The worst cover versions of most songs are heard at the local open mic. But we clap politely because the guy doing the off-key version of "Wish You Were Here" is a sweet guy who's just so happy to be out of the house for an evening that to let him in on his lousiness would be inhumane.
Popular recording artists, though, deserve to be called out when they harm a great song. They're big boys. They can take it.
I pulled off the novelties. William Shatner was odd in his day and Paul Anka and Pat Boone have come back to haunt us with deliberate camp of modern songs, but there's something too deliberate there. Maybe next time.
Check out the horrible covers here, but for sanity's sake, listen to the originals to remind yourself of what good music is and to cleanse your head.
10) U2 -- Satellite of LoveOriginal Version: Lou Reed
U2 are a band who should never venture outside of their atmospheric box. Whenever they attempt to rock, they end up making this melodramatic soup that exposes their limitations. From the 'Deluxe Version' of the Achtung Baby album, "Satellite of Love" is notably worse than their cover of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black" and barely worse than their take on Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son." Good thing they didn't have to settle for being a cover band!
9) R.E.M. -- Toys In the Attic
Original Version: Aerosmith
In the 1980s, R.E.M. fans often considered themselves so much hipper than lowly Aerosmith fans. They likely still do. And if you ever wonder why most modern rock 'n' roll bands today can't figure out how to rock in the most basic ways, it's because they listened to too much R.E.M. and not enough 1970s Aerosmith. Hands down, Peter Buck is the worst guitar player from a successful "rock 'n' roll band" and here he -- and the dare-I-call-it-a-rhythm-section -- can't get out of the way fast enough. Ugh.
8) Megadeth -- Anarchy in the U.K.
Original Version: The Sex Pistols
Metal bands often turn anarchic punk energy into dreary machine-dullness. It's why punks and metalheads didn't have much in common in the '70s and '80s. Never mind the words that are wrong, it's the entire performance that's bad. Because Johnny Rotten meant to upset the status quo in the real world, while Dave Mustaine makes things "dangerous" in the corny imaginary one where his dumb ellipses…are taken seriously!!!
7) Cat Power -- "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
Original Version: The Rolling Stones
This perennial cry-baby is too precious for words. The air hurts her skin. She so doesn't care. Playing a concert is hard. Let me whisper. Her best records are the ones where she doesn't do much and lets the professional session musicians do the work. Here, she drops the chorus and mumbles the verses indifferently. And hipsters wonder why people hate them? Go eat a designer cupcake, you fraud!
6) Judy Collins -- Democracy
Original Version: Leonard Cohen
More than anyone, Judy Collins is responsible for bringing Leonard Cohen to national attention. She covered his songs and prodded him to perform live. Without her, he might be a footnote in music history. Collins' consistent drawback, though, has been her inability to hear what does not work with her voice. The words to "Democracy" demand the hand of doom be standing nearby. Not a sweet and optimistic friend who only wants you to feel better. I love you, Mom, but Dad's always been better at scaring the neighbors!
5) Limp Bizkit -- Behind Blue Eyes
Original Version: The Who
I sincerely hope that if not today's then tomorrow's kids have no idea what a Limp Bizkit was. You want smarmy? You want self-pity? You want a cover that ignores an entire part of the song? No, you deserve better. Don't click that button. Don't. I'm warning you…oh, I'm sorry. I love you, man.
4) Creed -- I'm Eighteen
Original Version: Alice Cooper
Early Alice Cooper was a cry from adolescence. It hated the world around them. It never wanted to grow up and "I'm Eighteen" was that sense of fear and frustration bubbling over the top of the pot. Creed are like listening to an enema.
3) Fall Out Boy (featuring John Mayer) -- Beat It
Michael Jackson -- Beat It
You want to know why white people shouldn't be allowed near black music without a special permit? This horrific suburban nightmare should be all the evidence you need. I propose we make playing that funky music by white boys a felony!
2) John Mayer -- Crossroads
Original Version: Robert Johnson -- Cross Road Blues
Original Popular Rock Version: Cream - Crossroads
The legend is that Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads to meet the devil and sell his soul for the ability to play the guitar like no other. John Mayer has gone back down to those crossroads to get his soul back. By the sound of it, the devil owes Mayer a full refund.
1) Vanilla Ice -- Fight The Power
Original Version: Public Enemy -- Fight The Power
The album is called Vanilla Ice Is Back! -- Hip Hop Classics and it shows us Vanilla Ice is anything but "back." Did Suge Knight once hang Vanilla Ice by his ankles from a hotel balcony? One listen to this should convince everyone Knight should have let him drop.