Edd’s MANtra: Superior Covers

Last week, while stumbling around on YouTube, I came across this:

Yes, R&B upstart Mario’s cover of Keith Sweat’s classic “Right And A Wrong Way.” I was absolutely shocked that I had never heard of it. Usually anytime Keith sneezes I get a text or an e-mail from someone filling me in. It’s odd that this flew under the radar for so long – especially since Mario did a magnificent job. The wifey even went as far to say that Mario’s version bested the original.

Ha, ha, silly girl. Let’s not go THAT far.

But that got me to thinkin’ – how many times have remakes eclipsed original recordings? It doesn’t happen often. Usually, I’m satisfied when a cover stands on equal ground with the original – like when Keith’s boys Ol Skool teamed with Xscape in ’98 when they covered Atlantic Starr’s “Am I Dreaming.” I did, however, recall a few times when a newer artist outdid their predecessor. For instance:

Avant and Keke Wyatt – My First Love

(Original) Rene & Angela – My First Love

And right off the bat, I’m sure I infuriated about 75 percent of Georgia Mae readers. But hear me out. Avant surely can’t match Rene note for note, but I think Keke actually outshines Angela Winbush. It comes down to emotion. Angela sounds like she’s singing about love, Keke sounds like a woman who is in love. She provides the visceral passion that the original lacks. That gives Avant and Keke a very slight edge.

Legaci – Whatcha Say

(Original) Jason Derulo – Whatcha Say

My bro-in-law introduced me to these Legaci guys a few months ago. They’ve garnered a slight buzz by remaking songs and posting them on YouTube. One listen to their voices and, like me, you’ll be screaming to the heavens in frustration that these poor guys can’t get their break while your favorite rappers are cluttering up radio with auto-tuned R&B songs. I haven’t heard soul like this since Boyz II Men – and that’s not an exaggeration. All of their work is impressive, especially their cover of Jason Derulo’s recent hit. Derulo’s song is OK, but Legaci strip out all of the gimmicky auto-tune and android-sounding women, layer it with a heaping helping of soul and blow the original out of the water.

The Fugees – Killing Me Softly

(Original) Lori Lieberman – Killing Me Softly With His Song

Everyone thinks this was originally Roberta Flack’s song and unquestionably her 1973 version is the best known, but it first belonged to Lori Lieberman – and I actually prefer her version over Roberta’s. She just seemed to take a bit more time with it; Roberta’s version always sounds slightly hurried to me. But Lauryn Hill’s 1996 version trumps them both by borrowing the best parts of her predecessors – Roberta’s soul and Lori’s inquisitive (and insecure) inflections. I didn’t even mind the “ONE TIME!’ ad-libs and the “Bonita Applebum” sample, even though I’m not a fan of A Tribe Called Quest.

And I’m sure that just infuriated the remaining 25 percent of our readers.

What other covers shined brighter than the originals?


  1. How old school can we get? Because I’d throw in Ike and Tina’s “Proud Mary,” Jimi’s “All Along the Watchtower,” and one of my favorite songs of all time, Led Zeppelin’s take on “Travelling Riverside Blues.

    More recently, Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” and pretty much every David Bowie song that Seu Jorge played for “Life Aquatic.”

    And I kinda like Postal Service’s cover of “Against All Odds,” but I also kinda hate it. Depends on the day.

  2. I’ll give you “Proud Mary,” but nah playa, I can’t get with that Postal Service cover. Phil Collins would be displeased.

  3. Edd,

    Every Luther Vandross remake has bested the original standards. For example, Luther covered The Carpenters’ “Superstar.” Vandross’ version was so excellent, no one even remembers that it was a Carpenters’ tune.

    I would have to argue that when Vandross covered a song, he truly “Lutherized” it.

  4. Totally forgot about ‘Superstar!’ Excellent pick.

  5. I love that Postal Service cover! It’s on the iPod. But I totally get what you mean about “depends on the day.” I do find myself turning to that song only when I’m in a certain kind of mood.

  6. I like Donnell Jones’ “Knocks Me Off My Feet” better than Stevie Wonder’s. Though with Stevie, the lyrics are more profound.

  7. Good point, Tat. I agree.

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