15 R&B Covers Better Than The Original
An artist's primary goal is to create a timeless song that is remembered for years to come. Some songwriters, producers, and artists have come together to catch lightning in a bottle, coming up with compositions that have served as the soundtracks to our lives and have been enjoyed by generations. Artists pride themselves on originality, but every once in a while they attempt to channel the emotion and artistry of artists that have come before them with their own renditions of classic songs.
Some artists have stuck to the script and given a carbon-copy of a cover, however, in the world of R&B, singers and producers alike tend to put their own twist on the original creating a new classic version of songs. While nostalgia will lead many to downplay covers, truth be told, it wouldn't be wrong to say that some covers have given the original a run for their money.
The Boombox highlights fifteen R&B cover songs that live up to or, in some cases, surpasses the original version.
Among the unsung group's of the '90s, Intro ranks near the top, as their 1993 self-titled debut and the follow-up, New Life, both earned them cache with R&B fans. In 1994, the group released a cover of Stevie Wonder's 1982 Grammy-nominated hit "Ribbon In The Sky," a tough task for any vocalist, but the trio of New Yorkers managed to do the song justice and even sparked the debate that their remake may rival, or even trump, the original.
Legendary singer Chaka Khan and the funk band Rufus' 1975 hit, "Sweet Thing," was repurposed nearly twenty years later by Mary J. Blige for her 1992 debut album, What's the 411?!. Rufus and Chaka's version is a tough act to follow, but the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul's version is far from a disappointment and scored the new jack her third Top 40 single, peaking at No. 28 on Billboard's Hot 100.
Another classic Stevie Wonder song that has been brought back to life by a younger generation is "Lately," from the Motown icon's 1980 album, Hotter than July. During Jodeci's emergence as the hottest new male act in R&B, the group performed a cover of the song on Uptown Records' MTV Unplugged special in 1993. After earning rave reviews following the performance, the label decided to release it as an official single. Jodeci's version of "Lately" was a big hit, becoming the group's fourth single to top the R&B charts. The song is also the group's biggest pop hit to date, reaching no. 4 on the Hot 100.
Few cover songs have garnered the amount of praise that Avant and Keke Wyatt's rendition of René & Angela's 1983 ballad "My First Love" did. Follow its release in 2000; the song peaked at no. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100, resulting in Avant and Wyatt's version becoming a monster smash within the R&B community and helped establish both rising artists as premiere vocalists.
In 1996, Fugees member Lauryn Hill showcased her vocal prowess on the group's single "Killing Me Softly," a cover of R&B great Roberta Flack's 1973 chart-topper "Killing Me Softly With His Song." The Fugees' version eclipsed the original in sales, fanfare, and acclaim, peaking at no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, winning a Grammy for "Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal," and pushing The Score to nearly 20 million units sold worldwide.
Whitney Houston reached the peak of her career in 1992 when she starred in The Bodyguard and covered "I Will Always Love You" for the film's soundtrack. Originally written and recorded in 1973 by Dolly Parton, Houston's version of "I Will Always Love You" spent fourteen weeks at no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is the best-selling single by a female artist in music history.
British singer/songwriter Kate Bush's 1988 UK hit "This Woman's Work" got hijacked in 1997 for R&B singer Maxwell's MTV Unplugged album, and then again for his 2001 album, Now. Also appearing in the film Love & Basketball, "This Woman's Work" has become one of Maxwell's signature songs, with many of his fans unaware of this particular classic being a retread.
One of the more recent instances of a song getting the cover treatment occurred in 2010 when CeeLo Green put his signature soulful twist on the Band of Horses' 2008 song "No One's Gonna Love You." While Band of Horses returned the favor by sampling Green's song "Georgia," CeeLo's version of "No One's Gonna Love You" wins the war, as it outdoes the original in the ears and minds of many.
Joni Mitchell never lied, but the songstress has been guilty of being outshined, mainly when Prince got his hands on the mercurial star's 1971 song "A Case of You." While there are hundreds of known covers of "A Case of You," The Purple One's multiple versions stand a cut above, including the one he recorded and retitled "A Case of U," for his 2002 album, One Nite Alone... When your cover song is included on a tribute album to the original singer and composer, that tells you all you need to know about its greatness.
Written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan, R&B group Labelle's "Lady Marmalade" was brought back to life in 2001, when Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, and P!nk teamed up to spice up the track for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. Some may consider it a stretch to tout the remake more than the original version, but the massive success of the retread version, which peaked at no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks, and its impact worldwide is hard to ignore.
In 1979, The Jones Girls presented "Who Can I Run To" to the world, adding to their catalog of hits, making them as one of the most legendary female trios of their time. The song got a second lease on life when So So Def R&B act Xscape tackled it in 1995 for their sophomore album, Off the Hook. Peaking at no. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reaching gold certification, the foursome's spin on the classic soul song is still held in high regard and imitated to this day.
At the height of their teenybopper R&B domination, Usher and Monica teamed up for "Slow Jam," for Usher's 1997 multi-platinum album, My Way. Originally recorded by Midnight Star in 1983, Usher and Monica's rendition of the song proved that their vocals were refined beyond their years and is regarded as one of the classic quiet storm jams of its era.
A top contender for the best slow jam of the late '80s is "Make It Last Forever," by R&B legend, Keith Sweat featuring Jacci McGhee. Sweat's original blazed up the R&B charts and helped made him one of the genre's preeminent crooner. However, Mariah Carey and Joe's collaborative revival of the song is equally impressive, and when you throw in a guest verse from Nas, what more could you ask for?
Released as the second single from En Vogue's 1992 sophomore album, Funky Divas, "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" found the group concentrating their forces for a remake of Aretha Franklin's original version from the Sparkle soundtrack. Climbing to the top of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and peaking at no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" improved the original and helped cement En Vogue as the top female group in R&B.
For her 1994 debut album, Age Ain't Nuthin But A Number, R&B singer Aaliyah tried her hand at duplicating the magic created by the Isley Brothers on their 1976 hit, "At Your Best (You Are Love)." The Isleys may be a hard act to follow, but the teenage phenom's rendition of the song was a major hit, peaking at no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the more successful version of the two.