Sing it back! Hit songs you didn’t know were covers

We take a look at some of pop's most surprising and controversial cover versions.

The cover version is the foundation stone of pop. We all love it when an artist writes and records their own material, but sometimes a popstar stumbles upon a tune that is so amazing, they simply have to have it for themselves. In the ‘50s and ‘60s it was common for British artists to cover songs that hadn’t yet been hits in the UK, but thanks to the dear old internet, the whole world can know a song in minutes.

A few covers do sneak through, of course, and these are just a few of some pretty surprising ones.

Adele – Make You Feel My Love

You can’t go more than 30 seconds in The X Factor auditions without hearing this heartfelt ballad, made famous by everybody’s favourite Adele. But Make You Feel My Love, penned by legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, goes way further back than you’d think.

Before Adele took the tune on, it was recorded by Billy Joel and Garth Brooks and, of course, Bob himself. But it was our Adele who finally made it a hit in the UK, eventually taking it to Number 4 in 2010, two years after its original release, and selling over 900,000 copies!

Jamelia – Superstar

The track that put Jamelia back in the map was a Number 3 hit for her in 2003, but it wasn’t its first outing. Earlier that year, Superstar was a Number 1 hit in Denmark, but with Christine Milton on vocal duties, complete with a few lyrical differences. Watch out for the chorus where the word ‘choreographer’ makes a surprise appearance – it’s quite something. Jamelia’s more polished cover notched up over 260,000 sales.

Kylie – On A Night Like This

When Kylie pulled off that big comeback in 2000, she needed the perfect follow-up to the mighty Spinning Around. It was a job On A Night Like This handled perfectly, but Kylie wasn’t the first star to wrap her lungs round it.

First recorded in 1999 by Swedish artist Pandora, it was later covered and released by Greek singer Anna Vissi. Pandora’s rendition was actually released in her home country once Kylie had a hit with hers. Pandora’s is pretty good, and quite different, but the thing about Kylie songs is they have Kylie singing on them, and everybody loves Kylie, don’t they? It certainly did the trick for her, reaching Number 2 and selling over 170,000 copies.

Take That – Could It Be Magic

When Take That scored their third Top 10 hit with this joyous Robbie-led track, music fans were quick to point out the song was originally Barry Manilow's, and indeed it was. But Barry wasn’t first to have a hit with the song in the UK – that honour goes to the queen of disco Donna Summer, who gave Could It Be Magic a serious dose of glitterball and took it to Number 40 in 1976. Barry’s version didn’t chart in the UK until 1978, peaking at 25 in 1979. Take That’s beats them all, of course – it reached Number 3 in early 1993. Here’s Donna belting it out:

Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want To Have Fun

The tune that made Cyndi a superstar, but this anthem to girl power from 1984 was originally sung by a man! Robert Hazard, who wrote the tune in about 20 minutes while in the shower, recorded it in 1979 and forgot all about it. When Cyndi was recording her debut album, she tweaked the lyrics of the original, rockier version to make them more empowering and fun, and had a Number 2 hit! Then ten years later, she rejigged it again, and had a hit all over again with the now renamed Hey Now (Girls Just Want To Have Fun), reaching Number 4!

Pussycat Dolls – Don’t Cha

“I know you like me. I know you do.” And we did! Nicole Scherzinger and her pals got their big break with this tribute to not nicking someone’s boyfriend even though you definitely could if you wanted to, but they did in fact nick the song from someone else. Sisterhood betrayal!

Don’t Cha was originally released by Tori Alamazé, and the track featured on Queen Latifah movie Beauty Shop. When it didn’t do too well, the record company passed it to Scherzy and da gurlz, who added Busta Rhymes to the mix and had a Number 1 smash.

Don’t Cha topped the charts for three weeks and sold over 600,000 copies. Tori, whose version was actually still very good, is now a beauty blogger.

Eternal – Stay

They made catfights into an artform, but above all that, Eternal had killer singles. Their first was Stay, but it wasn’t all their own work, oh no. Years earlier, Stay was recorded by American singer Glenn Jones, whose version has a distinctly mellower feel. It certainly did the biz for Eternal, giving them a Number 4 hit in 1993, the first of 12 Top 10s!

Louise – In Walked Love

Once Louise said ta-ra to the Eternal family, she set about a successful solo career, and In Walked Love was her second single. But, but but haven’t we heard this one somewhere before? Oh yes.

The track, penned by certified songwriting legend Diane Warren, was originally released by American girlgroup Exposé. It’s quite different from Louise’s version, which reached 17 in 1996, with a rockier flavour and an intro that sounds like a computer starting up. It’s still pretty good – it's a Diane Warren tune after all – but we reckon Louise’s version edges it.

The X Factor stars

When it comes to reswizzing a song, The X Factor is the master of them all. Leona Lewis’s winning tune A Moment Like This sold 900,000 copies in the UK, but had already shone in the US four years earlier, when Kelly Clarkson sang it as her winning song in the first series of American Idol.

Alexandra Burke’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah was controversial – many pop pickers reckoned Jeff Buckley’s own cover was definitive and there was a campaign to get it to Number 1 and nix Alexandra’s chances. Alex won through, selling a whopping 1.2 million copies, but Jeff’s version managed a Number 2 placing, selling over 400,000 copies.

The covers got a little more obscure to some fans in the next couple of years. 2009 winner Joe McElderry covered Miley Cyrus’s The Climb for his winner’s single – selling over 800,000 copies in the process. And his first proper single, Ambitions, which reached Number 6 in 2010, was originally released by Norwegian group Donkeyboy.

When Matt Cardle gave Dannii Minogue her second victory as judge on 2010’s X Factor, his winning song When We Collide was a cover of Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro’s Many Of Horror, which charted at 20 on original release.

Fans were upset the tune had been renamed, but Matt’s version sold over 1,000,000 copies. And it worked out OK for Biffy Clyro in the end – the original peaked at 8 when Matt’s cover was released.

Little Mix’s 2011 victory gave them first single Cannonball, but it wasn’t brand new. It was originally by Irish folk singer Damien Rice, and  charted on three separate occasions since 2003, peaking at 9. In Little Mix’s hands, it went to Number 1 and sold 470,000 copies.

When James Arthur took his place on The X Factor throne, he made Impossible his own. But it wasn’t his own. US singer Shontelle originally released it in 2010, reaching Number 9. James’s version fared better, topping the Official Singles Chart and selling over 1.2 million copies.

Sam Bailey also borrowed her victory single. Skyscraper was a Number 7 hit for Demi Lovato – who was a judge on American X Factor for a while – only a few months before. Sam’s was the version that flew off the shelves (well, downloads don’t really do that, but you know what we mean). It sold over 310,000 copies.


Related artists

Join the conversation by joining the Official Charts community and dropping comment.

Already registered?

Log in

No account?