May 162020
 

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25. The Holophonics – Till the World Ends

A ska cover of “Till the World Ends” sounds like a joke. And, indeed, it is extremely ridiculous. There are many nuanced, sensitive covers of Britney Spears, and we’ll get to some of those. But so many of Britney’s songs are about having fun – either the lyrics or just the context in which people heard them – so we’ll start with a goofy cover that doesn’t take itself at all seriously. – Ray Padgett

24. Sanchez – Sometimes

Several years before Spears’ declared herself a “slave” for her lovers’ intentions, she scored a hit with the chaste anthem “Sometimes.” In the song, she tells her paramour “If you really want me, move slow.” Reggae singer Sanchez took this sentiment literally with his 2000 cover. He infused the track with a bass-heavy reggae groove that makes you want to “move slow,” too. – Curtis Zimmermann

23. Postmodern Jukebox ft. Melinda Doolittle – Toxic

Have you ever wondered what “Toxic” would sound like as a smoky jazz number? Me neither, but – luckily for us – the excellent Postmodern Jukebox have done much more than wonder about it. “Toxic” in some ways sounds like it’s already a cover, and that there should be an obscure, decades-old original only available on a rare 45 by a forgotten jazz singer. Postmodern Jukebox’s take gives us a look at what this hypothetical original version might have sounded like, with Melinda Doolittle’s powerful vocal soaring above the excellent horns and piano. – Tim Edgeworth

22. Dirty Loops – Circus

This Swedish band got their start putting their own spin on popular pop songs before they started releasing their own songs. They unleash a variety of tricks in this “Circus” cover; adding jazz, funk (listen for that bass lick), and soul. They maintain the drama in the bridge before busting out a groove worthy of a good jazz square in the chorus. An extensive piano solo towards the end whisks us away from the circus and towards the jazz club. – Sara Stoudt

21. Jamie Kent – …Baby One More Time

“…Baby One More Time” represented a breakthrough for Swedish pop impresario Max Martin’s studio wizardry. On Spears’ debut single, Martin crafted a symphony of electronic sounds that, when combined with Spears’ voice and her dancing skills, turned the track into pop chart gold. Jamie Kent dropped all of that when he recorded his 2017 roots-style cover. He replaced the electronic sounds with good old-fashioned acoustic instruments and played the song as a down-home lovers’ lament. The single came with its own video parodying Spears’ blockbuster original. Apparently, while the cool kids were dancing in the gym, the band kids were jamming out in the auditorium. Who would you rather join? – Curtis Zimmermann

20. Carosel – Hold It Against Me


Remember those nuanced, sensitive Britney covers I mentioned a few blurbs back? Here’s a prime example of that style done well. This Parisian duo of Michelle Phelan and Pete McGrane used little more than a couple acoustic guitars and a hushed vocal to reinvent one of Spears’ later hits as a café ballad. – Ray Padgett

19. Or, the Whale – Toxic

Is anyone creating a True Blood-type show about Swamp Thing and in need of an intro song? Here it is! The sliding guitars and the organ set the dark mood perfectly, feeling like they are blasting out of some smoky shack in the southern US. The vocals are strong, too, but you’ll keep coming back for those intertwining guitars. – Mike Misch

18. Max Raabe & Palast Orchester – Lucky

Max Raabe and several of his friends founded the Palast Orchester in the ‘80s to pay homage to the music of Germany’s “Golden Twenties.” The group veered in a different direction with this cover of Spears’ it’s-tough-to-be-a-star lament “Lucky.” Raabe and his cohorts mix elements of early techno pop with strings and cabaret jazz. Raabe filters his voice to make it sound as if he’s singing through an old-fashioned Victrola, telling many generations that he too empathizes with the loneliness that comes with fame. – Curtis Zimmermann

17. Sarah Bostic – If You Seek Amy


This classic innuendo of a song gets a jazzy touch-up in this cover. The simple high-hat replaces the heavy strutting beat of the original. The light instrumentation keeps the focus on the vocals, including the persisting “la la”s which sound less like a taunt in this version. Bostic’s airier voice makes the innuendo less obvious. You could almost think the song is actually about seeking a girl named Amy. – Sara Stoudt

16. Lily Allen – Womanizer

“I love Britney and I love the song,” Lily Allen said, explaining what would get her to cover “Womanizer.” Her appreciation comes through in spades. She peels away the synthesized backing track, keeping the melody and the beat exactly the same. It’s not a case of celebrity karaoke, though – Allen’s voice is very assured here, like she knows whereof she sings, and she’s feeding the song with her experience. There’s a sense of respect for the original, too. That love she feels for Britney and the song are never in question. – Patrick Robbins

15. Slothrust – …Baby One More Time

Driven by a steady drumbeat and funky, punctuated bass, Slothrust play “…Baby One More Time” as a straightforward blues-rock song. Singer Leah Wellbaum delivers her lines in a lower register, but she has no problem nailing the high notes here, and her guitar flourishes slide in and out through the song. The guitar solo is hot enough to make you forget this is a Britney Spears cover. – Mike Misch

14. Yael Naim – Toxic

You may know Yael Naim from her catchy song “New Soul,” featured in the first MacBook Air laptop commercial. Her cover of “Toxic” departs from the light-hearted style that captured Steve Jobs’s attention. It starts out with a mysterious xylophone and Naim’s sultry yet slightly menacing vocals. A variety of unexpected sounds accompany Naim throughout. In the middle, an electric guitar chimes in to accompany Naim’s wail (that toxicity is clearly getting to her), adding to the Halloween/zombie apocalypse vibe. The song closes with some carnival sounds and a completely out-of-the-blue pan flute. – Sara Stoudt

13. Joan As Police Woman – Overprotected

Fighting, ass-kicking, don’t-talk-to-me-that-way Britney is the best Britney, and 2002’s “Overprotected” is her ultimate anthem of assertion. When you consider what the future held, the song now seems eerily prescient. The “Overprotected” that entered the world as a mere tornado has subsequently grown into a full-blown hurricane. In her cover, Joan As Police Woman turns the whole thing sideways, molding Britney’s squelchy beated, breathy behemoth into a lean, sneery, ornery and eminently cool groove that would sound damn fine blaring out of a barroom jukebox on a Saturday night. – Hope Silverman

12. Alina Simone – Oops! I Did It Again

Britney Spears dominated turn-of-the-century pop radio, but there was another trend there around the same time: the rocker gal, a sneer in her voice and a curled upper lip. Alina Simone cleverly shifts Britney Spears into that mode far more effectively than Britney’s own “Satisfaction” cover did. If Max Martin had pitched “Oops! I Did It Again” to Meredith Brooks instead of Spears, it could easily have come out sounding like this – and still been a huge hit. – Jane Callaway

11. Billy Cullum – Born to Make You Happy


Controversial at the time of release, this song’s message isn’t exactly that of an empowered young woman. To be fair, I guess “hit me baby one more time” doesn’t set an awfully high standard. In this cover, Cullum brings Spears’s later dance-pop style to one of her debut album’s later singles. Cullum started as a choreographer before becoming a singer, so it seems fitting that he turns this tune into a dance club anthem. Fitting into the “crying in the club” genre, the verses still emphasize the longing in the lyrics while heavier electronic elements build up to the fist-bumping choruses. – Sara Stoudt

The list continues on Page 3.

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