Photo: Tommy Jackson (Getty).
It’s incredible how different a song can be when it’s in the hands of a someone besides its creator. Even if you love the original, hearing someone else’s take on it can completely change your perception of the song. Of course, there are some versions that shouldn’t exist, but we’re not focusing on those today. Here are 25 of the absolute best cover songs of 2016 in no particular order. Enjoy, and be sure to check out the artists’ pages for more great covers.
The Best Cover Songs of 2016:
Boyce Avenue – “Dream On” (Aerosmith Cover)
Boyce Avenue has been one of the best cover bands for years and, honestly, you could fill an entire list with just their songs. If you aren’t familiar, dive into Spotify and treat yourself as soon as possible.
Panic at the Disco – “Starboy” (The Weeknd Cover)
This is the newest track on the list, and you’ve probably heard The Weeknd’s version 80,000 times on the radio already. If you want a different take on it, this one is certainly worth your time.
Violent Soho – “Lazy Eye” (Silversun Pickups Cover)
The original is one of the most underrated rock songs of the last 20 years, so any cover that brings more attention to it is a welcome addition. It’s a great companion to the original track.
Boyce Avenue – “Closer” (Chainsmokers Cover)
The Chainsmokers were everywhere in 2016, so it’s to be expected that their hit songs would generate countless covers. Fortunately, Boyce Avenue jumped all over it and provided their smooth vocals and acoustics to one of the most popular songs of the year.
Our Last Night – “Stressed Out” (Twenty One Pilots Cover)
Twenty One Pilots have such a unique sound that it’s nearly impossible to replicate. So One Last Night did the smart thing and made it completely their own with a completely different take.
Halsey – “Love Yourself” (Justin Bieber Cover)
We all knew what Justin Bieber meant when he said “you can go love yourself.” Thankfully, Halsey was less subtle with it and gave us the unplugged version we all wanted.
Jonas Blue – “Fast Car” (Tracy Chapman Cover)
It’s hard to turn a song about living in a shelter and struggling to get by into a dance track, but that’s exactly what Jonas Blue did with the Tracy Chapman classic. No one can touch the original, but hopefully this cover will introduce it to a whole new generation.
Conkarah Music – “Work” (Rihanna Cover)
Remember that Rihanna song where she just said the word “work” 9,000 times and somehow you still loved it? This version has a very heavy reggae vibe and is perfect for a road trip playlist. Even if you don’t like the original, this one might find its way into your heart.
Also: The Worst Songs Of 2016
Christina Grimmie – “Let It Go” (James Bay Cover)
“Let It Go” quietly became one of the best breakup songs of the year. That, combined with Christina Grimmie’s beautiful voice, makes for a combination you really shouldn’t miss out on.
Paul Kim – “Stay (With Me)” (Rihanna/Sam Smith Cover)
What’s better than a cover of one of your favorite ballads? How about getting two of your favorites in one delightful ballad that’ll stay on repeat for the rest of the day after hearing it?
Annie Pattison – “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” (Meghan Trainor Cover)
Even if Meghan Trainor isn’t your favorite, you can’t deny “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” is a catchy, heartfelt track. So why not let Annie Pattison take you through it instead?
Broods – “One Dance” (Drake Cover)
Broods just keeps making great music of their own, but their take on Drake’s “One Dance” is such a crowd-pleaser that it makes us hope they’ll continue to explore other pop hits and add them to their library.
Fame on Fire – “Don’t Let Me Down” (Chainsmokers Cover)
I hope you’re not too burned out on The Chainsmokers that you’d skip over Fame on Fire’s wonderful cover of “Don’t Let Me Down.” It’s catchy, and a great way to revitalize your relationship with that song you heard a million times on the radio this year.
NLJ – “Stressed Out” (Twenty One Pilots Cover)
It’s always impressive when someone can take a Twenty One Pilots song and do something unique with it, so that makes NLJ’s version of “Stressed Out” a must for your 2016 cover song playlist. Check it out immediately.
Boyce Avenue – “Cheap Thrills” (Sia Cover)
OK, this is the last Boyce Avenue song, I swear. It’s just so hard to ignore their brilliance on a “best of cover songs” list because they’ve been at the top of their game for so long and continue to crush it.
Twenty One Two – “7 Years” (Lukas Graham Cover)
If you thought you were done crying to Lukas Graham’s “7 Years,” guess again! Does anyone else find it odd that his dad was pushing him to get married at 11 years old?
Biffy Clyro – “Animal Style” (Electronic Cover)
Listen, if you aren’t familiar with Biffy Clyro, do yourself a favor and set some time aside to delve into that catalog. Don’t do it for me. Do it for you. You deserve it and you’ll thank me for it. Make sure this cover is at the top of the list.
Punk Goes Country – “Let Me See Ya Girl” (Cole Swindell Cover)
We didn’t leave country off the list! If you want to hear some unique takes on country hits, Punk Goes Country is definitely for you. They do a great job of keeping the spirit of the original, while totally making it their own.
Conor Maynard – “I Hate U, I Love U” (Gnash Cover)
Oh man, this is such a fantastic song. It’s such an honest look at the struggles of a relationship that you want to hold on to, even though it causes you so much pain. Conor Maynard really does a great job with it.
Scandroid – “Shout” (Tears for Fears Cover)
Honestly, any cover that brings attention to Tears for Fears is worthwhile in my book. Thankfully, Scandroid takes the classic hit “Shout” and updates it in a respectful way that makes you want to listen to the original as soon as it’s over. But in a good way.
Derran Day – “Work” (Rihanna Cover)
This is the second cover of “Work” on the list, but it seriously sounds like a totally different song. It’s a great example of how different a song can be when put in the hands of various artists. Derran Day is definitely worth checking out.
First to Eleven – “Closer” (Chainsmokers Cover)
This is the last Chainsmokers cover on the list, too. But when a band has a year like they did, it’s hard to expect anything other than a slew of wonderful covers of their hits.
Against the Current featuring Yellowcard – “Love Story” (Taylor Swift Cover)
“Love Story” isn’t a new song by any means, but a collaboration with Against the Current and Yellowcard is fun enough to make any track worth a listen. Now if we could only get Taylor Swift to cover Ocean Avenue, the loop would be complete.
Justin Bieber – “Fast Car” (Tracy Chapman Cover)
Before you jump all over this proclaiming your undying hate for Justin Bieber, just take a second and listen to the cover. If you’re not blinded by rage, you might just enjoy it more than you expect. After all, it’s a Tracy Chapman song, and you can’t go wrong with Tracy Chapman.
Twenty One Two – “Love Yourself” (Justin Bieber Cover)
By the time you’re done with this list, you’re going to be a full-on Justin Bieber fan. OK, that might be pushing it for some of you, but at least you’ll have scrolled by some a little slower than usual. That’s something, right?