What makes a great cover song?

Is it a total reimagining, like Devo singing “Satisfaction,” Ike and Tina Turner taking on “Proud Mary” or Jimi Hendrix playing “All Along The Watchtower?”

Is it a performance that brings a new energy or feeling to the original, like Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Got To Get You Into My Life” or Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah?”

Or can a covering artist bring a weight to a song that makes it feel all their own, like Johnny Cash singing “Hurt?”

The answer is yes.

While taking on another artist’s hit can seem like an easy way to please fans, it can also be a risk. Covering a song invites a comparison to the original. When done right, it’s a beautiful tribute that can become a hit all its own. When done wrong, it can be the pop equivalent of dancing on a grave.

Turn up your headphones and get ready for a music-filled examination of the art and craft of the cover. (And, please, scroll down for playlists.)


  • Ray Padgett Author of the book "Cover Me," and the man behind the "Cover Me" blog – which celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. @rayfp
  • Amanda Petrusich Staff writer, The New Yorker; author of “Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records." @amandapetrusich
  • Scott Bradlee Creator of "Postmodern Jukebox," a music collective that makes vintage covers of pop songs. Their covers have garnered tens of millions of views on YouTube. Scott's upcoming book is called "Outside the Jukebox: How I Turned My Vintage Music Obsessed into a Dream Gig." @scottbradlee

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