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13 Sad Covers of Happy Songs

The very best litmus test of a song reaching critical mass is when people are bothered enough to cover it and upload it to YouTube — to flick on their webcam, plop down under fluro lights and strum out a nervy/heartfelt dollop of "look At mE I am plying this sng so gud PLZ $ign me Katy Purry".

Click on the uploader's profile and you'll most likely be greeted with a horror house of cover versions, a graveyard of Top 10 tunes from every year since the budding star found a mic input. Some are good and some are bad. But the currency is in someone bothering. When a guy in Mauritius is slaving over a dubsteb version of 'Somebody That I Used To Know' played solely on resonant star pickets, you know that "Gotye" will be an answer in the next global edition of Trivial Pursuit.

I have little time for straight cover versions. I have a lot of time however, for cover versions that alter a song — especially when the tune is (ideally) a reasonably upbeat number. Recontextualise it, turn it into a sad song. Make me happy.

So upon summoning the four horses of the internet, here's a bunch of well known, upbeat songs made all sad and stuff.

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UK indie-folk trio Daughter turned Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky' into a groaning, late night swim. In their hands the positive turns desperate. It's actually pretty great.

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Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes played this version of the Kings of Leon anthem on the radio. It's not exactly reinventing the wheel, considering the original's melancholic streak. But it's weird to hear her make it her own.

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I like how this cover of TLC's 'No Scrubs'  from UK weirdo Scout Niblett doesn't reveal itself at all until the chorus. Until then it sounds like a defiant Nirvana B-Side. Actually, even then.

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So this guy has made a name for himself by covering anything not nailed down. Russian guitarist Igor Presnyakov is hilarious as well as obviously talented, and it's his ability here to turn Skrillex's 'Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites' into something nice that trumps. And yes, he does the drop.

Bonus: His cover of Psy's 'Gangnam Style' is also something to behold. So is that shirt. Please consider.

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Sarah Blasko played OutKast's 'Hey Ya!' on Triple J's Like A Version. Songs don't come much more indestructible, so it's probably inevitable that someone would unearth the longing in it so keenly. That voice...

And there is of course her devastating cover of an already melancholic anthem, Cold Chisel's 'Flame Trees'

(Continued next page)

14 comments so far..

  • csaborio's avatar
    Commenter
    csaborio
    Date and time
    Friday 31 May 2013 - 6:41 AM
    GREAT list! This one is pretty great:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRmYfVCH2UA
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  • Geekgirl's avatar
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    Geekgirl
    Date and time
    Friday 31 May 2013 - 11:49 AM
    What, no Antony and the Johnsons covering Beyoncé's Crazy in Love?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxsPWd6xtnc
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  • kranskydog's avatar
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    kranskydog
    Date and time
    Friday 31 May 2013 - 1:20 PM
    Not really 'sad', but there is a slow, acoustic cover of 'I Wanna Rock and Roll All Nite' by Toad the Wet Sprocket on the 'Kiss' tribute album "Kiss My Ass"
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  • Marcus's avatar
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    Marcus
    Date and time
    Friday 31 May 2013 - 1:40 PM
    Hmm. Enough of these and maybe we can do a reader edition.
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  • deedee's avatar
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    deedee
    Date and time
    Friday 31 May 2013 - 9:20 PM
    Jose Gonsalez's cover of Kylie Minogue's "Put Your Hand on Your Heart" is pretty special too:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucOjx01zwrE
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  • Fidge's avatar
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    Fidge
    Date and time
    Saturday 01 Jun 2013 - 9:42 AM
    Blasko's would more accurately be described as a cover of Obadiah Parker's cover of Outkasts Hey Ya. Check out the Obadiah Parker version if you haven't seen it. It is amazing.
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  • Spamelot's avatar
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    Spamelot
    Date and time
    Saturday 01 Jun 2013 - 11:25 AM
    Totally agree on the inclusion of M. Ward covering Bowie. Absolutely makes it his own, as he does with every cover he does.
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  • Roundabout's avatar
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    Roundabout
    Date and time
    Saturday 01 Jun 2013 - 12:32 PM
    Frente's Bizarre Love Triangle, Travis' Hit me baby one more time, does Nirvana's version of Love Buzz count?
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  • EBYR's avatar
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    EBYR
    Date and time
    Sunday 02 Jun 2013 - 5:16 PM
    Frankmusik covered Ou Est Le Swimming Pool "Dance the Way I feel" in the wake of Charles Haddon's suicide.

    It's heartbreaking.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_12iRM9T-A
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  • AbbsMcGoo's avatar
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    AbbsMcGoo
    Date and time
    Monday 03 Jun 2013 - 11:55 AM
    Great list. Some extras to add:

    3M8s cover of Swedish house mafia hit "Dont you worry child" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-5657EwV-k

    Mandy Moores cover of Rhianna's "Umbrella" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDZ2ZSkpn8E

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