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    N 
  • "New Religion": Jimmy Eat World's cover transforms the song from a hyperactive rant about information overload into a somber reflection on belief.
  • "No Control": The original version by David Bowie was written for Outside, a Rock Opera about a world where graphically butchering people is an accepted art form, and describes the crushing ennui and spiritual uncertainty felt by the album's protagonist, Nathan Alder. In The SpongeBob Musical, it's instead a song about the people of Bikini Bottom fearing an impending volcanic apocalypse.
  • "No Depression": Uncle Tupelo's cover is about...well, depression, whereas the original song was written about the Great Depression.

    O 
  • "Once in a Lifetime": The original, by Talking Heads, is something of a Sanity Slippage Song, with the singer slowly realizing the emptiness of the trappings of middle-class capitalism and having a severe identity crisis as a result; the chorus is panicking and frantic, and phrases like "Water flowing underground" evoke the sensation of drowning, which is amplified by the original music video ending with David Byrne being swallowed up by the background. Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo's version, by way of contrast, has a more celebratory, almost anti-nihilist feeling: the singer's sudden realization is instead joyful, as if she's now free to do whatever she wants. The music video features three drab office workers hearing the song and bursting into a celebratory dance, destroying their workplace and returning to nature; in this case, the water is the sprinkler system, which comes across as a cleansing rain.
  • "Once Upon a Dream". The original is a romantic love duet between Aurora and Phillip about meeting your One True Love. Lana Del Rey's cover for Maleficent gives it a much bleaker, sadder, and wistful tone (itís implied that this time around, itís about Maleficent and Stefanís doomed relationship). It also has a somewhat sinister sound, doubling as a Villain Song for Maleficent.
  • "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!"
  • "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.
  • "One Way or Another" by Blondie is about a Stalker with a Crush, however:
    • When it was sung in Hocus Pocus II, it was used as a spell to enchant some citizens into tracking down the mayor.
    • When it was sung in The Rugrats Movie, it was by a little girl determined to find her doll.
  • "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.
    • A similar premise was done by One Direction when they covered the song on The X Factor.
  • Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young" is about a young man trying to get with a Catholic girl, telling her not to take her religion too seriously, with lines like "The stained glass curtain you're hiding behind never lets in the sun." Claudette's cover, despite changing the gender of the singer, doesn't change a single word—and in doing so, changes it from being about Catholicism's prohibitions on premarital sex to their dim view on homosexuality. "Come out, Virginia" indeed.
  • "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, whereas Richard Thompson's performance was of someone who knew exactly what he was doing. Paul McDermott performed a curiously threatening version.

    P 
  • "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.
    • The covers by Ciara and Hidden Citizens both sound like Start of Darkness Villain Songs.
    • In U2's version, the singer actually sounds like he thinks he can do something about the situation.
  • "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 version is mellow. Cheryl's sounds like either someone falling in love with someone or someone who has recently begun a relationship, while Ingrid's sounds more like someone talking about a long-time relationship.
  • "Party is the USA" by Miley Cyrus is a song about being nervous in Los Angeles and familiar songs brightening your mood. However, in wake of the 2020 election, Americans took to the streets singing the song to celebrate Joe Biden's victory and more importantly Donald Trump's defeat.
  • "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode.
    • Marilyn Manson's version is played as a straight blast against organized religion.
    • Johnny Cash turned it into a spiritual song about the power of Christ.
    • The Blind Boys of Alabama turned it into a straight-up Gospel song.
    • Interestingly, the original version is easily read as treading a middle ground between the two interpretations; the original inspiration is Priscilla Presley's book "Elvis And Me", which lead the lead singer to believe that Ms. Prestley, in her mind, made Elvis into the equivalent of her own personal version of Jesus Christ. As soon as that context is explained, the disdain in the original is easily viewed as being towards somebody who puts too much faith in somebody who could very well be the wrong person.
  • "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 a 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/wife basher 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.
  • "Posmotri v Glaza" ("Look Into My Eyes") by Natalya Vetlitskaya is an upbeat-sounding song about a woman moving on from a relationship after (presumably) being cheated on. Lera Bonaker's cover is much more emotional. While Natalya's version sounds as if she's ready to leave the relationship behind, Lera's version sounds much more forlorn and heartbroken, as if she's genuinely grief-stricken about the betrayal.
  • "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People is a very upbeat, catchy, yet mellow dance tune about a mass shooting.
  • "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
  • The Cure's version of "Purple Haze" sounds less like Jimi Hendrx's exuberant ode to hallucinogens and more as if, like in so many other Cure songs, the singer is descending into another deep funk.note 

    R 
  • "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.
  • In Coco, "Remember Me" went down in history as an upbeat romantic ballad and Ernesto de la Cruz' biggest hit. It isn't until most of the way through the movie that the hero (and the audience) learn Hector actually wrote it as a tender lullaby for his daughter, only to have it stolen by Ernesto.
  • "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 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 though 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.
  • JubyPhonic's English cover of Vocaloid song "Romeo and Cinderella" tells a drastically different story from the original song's subject of a teenage girl and her forbidden fling with her boyfriend, instead being about an unhappy Hopeless Suitor forced to accept that the male childhood friend she loves is with another girl. The ending lyrics imply that she kills herself with poison.
  • "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 put 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.
  • "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).

    S 
  • "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.
  • "Säkkijärven Polkka" is a southern Karelian folk song, named after the municipality of Säkkijärvi from which it originates. It used to be an instrumental tune until World War II, after which Finland lost a portion of its southeastern lands to the Soviet Union, including Säkkijärvi, and the locals were forcibly relocated. Someone invented lyrics to the song that mourned the exile:
    The land of Karelia is a beautiful memory
    but from the heart is sound of music
    when the musician's fingers let you hear
    the Säkkijärvi Polka!
    That polka brings the past to mind
    and in the chest creates an odd longing
    Hey musician, let the accordion play
    the Säkkijärvi Polka!
  • "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 BjŲrk'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 downright 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 
  • "Save Tonight" by Eagle Eye Cherry has an upbeat melody but sad lyrics, of a relationship's last night together, that the singer knows that the relationship just isn't going to work and while they'll enjoy this night, it'll all be over tomorrow. Zayde Wolf's version drops the verses and slows the chorus down, and adds a much more menacing beat, sounding more like a plea from the singer, knowing that they're going to die by dawn.
  • "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, who sees himself as "safeguarding America's health", from the comfort of his somewhat boring, vaguely defined desk job at the FBI.
    • Laurie Anderson quotes the opening lines of "Secret Agent Man" in the eerie, melancholy title track of her album Big Science, making it seem like it's about alienation in general.
  • 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:
  • "She Drives Me Crazy" by Fine Young Cannibals was covered by The Muppets, who turned it into a duet between Miss Piggy on the verses and Kermit the Frog on the chorus. This division, combined with Kermit's exasperated delivery, makes the title seem less "I'm crazy about her" and more "I'm going crazy because she won't leave me alone".
  • "She Moves Through The Fair" is a traditional Irish folk song that had the lover come back as a ghost in the final verse. However the version that was collected and published in 1909, by Padraic Colum and Herbert Hughes, doesn't make this clear except for one word: "Last night she came to me, my dead love came in". This is used in Richard Thompson's cover. More commonly today, it goes "Last night she came to me/my own love came in" or the lover merely "came softly in". To modern ears that don't pick up on the subtext, this changes the ending 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.
  • "Siúil a Rún", an Irish folk song, has many versions which zig-zag with the song's meaning.
    • 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 to 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.
  • Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" is no stranger to this.
    • The version performed by the Brazilian duo Leandro & Leonardo, "É por você que canto" (I sing for you), turned the original lyrics into a Silly Love Song.
    • Anna Kendrick's cover in Trolls has Poppy turns it into a hilarious trolling of the cynical Branch.
    • Disturbed's cover turns the original's Poor Communication Kills into a far darker and epic tragedy.
    • And there is a version popular in Latin-American Catholic areas, where the lyrics are changed to an adaptation of the Lord's Prayer and used in singing masses.
  • "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.
  • "Space Oddity" by David Bowie is a tragic story of an astronaut who ends up stranded in space. Chris Hadfield's cover, aside from being actually filmed in space, removes some of the Zeerusty elements (i.e. 'take your protein pills' becomes 'lock your soyuz hatch'), and makes the ending a bittersweet one; the astronaut completes his mission, but now his time in space is up and he must return to Earth.
  • "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.
    • Josť Feliciano's controversial Latin jazz version was widely interpreted as a subversion and a protest song. Ironically, that one was not intentional.
  • "Starstrukk": Original artist 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.
  • The original version of "Stupid Boy" by Sarah Buxton is a woman chiding a man over being irresponsible in a relationship. The more famous version by Keith Urban is about a man beating himself up over driving his lover away.
  • "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 spooked 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.
    • Emily Browning's cover is sung in a slow, emotionless voice that has an effect similar to Manson's version, with the added bonus of sounding defeated and numb to the world that wants to use and abuse.
  • "Sweet Music Man" by Kenny Rogers is about a man who feels conflict over the tumult of the music industry, with stern but loving odes to Waylon Jennings in the process.
    • The subsequent covers all by female artists (R&B singer Millie Jackson and country singer Reba McEntire) change it to a woman showing conflict, yet also moral support, for a man who wants to chase his musical career. (This doesn't qualify as a The Cover Changes the Gender as, other than removing the intro, their versions don't change any lyrics.)

    T 
  • "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 "Let's just talk all through the night, there's no need to rush."
    • Darren Criss pulled a similar trick with the same song, turning it into a thank-you to those who helped him fulfill his teenage dream (the arrangement was also featured on Glee).
  • "Tell Me Once Again" is a love song. A Brazilian version\parody is not as romantic, as shown by the title "Calúnias (Telma Eu Não Sou Gay)" ("Slander [Telma, I'm not gay ]" - pretty self-explanatory).
  • "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 singing this song in one of their commercials 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."
  • "Titanium" by Sia: Madilyn Bailey's cover is much more emotional and heartfelt than the original.
  • "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 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.
  • "Too Drunk to Fuck" by the Dead Kennedys. The original is a scathingly satirical portrait of a guy who drank so much beer that he made a complete fool of himself. The Nouvelle Vague version is more like a semi-delirious, sweaty, boozy, exhilarated young woman affirming that she's too drunk to fuck, but that's not going to stop her having a go. Which is arguably more worrying.
  • "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.
    • One Dancing with the Stars performance uses the 2WEI cover version, which is already intense and haunting as is and is inserted into the context of a woman who's in love with a deranged psychiatric ward patient.
  • Maurice White's cover version of Tomorrow changes a classical J-pop sequence into R&B; 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.
  • "Traitor" by Olivia Rodrigo. Madilyn Bailey's covers change a word on the bridge from "Damn I wish you would thought this through before I went and fell in love with you" to "I wish I would thought this through..." changing from a song about a girl telling off her ex flirting with another girl while they together to a song about someone blaming herself for her ex flirting with another girl while they were together.
  • "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star": Dead Space's website is home to quite possibly the creepiest version of the classic nursery rhyme ever recorded.

    U 
  • "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.
  • "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers is a serious and introspective song about singer Anthony Kiedisís experiences of loneliness and depression while addicted to narcotics, living in Los Angeles and feeling the city was his only real companion. When All Saints covered it, they stripped out all references to both Los Angeles and drugs, gutting the songs inspiration and message. Kiedis was unimpressed by their version saying "they didnít know what they were singing about."
  • "Unholy" by Sam Smith is about a guy who cheats on his wife at the "body shop". The Annapantsu and Chloebreez cover of the song has both members of the family banging other people behind each other's backs, while the Justine M cover turns things sapphic and religious.

    V 
  • "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."

    W 
  • "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.
  • Any use of "We Need a Little Christmas" as an actual Christmas song. In Mame, the point is that it's not Christmas (although Christmas Creep means that "one week past Thanksgiving" is a lot more part of the Christmas season now than it was at the time).
  • "What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, a bittersweet observation about the transient beauties in the world:
    • Joey Ramone's cover changes the song's tone 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 Hurts The Most", originally by Mark Wills but Covered Up by Rascal Flatts: Cascada has a very energetic pop version that downplays the Grief Song undertones.
  • "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 the 4 Non Blondes: The He-Man cover, "Fabulous Secret Powers", 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.
  • "Wherever I Go" by Hannah Montana manages to change the meaning of the song over a few different episodes. The original is about Miley letting go of her Hannah persona. However in the finale, a new version featuring Emily Osment plays and it becomes about Miley and Lilly going their separate ways almost like a breakup even though Miley changes her mind and chooses to stay
  • Spineshank's cover of "While my Guitar Gently Weeps" by The Beatles is practially a different song altogether from the original. While both lament the divided and commercialized nature of modern society, the narrator of the original version is simply resigned to the situation, while the Spineshank version is filled with anger and frustration.
  • "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.
  • "Why?" made famous by Jason Aldean, was covered by Shannon Brown, and an instance where The Cover Changes the Gender also means The Cover Changes the Meaning. The song is about a couple in a vicious cycle during arguments. Aldean's lyrics are in the second person; he is questioning himself as to why he uses hurtful language and why he'll only apologize when she threatens to leave. He knows he needs to change. Brown's are in the first, and the flip of the question "why do I do that you?" to "why do you do that to me?" has an instantly chilling effect on the tone of the song. Aldean's is a couple who could be salvaged, Brown's is a woman stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship with a man who refuses to let her go.
  • "Why Don't You Do Right?" was originally a snappy song about a woman telling her man to go and make her some money. Jessica's cover from Who Framed Roger Rabbit is slow and makes the song more seductive. Due to the popularity of the cover, most covers of the song since the film have also been slow.
  • In The Sundays' version of "Wild Horses", the singer sounds serious about wanting to repair the relationship, while that seems to be an empty hope in the original version by The Rolling Stones.
  • "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 realizes he doesn't love her anymore.
  • "Wish You Were Here": Pink Floyd's original version was meant to be introspective (Roger Waters) or an ode to Syd Barrett (David Gilmour). Miley Cyrus's cover on the 25 April 2020 episode of Saturday Night Live uses the context of the COVID-19 pandemic to plaintively hope for humanity to be able to get together again.
  • "Witchcraft": Stevie Vallance has a cover that changes around the lyrics so it seems to be about an actual witch.
  • "Word Up" by Cameo is a flashy dance riff filled with braggadoccio. It's all about the "Look at me, Ladies!" vibe. The version by Country-Soul artist Willis, however, sounds haunting and desperate.
  • "Working For The Weekend" by Loverboy is about people working hard during the week while anticipating all the fun they'll have on the weekend. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling turn it into Paranoia Fuel by slowing down the tempo, removing the chorus entirely note  and making lyrics like "everyone's watching to see what you will do / everyone's looking at you" sound a lot more ominous - the band's original songs are all about The Prisoner, and their version of the song seems to place it in a similar oppressive, dystopian setting.
  • "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.

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  • "You Are My Sunshine" is traditionally performed as a peppy yet earnest love song; even the original Jimmie Davis version in 1939 glosses over the surprisingly dark lyrics in the verses. The Civil Wars slow it down, put it in a minor key, and put the darkness front and center. It paints a strikingly bleak portrait of the singer's life, suggesting that the person is the only ray of light in an otherwise pitch-black world; the words "Please don't take my sunshine away" are sung in desperation, and grow manic toward the end, as though the person were a drug the singer couldn't live without.
  • "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 Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore: The original song was about a woman voicing her contempt towards a possessive lover. Klaus Nomi's cover reinterprets the song as being about a gay man proudly embracing his sexuality and expressing his disdain towards those who won't accept him.
  • Neil Cicierega made a particularly touching remix of "Y.M.C.A" by Village People. It sets the vocals to "Time" from the Inception and composed by Hans Zimmer. The song is transformed into something emotional, poignant. Although known universally as a party track, the lyrics tell of young gay and/or homeless men in the 70's struggling to find a safe space. Without the loud exciting beat, the attention is drawn to the lyric's meanings.
  • "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.

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