1. Tamia's version of Careless Whisper over the original recorded by George Michael's group Wham! Tamia's voice is flawless. She makes you feel the song as if this story of betrayal just happened to you. "I'm never gonna dance again. Guilty feet have got no rhythm ..."
2. Michael Jackson's cover of the Beatles' hit Come Together. My friend J-dot and I have argued this, but I still love MJ's version better. He used it in his self-produced movie, Moonwalker. It literally has a way of bringing people together. "Got to be good looking 'cause she's so hard to see ..." Speaking of MJ and coming together, a friend of mine said that if you want to get a group of people to let their guard down and start talking, ask everyone to name their favorite Michael Jackson song and why. Or favorite MJ video. Mine is Dirty Diana.
3. Mariah Carey's version of Against all Odds: Take a Look at Me Now. Originally recorded by Phil Collins, this song was the theme for the 1984 film Against All Odds. A former track teammate of mine refused to listen to Mariah's version of this song out of respect for Phil Collins. I stan for MC, but I can whole heartedly say that this version is better. Her voice was so powerful then. Side note: I miss movie soundtracks. What happened to the great soundtrack albums?
4. Donnell Jones' 1998 cover of Stevie Wonder's Knocks Me Off My Feet. The first few words capture your breath and doesn't let go, "I see us in the park ..." I especially love how he sticks very very closely to the original medley. So much so that when I played this in my room (ad nauseam) my dad walked in to ask me what I know about this Stevie Wonder classic. Sorry dad, that's not Stevie. Songs in the Key of Life was such an iconic album. I even had the entire album sped up to 170 beats per minute when I used to teach group exercise for older adults in Virginia. We were in there jamming and working it out. The Donnell Jones video is horrible though. If I didn't love the song so much, I'd be mad.
5. Dru Hill in The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind) which was written and recorded by the 50s group The Dells. Joss Stone's version also gives both groups a run for their money. I love hearing a woman's take on the misery in this song. My friend CW and my best friend MJ and I have debated this, even throwing in Joss Stone's cover to stir the pot. We have yet to reach a consensus. I have a playlist on my iPod with all three versions of this song. I play them in consecutive order and appreciate each one respectively.
5b. This counts, but not really because he wrote the original song and performed in both versions ... Darius Rucker's solo version of the 90s Hootie and the Blowfish hit, Let Her Cry. I love how he introduces the song. It makes me smile every time. "This is probably the first country song I ever wrote, a long time ago ..." He recorded it live for a CMT country music festival and decided to bless us all with it by including it as a bonus track on his second solo album Charleston, SC 1966.
6. And the Pièce de résistance of all covers is Maxwell's live performance of Kate Bush's original, This Woman's Work. Another song that grapes your attention from the first note. All we need to hear is the two claps of the drummer's sticks before I am totally engrossed in the song. He even recorded a studio version on his album Now (also featured on the Love and Basketball soundtrack) that is slightly different. My frind T and I argue over which Maxwell version is best. Maxwell's Unplugged performance holds a special place in my heart. Sidebar: What happened to those great MTV Unplugged performances? MTV needs to bring that back. Seeing as how I haven't watched MTV in years (outside of the VMAs), I wouldn't know either way.
Bonus: A song we ALL love better than the original ... Whitney Houston singing Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You on the Body Guard Soundtrack. "And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIeIIIIIIIIIIII ...."
Honorable mention: My boo Tank's cover of Bonnie Raitt's cult classic I Can't Make You Love Me (the acoustic version). Although I love Tank, I still have to say that the original is slightly better. I heard him sing this live and girl ... I needed a moment. Save your ears and never listen to Boyz II Men's version. It's good and terrible. Don't say that I didn't warn you. Adele and George Michael both took a stab at it too. Their versions were much much better than Boyz II Men's failed attempt, but still not better than Queen Bonnie.
So what do y'all think? State your biz and why in the comments. Which songs do you prefer over the original version?