola Gay" by OMD: The cover by Nouvelle Vague completely changes the tone of this poppy, bouncy Hiroshima bombing themed song into something yet more creepy and intense.
  • "Everybody Knows" by Leonard Cohen: Rufus Wainwright's cover 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
  • "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me" by Hunter Hayes 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.
  • "Every Breath You Take" by The Police: Aaron Krause and Liza Anne's cover slowed the song down, and transformed it from a creepy Obsession Song into a sensual and dreamy Silly Love Song. When this arrangement was featured on Dancing with the Stars for Bindi Irwin's performance in honor of her father Steve, the meaning was changed even further by using it in the context of a late father watching over his daughter as she grew up.
  • "Everything Counts" by Depeche Mode: The In Flames cover 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.
  • Everything I Own by David Gates 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.
  • "Eyes On Me: Obsession": The OC remix 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.
  • "Fashion Party" by Ace of Base is a song of disdainful decadence. The cover by Beatdrop reinvents it into a song about nightmarish inquisition.
  • Fame: Amy Gerhatz and John Roberts take this peppy, upbeat number about wanting to be famous and turn it into 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.
  • "Feeling Good" from the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd went through this at least twice:
  • "Feelings", originally a romantic song made by Morris Albert in The '70s, was picked up by The Offspring and reworked into a fast and furious song about hatred.
  • "Fields of Athenry" is typically played by bands like the Dubliners as a sad, wistful ballad about carrying on in the face of a sad parting. The Dropkick Murphys turn it 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."
  • "Fire" by Arthur Brown: Originally the song was a gleeful upbeat song that chimed about creating suffering and misery for others.
    • God Dethroned's version is psychotic, menacing, and extremely aggressive. It features the same lyrics accompanied by death metal guitar storms and demon-like screams and growls.
    • The Who covered "Fire" as part of Pete Townshend's solo album The Iron Man, where it becomes one of the space dragon's villain songs.
    • Monkey Dust Crosses the Line Twice, with The Paedofinder General playing and singing it while he turns his usual acticity into a light-and-music show.
  • "The Foggy Dew", an Irish traditional song, has been played in a variety of manners by many artists, anywhere from a melancholy lament to a furious rebel anthem.
  • "Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash:
    • It was a dark song to begin with, but Nine Pound Hammer's cover of it is grittier and rawer than the original, making it come across as resigned, rather than regretful.
    • When blues singer Keb' Mo' covered it for a 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.
  • "Forever Young" by Alphaville 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 ("Young Forever"), which is based more on the idea that you can be young forever as long as people remember you after you die.
  • "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks: Early in 1990, the song was recorded by a fellow country music artist named Mark Chesnutt for his first album, to be released later in the yearnote . 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 had earlier 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.
  • "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" by Eamon 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.
  • "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.
  • "Georgia on My Mind" by Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael: Gorrell originally wrote the lyrics for Georgia Carmichael, sister of Hoagy Carmichael. 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.
  • "Get Away With Murder" by Jeffree Star: The original version is clearly using metaphors. The Difference's cover sounds far more literal and is more like a Murder Ballad.
  • "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, Bang a Gong" and makes them creepy and possessive... using the original vocals. The only alteration is the music that plays behind them.
  • "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk is an upbeat techno song about going to a dance club to... well. UK indie band Daughter's cover, however, slows down the tempo and swaps the gender of the lead to tell the same story from the point of view of the drunk (and possibly drugged ) girl as she is picked up in the club.
  • "Get Up" by Nate Dogg: Dance-punk band !!!'s cover of this party jam seems to be relatively straightforward...until about three minutes into the song, when it suddenly becomes 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.
  • The theme from Ghostbusters got a metal treatment via Armcannon, and the Drummer dressed up as a pizza just for this song during a rehearsal. Pure. Awesome. They also did a slooooooooow version in "Black Hole Enlightenment".
  • "Gimme More" by Britney Spears: Machinae Supremacy has a cover that sounds more like a mockery of Britney Spears herself.
  • "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones: Angélique Kidjo added in African choral vocals and changed the instrumentation to transform a song about the apocalypse and Vietnam into a Lyrical Dissonance filled song about the situation in some parts of Africa.
  • "The Girl From Ipanema", via Translated Cover Version. The original Portuguese version was more of a praise to said girl. The English version (you know the one) is all about the Unrequited Love.
  • "Girl from the North Country" by Bob Dylan. Pete Townshend's electro-pop cover of the folk ballad 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.
  • "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" was originated by Robert Hazard and covered multiple times:
  • "Gloria" by Van Morrison: Patti Smith's cover from Horses 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".
  • "Gloria" as originally written in Italian by Umberto Tozzi is 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.
  • The Godfather love theme: The Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra transforms 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.
  • "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.
  • "Go West" by Village People: The Pet Shop Boys' cover 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.
  • "The Guns of Brixton" by The Clash: Nouvelle Vague's cover turns the bouncy gangster tune into a deeply creepy (yet sexy) cabaret number about life in a fascist dystopia.
  • "Happy Together": Filter's version changes the normally cute song about puppy love to a twisted tune about a Yandere Stalker with a Crush.
  • "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)" by The Crystals: The Crystals, a 1960s girl band, sang the song in a way that is easily interpreted as sincere.
    • This sincerity was apparently not the intent of the writersCarole 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.
    • Grizzly Bear covers the song and makes it haunting and tragic. Also, Grizzly Bear's lead singer is male.
  • "Heigh Ho" from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Tom Waits' cover, recorded for the multi-artist Disney Cover Album Stay Awake and later made available on his own release Orphans, Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards, 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."
  • "Hello, Goodbye" by The Beatles: Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck once turned "Hello, Goodbye" into a Duck Season, Rabbit Season argument. (Bugs & Friends Sing the Beatles did this to a number of songs.)
    Daffy: I say goodbye, and you say hello.
    Bugs: Hello, hello, I don't know why you say goodbye,
    Daffy: I say hello!
  • "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles: Ghost's cover 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").
  • "Heroes" by David Bowie: The original was mildly disinterested and cynical about the world and its capacity for heroism. When Peter Gabriel gets ahold of it, it's a The Ruins I Caused shot in lyrical form.
  • "Hey Joe" note : Patti Smith's cover 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."
  • "Hey Ya" by OutKast:
    • Obadiah Parker took the upbeat original and cut through the Lyrical Dissonance to spotlight the message about a troubled relationship in all its introspective glory.
    • Scrubs had Ted do an acoustic version with a guitar at a wedding while J.D. monologued about relationships. It was turned into an actually sweet love song.
  • "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 cover was slower paced, and had a more epic feel to it. Its lyrics were mysterious and weighty and more befit Shadow.
  • "Hit Me Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears: Black Nail Cabaret actually managed to turn the pop anthem into a dark, gothic, and Head-Tiltingly Kinky bit of Fetish Fuel.
  • "Holding Out For A Hero" by Bonnie Tyler is a silly, peppy disco song about waiting for a Knight in Shining Armor.
    • Frou Frou's cover turns it 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.
  • "Honey Honey" by ABBA: The Mamma Mia! musical cuts out the male vocals and changes every use of "you" to "he", transforming it from a song about being aroused to Sophie reading aloud from her mother's diary entries about her flings with Sophie's three possible fathers.
  • Hot In Herre: Jenny Owen Youngs took an Intercourse with You hip hop song and turned it into a rather romantic and cheery pop-rock song.
  • "House of the Rising Sun":
    • The Animals' cover of this folk song (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.
    • "House of the Rising Sun": The Blind Boys of Alabama set the lyrics of "Amazing Grace" to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun." Barry Cryer did the opposite.
    • Five Finger Death Punch change all references of "New Orleans" to "Sin City". The house in their version is considered to be a metaphor for Hell.
  • "Hungry Like The Wolf" by Duran Duran: Reel Big Fish 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.
  • "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails: The original and Johnny Cash's cover showcase similar but very different messages. The original NIN version is an introspective ode to self loathing, alienation, and drug addiction. Johnny Cash's cover 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.
  • "I Am Woman": The Doug Anthony All Stars' baritone version of "I Am Woman" (here) lends a whole new meaning to the Helen Reddy feminist anthem.
  • "I Don't Wanna Know" by Mario Winan 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).
  • "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 Fought the Law" by Bobby Fuller:
  • "I Got Your Money" by ODB: Say Anything...'s cover made it extraordinarily sarcastic.
  • "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Gladys Knight and the Pips is hurt, but almost puzzled and wondering if it's true.
  • "I Kissed A Girl" by Katy Perry:
    • 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.
  • "I'll Be Home For Christmas": The original 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. That said, a number of modern versions have returned the troops feel by adding Christmas messages from (or at least in Josh Groban's version, to) soldiers stationed overseas.
  • "Imagine" by John Lennon: A Perfect Circle changed it from an upbeat ode to idealism to a cynical ode against totalitarianism.
  • "I'm Your Boogie Man" by KC and the Sunshine Band: The original was an Intercourse with You song. The cover by Rob Zombie is unnerving as all heck.
  • "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath: The original version 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.
  • "I should be so lucky" by Kylie Minogue: The Northern Kings' addition of a telephone, some heavy breathing and a very slow and doomy growled vocal style turn the song into the ultimate creepy stalker tune.
  • "It's The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M. is a song whose humor is extremely subdued. It 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.
  • "I Want to Hold your Hand" by The Beatles: Sparks' cover is performed as slow and smooth Philadelphia Soul, making the song much more mature and heartfelt than the teen love Pop of the original.
  • "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor: The perennial disco hit 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.)
  • "Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis Presley: John Mellencamp did two covers of this song. 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.
  • "Jenny" by Studio Killers: Lily Sevin's cover turns a song about a woman unapologetically wanting to date her best friend into a gayngst filled ballad about unrequited love and falling for a straight girl.
  • "Jerk from Johannesburg" by Kinky Friedman: Finnish country rock band Freud, Marx, Engels & Jung made a Finnish language cover "Buuri Johannesburgista" (Boer from Johannesburg) as a VERY satirical take on Apartheid system. Unfortunately too many people understood it as a white power anthem...
  • "Johnny Are You Queer?". Josie 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.
  • "Johnny B" by The Hooters is about a bad relationship. Down Low reworked it into a song about a thief.
  • "Jozin z Bazin": The original, 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.
  • "Juliette & Jonathan" by Swedish Lotta Engberg reached third place in Melodifestivalen 1996 and 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.
  • Kidnap the Sandy Claws. When it was originally used in The Nightmare Before Christmas, 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.
  • "Land Of A 1000 Dances" by Wilson Pickett is a fairly mundane 60's dance pop song. Patti Smith's cover is a 10-minute psychedelic freakout about a male-on-male rape victim who commits suicide by slitting his throat.
  • "Last Day in Heaven" by Barathrum 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.
  • "Layla" by Eric Clapton: Clapton did two versions of his own song. The original electric version with Derek & the Dominoes is a young man, pining so hard for the woman he loves that he's raging. The solo acoustic version, a few decades later, is an older man softly regretting the love that was lost.
  • "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.
  • "Let It Be" by The Beatles: Israeli composer Naomi Shemer decided in 1973 to write new words 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".
  • "Let It Go" from Frozen
    • In an interesting version, it was written as a Villain Song, then when Idina Menzel sang it for the film, the film was rewritten to have her character, Elsa, be heroic instead of a villain. So it's a case of The Cover Changes the Meaning before the song was properly released.
    • The pop version by Demi Lovato changes the context further to be about letting go of a broken relationship.
  • "Like a Virgin" by Music/Madonna: Sister Cristina, winner of Italy's version of The Voice, has a Softer And Slower Cover version that completely removes all of the innuendo from the original.
  • "Lithium" by Nirvana: The Polyphonic Spree's celebratory cover 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"
  • "Louie Louie" by Richard Berry: The Kingsmen's take on it has been covered by a crapload of artists, and both the Berry and Kingsmen versions are 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).
  • "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" by Bruce Cockburn 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.
  • "Love Stoned" by Justin Timberlake: The Hoosiers' cover changes it from a poppy dance song to a melancholy ballad of addiction, or something. Just watch here.
  • "Mack the Knife": Most versions contrast a light, peppy tone with disturbing lyrics about murdering prostitutes.
    • The Psychedelic Furs cover 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.
  • "Mad World" by Tears For Fears: The well-known Donnie Darko cover 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 Magic Roundabout theme was reimagined by Bill Bailey, complete with the "secret middle section" which reveals that Zebedee is a deformed, demonic megalomaniac with a Dark and Troubled Past.
  • "Many Rivers To Cross" by Jimmy Cliff was turned by UB 40 from one of melancholy to one of empowerment.
  • "Material Girl" by Madonna became hit with this due to massively Misaimed Fandom.
    • Some have claimed that Britney Spears' cover completely missed the irony of the original and subscribes to its message.
    • The Spanish cover version reverses the meaning, the singer stating that she is not at all impressed with those who brag about their income, fancy parties and travels, and that she does not have "a soul made of metal."
  • "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). 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. Nearly all covers since then have been done from the female perspective (it helps that "Bobby" is normally a male name).
  • "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.
  • "The Metro" by Berlin is a poppy, somewhat sad song about moving on after a bad breakup. The cover by System of a Down is a rage-filled rant about being abandoned by a loved one.
  • "Moonlight Shadow": Pathfinders cover goes from a very tragic song about a woman watching her boyfriend getting shot to pieces in a crossfire between policemen and a fugitive and hoping she gets to see him in heaven to her sounding extremely happy about, well, her boyfriend getting shot to pieces in a crossfire between policemen and a fugitive.
  • Morrisey inspired a WMG involving his creepy-as-hell cover of "Moon River", that his version is either sung from the perspective of a murderer, or addressed to a murderer, possibly Perry Smith.
  • "My Generation" by The Who: Hillary Duff's cover 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."
  • "My Humps". What happens when the Black Eyed Peas release a song 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.

     Songs N-Z 
  • "New Religion": Jimmy Eat World's cover transforms the song from a hyperactive rant about information overload into a somber reflection on belief.
  • "No Depression": Uncle Tupelo's cover is about...well, depression, whereas the original song was written about the Great Depression.
  • "Oasis" by Amanda Palmer was redone by the same artist, making it more "serious," after people complained that the song was making light of rape and abortion.
  • "One More Colour", Jane Sibbery's 1985 hit, is an upbeat Canadian pop song inspired by a developmentally-disabled boy Sibbery once met who found joy in looking at the sky. It has been covered with 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.
    • The Rheostatics' version plays it up as a schizophrenic, fast-paced track full of guitar solos and a "party-like" atmosphere.
  • "Only Girl (In the World)" by Rihanna: 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 relationship. Boyce Avenue's cover changes the perspective to a guy singing to a 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. In addition, the cover changes the music from a club-type music to a romantic tone.
  • "Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones:
    • The original version sounds moody and vaguely depressing. When heavy-metal band The Black Dahlia Murder plays it, 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.
  • "Parachute" was originally written by Ingrid Michaelson, but written for Cheryl Cole whose version was released several months before Ingrid's—which 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.
  • "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode. It was originally inspired by Elvis Presley and sounding like a mocking of religious faith.
    • Johnny Cash turned the cynical blast against organised religion into a spiritual song about the power of Christ.
    • The Blind Boys of Alabama turned it into a straight-up Gospel song.
  • "Piano Man" by Billy Joel: Ana Belén's cover 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".
  • "Piece of My Heart" by Erma Franklin 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 made a flighty, bubble-gummy cover and then later rerecorded a much harder-edged versionnote .
  • 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".
  • "Pirate Jenny" from The Threepenny Opera: Nina Simone's cover 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.)
  • "Please Don't Leave Me" by P!nk got this during the 2009 Australian Idol season. When contestant Toby chose it for a Pink-themed night, it resulted in some Double Standard and Unfortunate Implications (or Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male) due to lyrics such as "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 with 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.
  • "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga: Chris Daughtry's cover sounds more like a cad's depressing lament than the upbeat ode to promiscuity of the original.
  • "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.
  • "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
    • Buckethead's cover is much more downbeat than the original.
    • 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, to the point where it was used very appropriately in a Chipotle ad called "The Scarecrow".
    • Maroon Five's version of the song makes it sound more into an Intercourse with You song.
  • "Oops I Did It Again" by Britney Spears was originally sung as if she genuinely didn't realize she was leading someone on so much.
    • Richard Thompson's performance was of someone who knew exactly what he was doing.
    • Paul McDermott performed a curiously threatening version.
  • "Rap das Armas", a Brazilian song (widely known for its use in The Elite Squad) was originally written by MC Junior and Leonardo as 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.
  • "Respect" by Otis Redding: The original version 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.
  • "Richard Cory," the poem 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.
  • "Ring On Her Finger, Time on Her Hands" by Lee Greenwood: Although the only lyrical change was changing the pronouns to first person, Reba McEntire's cover, taking on the female perspective, changes the song from a song of regret as told by a now-enlightened-too-late husband (as in Greenwood's version) to a long-neglected housewife who is forgotten about by a frequently absent, cold, emotionally distant and uncaring husband, and that even thought she knew it was wrong, she justifies her decision to turn to another man to fulfill her sexual needs. Despite changing the hook to "Ring on My Finger, Time on My Hands", the song still kept the original title on the album and single releases, and on its chart entry.
  • "Runnin' Down a Dream" by Tom Petty 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.
  • "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush. The original version is quite upbeat and hopeful, while two notable covers turn it the other way.
    • Placebo's version is a depressive (and somewhat Nightmare Fuel-y) lament. It changes the subject of the song from finding God to a deal with the devil.
    • Within Temptation's cover sounds like someone who is taking a third option and riding out to take action - despite the wishes of heaven or hell!
  • "Run to the Hills" by Iron Maiden: Sign's cover 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).
  • "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" by Black Sabbath: Both versions are basically about feeling betrayed by society. The original is an angry take on this, while The Cardigans' cover is more of a sadly resigned ballad.
  • "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones is a mid-tempo song about a man's frustration with his sex life.
    • Devo's version is a fast-paced rant against consumerism.
    • PJ Harvey and Björk's version is what happens right before insanity.
    • The Residents' version (at the very beginning of the video) 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.
    • The often forgotten and somewhat underrated Britney Spears version references societal pressures on young girls to behave and look a certain way. note 
  • "Season Of The Witch" by Donovan: Vanilla Fudge's cover plays an originally largely tongue-in-cheek tune dead straight in the most horrifying manner possible.
  • "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".
  • Sesame Street theme: 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.
  • "Sexy Bitch" by David Guetta: In girl group Girlicious' cover, 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. Paloma Faith took what can only be described as the most typical song ever written and recast it into a ballad of envy tinged with lesbian lust that really has to be heard to believed.
  • "She Moves Through The Fair" (traditional Irish song): Richard Thompson's cover changes one word from the usual version. The last verse usually goes, "Last night she came to me/my own love came in". Alternatively, the lover merely "came softly in". RT changes it to, "Last night she came to me, my dead love came in" (Interestingly, the same wording used in the earliest recorded version by Padraic Colum). The different wordings change the meaning of the song completely.
  • "Shining Light" by Ash: The subject of the original 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.
  • "Siul a Ruin", an Irish folk song, has 18 million versions. 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.
  • "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.
  • "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel: While the original was full of double entendres, Northern Kings' cover expresses a man's loyalty to do anything for his woman.
  • "Slowly" by the Swedish band Gemini: The English version is a ballad in which the lyrics talk about how the love in a relationship is gone and they're about to part ways.
    • The Spanish cover Muriendo Lento by the Mexican band Timbiriche retains the same music and guitar riff but changes 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.
  • "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana: The original version is a chainsaw of anger hitting an iron spike of angst over something deserved but never received.
    • Tori Amos's cover of the 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.
  • "So Into You" by Atlanta Rhythm Section: Shudder To Think took a southern rock Intercourse with You song 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.
  • "Someone Like You" by Adele: The original was about a childhood friend settling down with someone else. Karmin recorded a duet cover that seems be about the two wishing to get back together, although at least one of them is already married.
  • "Son Of A Preacher Man": Straight Gay singer and voice actor Cam Clarke's cover changes it 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. 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.
  • "SOS" by ABBA is about former lovers drifting apart. The cover by Portishead, recorded specially for High-Rise, makes it more about how a rotten society inevitably breaks emotional connections between people.
  • "Star Above My Bed (Call of the Tiger Woman)" by Glassjaw was redone by the same band, retitled simply as "Stars". But it's not so much that they changed its meaning as they spiced it up and altered its lyrics.
  • "The Star-Spangled Banner": Jimi Hendrix famously played a live version 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.
  • "Starstrukk": Original srtist 3OH!3 sounded proud of stringing their lovers along, but Marina And The Diamond's "version" sounds far more regretful about it.
  • "Still I'm Sad" by The Yardbirds: The original is a somewhat obscure ambient chanting-type song. 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.
  • "Such Great Heights" by The Postal Service: Iron And Wine changed it from a synthpop acid trip of a love song into something more poignant and sweet.
  • "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Croft: Type O Negative's cover becomes a song about domestic violence. At the very least.
  • "Sunglasses At Night" by Corey Hart 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.
  • "Superstar", originated by Delaney & Bonnie and made famous by the Carpenters, is about a groupie who's fooled herself into thinking that the one night stand she had with a rock star was forgotten by said rock star
    • 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.
  • "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.
  • "Tainted Love" by Gloria Jones is an angry and defiant take on a failing relationship.
  • "Take Me to the River" by Al Green: Talking Heads took the rather upbeat song and turned it into a funky, eerie narrative, complete with ominous atmospheric keyboards and David Byrne's menacing, on-the-edge delivery.
  • "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry:
    • Boyce Avenue covered it in a more romantic tone, to the point of changing the more Intercourse with You lyrics to stuff like "Lets just talk all through the night, there's no need to rush."
    • Darren Criss pulled a similar trick with the same song (the arrangement was also featured on Glee).
  • "This Is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas: While the original is talking about a land of wonder - albeit a morbid one - the Marilyn Manson cover comes across as a truly 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.
  • "Thriller" by Michael Jackson: Imogen Heap's cover 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 Times, They Are a-Changin'" by Bob Dylan: The Bank of Montreal's use of a children's choir was not only vaguely weird, but also completely subverted the meaning of the song. As comedian 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."
  • "To Make You Feel My Love" by Bob Dylan, originally released on Time Out of Mind, 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.
    • Adele's cover from the album 19 is more like an offer being made to a potential love interest that if he chooses her, she would do anything for him.
  • "Tonight", originally from Iggy Pop's Lust for Life, 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.
  • "Torn" by Ednaswap: Natalie Imbruglia's cover is upbeat and poppy, a 180 degree turn from the (considerably lesser-known) original, which is emotionally raw and more in line with the actual lyrics.
  • "Toxic" by Britney Spears:
    • Yael Naim's cover is soft, slow, sensual, and truly gives off the air of an addict. Here it is.
    • 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.
  • "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star": Dead Space' website hosts creepiest version of this nursery rhyme ever recorded.
  • "Under My Thumb" by The Rolling Stones: The original version 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.
  • "Viva Las Vegas" by Elvis Presley: The Dead Kennedys covered it in a very different tone. They only made a few lyrical changes ("Let me roll a 7 with every shot" notably becomes "Got coke up my nose to dry away the snot"), but let the dripping sarcasm in Jello Biafra's voice do the rest.
  • "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay: Joy Electric changed one important word from the chorus in his cover: from "I know St. Peter won't call my name," to "I know St. Peter will call my name."
  • "Waterfalls" by TLC is an upbeat 90's chillout tune about how Drugs Are Bad. Bette Midler's cover is a slow, bittersweet ballad where the lyrics are emphasized a lot more.
  • "What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong:
    • Joey Ramone's cover 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. The fact that Mr. Ramone recorded the album while dying of cancer just seems to add another layer of awesome to it.
    • The cover by Joseph William Morgan featuring Shadow Royale plays the song in a much more somber manner.
  • "What Is Love?" by Haddaway: Jaymes Young's cover isn't upbeat like the original. It sounds like it's about someone who has had past troubles with love or someone who is in a turbulent relationship.
  • "What's the Use of Won'drin" from Carousel: Amanda Palmer's cover 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.
  • "What's This?" from The Nightmare Before Christmas: The original is incredibly excited about Christmas, while Flyleaf's cover sounds scared of the changes.
  • "What's Up" by by the 4 Non Blondes: The He-Man version 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. 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.
  • "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" is an upbeat, joyous song about how wonderful it will be when the soldiers come back from war. When Johnny Horton sang it, the tempo was slow and it seemed to take on a melancholy ironic tone, like he knew that Johnny may not come back.
  • "When the Ship Comes In" by Bob Dylan 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.
  • Prince's "When You Were Mine" was about a guy whose live-in kinda-sorta girlfriend gets involved with another man. Cyndi Lauper's version is about a woman whose live-in kinda-sorta boyfriend gets involved with... another man. And is a transvestite.
  • "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" by The Beatles:
    • The Spineshank 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.
    • Lemon Demon's version "While My Keytar Gently Weeps" is probably a joke about synthesizeritis.
  • "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane: Sanctuary, a Heavy Metal band that would later be known as Nevermore, 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.
  • "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin from Led Zeppelin II is a full-on piece of masculine cock-rock. The same song played and sung in exactly the same way by the all-female Lez Zeppelin, including such lines as 'Gonna give you every inch of my love' (and they don't change the gender either), adds double handfuls of Les Yay and Head-Tiltingly Kinky.
  • "A Whole New World" has had this happen twice.
  • "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 tongue-in-cheek song about two Wild Children who end up getting married, until the singer realises he doesn't love her anymore.
  • "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.
  • "The Worrying Kind" by The Ark: The Maia Hirasawa version 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.
  • "You Can Leave Your Hat On" by Randy Newman: People who've only heard the Joe Cocker or Tom Jones versions know it as an amorous come-on, but the original is a lot more sinister - the narrator is meant to sound seedy and lecherous.
  • "You Oughta Know": Jonathan Coulton's cover of Alanis Morissette's original changes the context from a woman scorned to a gay man whose lover leaves him for a woman.
  • "Zippe-dee-doo-dah": Bill Bailey, during his Part Troll routine, suggests "Zippe-dee-doo-dah" as performed by Portishead as a new British National Anthem, and goes on to play what he thinks that would sound like. Unsurprisingly the song loses some of its upbeat tone.

     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.
  • "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 do 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)" from Abbey Road, 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, a Cover 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. (As if the original wasn't already??)
    • 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 Sinéad 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, including Third Reich And Roll. 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.
    • Their song "Black Ops" from Nanobots is a slow, ominous song about secret agents. An alternate version from Dial-a-Song 2015 and Phone Power is much peppier and faster-paced, and sounds more like an ode to the Tuxedo and Martini style of spy fiction, much like their earlier song "Spy".
  • Blue Öyster 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, and the video 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.
    • 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 use this trope very frequently.
    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. (The Glee version of this song is based on the cover from Across the Universe, where it's about one girl's inability to tell another that she's in love with her.)
    • They also turned "Landslide" from a song about a woman questioning whether 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" is an Obsession Song in the vein of "Every Breath You Take", as lead singer Michael Stipe has often explained. The title is a Southern expression (R.E.M. are from Georgia) 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", sung 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.
    • ABBA's "The Winner Takes it All" was originally a bittersweet ballad about the singer accepting that their previous love has moved on. The version performed by Will and Sue in the Grand Finale is about Sue finally ceding defeat and telling Will that after five hard years, he finally beat her.
  • 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". Sadly, One Direction did not heed that advice. Granted, they do leave out the parts about ditching the other person.
  • Up and comer Chase Holfelder does this with his series of videos called "Major to Minor", one of which includes turning "the Star Spangled Banner" from a war hymn about perserverance to a requiem for a fallen nation.
  • Quite a few of Postmodern Jukebox's covers don't change the wording so songs like "Wiggle", "Careless Whisper" and "Creep" become about lesbians in the early to mid 20th century.
  • For lowbrow laughs, the band My Dick performs nothing but covers of pop songs replacing many of the words in the lyrics with "dick," "my dick," etc. For instance, their version of Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" makes a song about dancing and partying sound like a song about a Gag Penis (due to lines like "Rip it up / get down to the ground" changing to "My dick up / My dick down to the ground").
  • Anal Cunt has covered many songs, but they tend to have two main ways of reinterpreting songs:
    • One is to take a soft or otherwise innocuous song like "Stayin' Alive" by The Bee Gees and turning it into a much faster, angrier-sounding song.
    • The other is to do a more musically straightforward version of a song with altered lyrics. For example, most of the Howard Wulkan is Bald EP takes pop songs and changes the lyrics to make the song about their friend Howard Wulkan's lack of hair. For example, George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" becomes "Bald to the Bone."
  • Chris Holfelder:
    • "Animals" by Neon Trees is a Silly Love Song. Holfelder's "major to minor" cover makes the song incredibly predatory and creepy.
    • American Author's song "Best Day Of My Life" is an unironically happy song about having a good day. Holfelder's cover turns it into something akin to a Villain Song.
  • The Passion Live (2016), a Jukebox Musical by Fox, changes the meaning of all the songs featured to suit the Passion of Jesus. Examples include:
    • Trisha Yearwood makes her live performances as the Virgin Mary (mother of Jesus), trying to contact her son with attempts to be comforting and maternal, with songs like "My Love Is Your Love", "Hands", "I Won't Give Up", and "You'll Never Walk Alone", before ending up mourning the loss of her son with a farewell speech called "Broken".
    • Chris Daughtry's version of Evanescence's "Bring Me to Life" is different: while the original version was about "an incident in a restaurant, open-mindedness, and waking up to the things which are missing in the protagonist's life", his version is about a Judas Iscariot in turmoil, fighting his inner battles over whether or not to betray Jesus.
    • "Demons" by Imagine Dragons. While the original was a Breakup Song about a protagonist warning their significant other of their flaws, here it's a song of betrayal, with Judas Iscariot (Chris Daughtry) and Jesus (Jencarlos Canela) exchanging Volleying Insults and "The Reason You Suck" Speeches against each other along with Argumentum Ad Nauseam/No, You before Jesus gets arrested by a SWAT Team.
      Judas: No matter what we breed,
      We still are made of greed.
      Jesus: This is my kingdom come...
      Judas: [shoots back] This is my kingdom come!
    • Jencarlos' performance of "With Arms Wide Open" by Creed is different: the original was about a man who is about to become a father to his unborn child who will grow up to become like him, whereas Jencarlos' version is about Jesus demonstrating his heavenly Father and his Last Supper to his disciples and giving them examples to follow, that they should do as he did. (John 13)
      • This is followed by his performance of Train's "Calling All Angels", involving Jesus' bitter anguish and demand for a heavenly sign as he agonizes in the Garden of Gethsemane.
    • Prince Royce's performance of Hoobastank's "The Reason" (about a man trying to make amends to his Love Interest) sticks with St. Peter feeling deep regret over what he has done to Jesus by denying him.
    • Seal and Jencarlos' performance of Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero" (about children growing up in a dystopian future and wanting to escape to a "life beyond the Thunderdome") becomes an Angry Mob Song about the crowds wanting to rid themselves of rebellion and blasphemy by handing Jesus (their so-called Messiah and hero) over to crucifixion, unaware of the consequences of their actions they must face.
      • This is followed by Seal's performance of Tears for Fears' "Mad World", turning the theories of author Arthur Janov into an executioner's BSOD Song.
    • Jencarlos' Rooftop Concert performance of Katy Perry's "Unconditionally" becomes God's unconditional love for all humanity shown via Jesus' resurrection.


Alternative Title(s): Cover Changes The Meaning

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheCoverChangesTheMeaning