A good musical cover does not need to surpass the original. That is probably a good thing as most them don’t.
Some covers are unique as when Natalie Cole did a technology-made-possible duet with her father, Nat King Cole, singing Unforgettable. A precious few covers surpass the original as when an aged Johnny Cash covered Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt.
A good cover, to this writer’s ears, uses different phrasing, intonation or musical arrangement to bring out nuances different than the original recording.
On their recent project, Immortalized, the hard rock band Disturbed released an unlikely cover, that of 60s icons Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sounds of Silence. To say that it differs is to call a trip to Mars a jaunt.
But, it is not what you might expect.
Lead singer David Draiman (interesting bio) demonstrates an impressive range beginning very low with only piano accompaniment. Solo vs duet, piano vs guitar, slow, deliberate pace vs quicker harmonies make for an attention grabbing contrast. As the intensity of the song builds so do Draiman’s vocals, but until then he’s restrained and reflective. Lush orchestration eventually swells lifting his growling, sermonic vocals. When Draiman’s gutteral “And the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they’d made” erupts, you’ll feel like the prophet has spoken. This, I imagine, was Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrical intent.
My friend Jeff Collins calls it the best cover ever. I’m not ready to go that far, but Disturbed forced me to hear the song with new ears. And, that’s what great covers do.