9 fresh cover songs you didn’t know you needed

Experience hit singles from Joni Mitchell, Miley Cyrus and Savage Garden like you’ve never heard them before

You know the saying: What’s old is new again… and covers are all the rage right now, (we see you, Kelly Clarkson and Ritt Momney) but 1990s nostalgia is even hotter, so of course the two are going to converge. Thank COVID quarantine, thank recycling, or just thank simple nostalgia for the fact that there’s no shortage of killer ’90s cover songs available for streaming right now. There’s also no shortage of new music to keep us all busy and entertained during lockdown, but a little trip down memory lane never hurt anyone.

When you’re tired of the new (and incredible) Miley record or the 13 new Taylor Swift albums released in the past year, check out some of these hidden gems, some from the ’90s, some not, that are giving old-school classics a fresh dose of energy and relevance.

“Fade Into You” by Muzz

(Original by Mazzy Star)

“Fade Into You” really feels like an eternal classic from the ’90s, still evoking eerie melancholy every time it plays. Muzz, the new supergroup from Paul Banks, Matt Barrick, and Josh Kaufman, breathes some new life into the track by doubling down on the druggy, methodical slow burn that made the original so great — only this time accompanied by strings and gravely, slowly unfurling vocals. Pop a Quaalude and come along for the ride.

“I Love You Always Forever” by Betty Who

(Original by Donna Lewis)

This cover is actually a few years old, but it’s getting new life thanks to its front-and-center role in the trailer for Netflix’s teen rom-com sequel “To All the Boys: Always and Forever.” It deserves every bit of attention it gets; Betty Who’s got the voice, and her take on this overplayed hit brings it squarely into the 21st century by slowing it down just enough to strip away the veneer of 1990's cheese.

“Wrecking Ball” by Lissie

(Original by Miley Cyrus)

Okay, okay. Yes, “Wrecking Ball” has been covered into oblivion — and for good reason. The song was an instant classic when it came out, and it’s a deceptively difficult song to sing well. Lissie, with her powerhouse vocal chops and a knack for incredible covers, lends her guitar-heavy sound to her own version, which does a great job of adding subtle updates while keeping everything that made the original so great. It’s soaring, it’s powerful, and it’s a great showcase of Lissie’s immensely under-appreciated talent.

“Creep” by Arlo Parks

(Original by Radiohead)

Here’s another one that’s seen its fair share of watery, half-baked covers, not to mention “American Idol” and “X Factor” renditions. But the Radiohead megahit is made infinitely better by rising indie star Arlo Parks, who manages to make it sound new and fresh — and more moving than ever.

“Better Off Alone” by Purity Ring

(Original by Alice Deejay)

One of the enduring dance-pop hits of the late ’90s continues to deliver, thanks to this immaculate update from Purity Ring, which is the kind of rare cover that knows exactly what to update and what to leave (better off) alone. It’s still dance-y, but it’s also a Purity Ring song so it’s rhythmic and vibe-y and space-y and all the things that make Purity Ring songs so irresistible. The limited lyrics work incredibly well here; where the original runs the risk of sounding repetitive at times, the repetition works in the capable hands of Purity Ring, who uses rich, atmospheric production to elevate it.

“River” by Cody Belew

(Original by Joni Mitchell)

The Christmas season might have passed, but thanks to COVID quarantine, there’s plenty of time for melancholy, loneliness and heartbreaking ballads… right? Light a fire, put on a sweater, and get ready to cry into a giant glass of red wine; Cody Belew and his immaculate vocals are here to ruin your day.

“Turn to Hate” by Bully

(Original by Orville Peck)

Bully puts their trademark ‘90s-inspired grunge-rock spin on Orville Peck’s hit single, and the result is an adrenaline-soaked, rollicking good time that also happens to sound like it’s playing at full volume in the next room over in an empty warehouse.

“Truly Madly Deeply” by Yoke Lore

(Original by Savage Garden)

What happens when you filter a sappy ’90s love song through a 21st-century indie pop filter? Pure magic, that’s what. The soundtrack to every school dance gets some indie cool kid credit thanks to this stellar cover from Yoke Lore that still banks on the track’s earnestness but strips away the overwrought ’90s pop balladry production.

“Family Affair” by Eagles of Death Metal

(Original by Mary J. Blige)

This one makes the list because it is absolutely the most ridiculous thing you’ll hear all day. Eagles of Death Metal take Mary J. Blige’s iconic bop and make it… significantly whiter… but, for some reason, also leave all the references that Mary J. makes to herself?? It’s silly, it’s stupid, and it’s kind of great, even though it’s wholly unnecessary.

Like what you heard? I keep a running playlist of all my favorite covers, which you can find below. And if there’s anything I absolutely need to hear, send me all of your favorite covers as well!

A recovering pop music addict who’s finding his way in the wide, wonderful world of music.

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