May 162020
 

Go back to the beginning

10. Sliimy – Womanizer

A number-one hit in 2008, in the prime of MP3-blog era, “Womanizer” was covered a ton. Cover Me had just started, and it felt like we got a new version every week. Most have been forgotten, but French pop singer Sliimy scored a bit of viral fame when Perez Hilton discovered it on MySpace. Perez Hilton, MySpace, and “Womanizer” covers – what trio could signal the late-aughts more than that? Britney herself loved it, and invited Sliimy to open her subsequent tour. His 15 minutes didn’t last; he released one album and then disappeared. – Ray Padgett

9. Fountains Of Wayne – …Baby One More Time

How did Fountains of Wayne make “…Baby One More Time” feel so sluggish? Everything about it seems like someone almost missed their cue and hit their part at the last possible second. The vibe this creates is so much more desperate than the original. The organ and the understated harmonies also add weight, as does the choice to omit the high vocal parts during the chorus. This cover feels heavy in a way that Britney probably never intended. – Mike Misch

8. Sugarcoma – (You Drive Me) Crazy

Sugarcoma was a metal band from London in the early 2000s. Their cover of “(You Drive Me) Crazy” shows the two sides of love-crazy. It starts out with a lighthearted crush in the first verse, but then the genre-bending arrives in full force in the chorus to show the scorned side of being driven crazy rather than the schoolgirl version of the original. Despite this cover being a fun goof rather than a die-hard Britney homage, this song cost the band some support within a metal community that already looked at them with skepticism for being a majority-female band. – Sara Stoudt

7. Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra – Toxic

’60s sitar music meets ’70s funk on this wild instrumental cover of “Toxic.” This shows some serious composition and arrangement ability. No surprise that Lee’s original music gets constantly featured in music and TV shows. – Jane Callaway

6. The Frames – Everytime

When asked if “Everytime” was an answer song to recent ex Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River,” Britney neither confirmed nor denied, saying, “I’ll let the song speak for itself.” That it did, but the piano ballad also spoke for others. Glen Hansard, still some years away from his Once breakthrough, showed this when he and Colm Maclomaire recorded their version under the Frames name. Hansard’s vocals give “Everytime” an authenticity that the press wouldn’t necessarily attribute to Britney’s breathier delivery. Do the words “I guess I need you, baby” come across as being more vulnerable when sung by a man instead of a woman? In any case, the lyrics come from Britney, and Hansard sings them with all the conviction they deserve, making for a powerful cover. – Patrick Robbins

5. Sondre Lerche – I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman


The newest cover on our list comes from Norwegian pop singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche’s new tribute EP, simply titled BRITNEY. His fingerpicked “Everytime” is spare and delicate, his elaborate “Why Should I Be Sad” is an elaborate orchestra-R&B production, and either would otherwise be contenders for this list. But the fiddled Americana “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” tops them all. Accompanied by Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek (who we’ll hear more from momentarily), it sounds more like an Emmylou Harris cover. – Ray Padgett

4. Tricky – Piece of Me

“Piece of Me,” Britney’s comment about the media’s over-fascination with her and/or her image, becomes something else again in the hands of Tricky. With Francesca Belmonte’s vocal changing the question “You want a piece of me?” from possible come-on to wary threat, “Piece of Me” stays apprehensive while making the switch from defense to offense. Either way, the song remains fascinating. – Patrick Robbins

3. Richard Thompson – Oops! I Did It Again

Playboy approached Richard Thompson in 1999 and asked him to join other musicians in providing a list of the ten greatest songs of the millennium. He called their bluff and provided a selection starting with a song from 1068 and including just one effort from the 20th century. Playboy didn’t print his list – so he turned it onto a live show. Over the years, Thompson has performed 1000 Years of Popular Music around the world. The setlist typically begins in 13th century England and meanders through the centuries, stopping in places as diverse as Medieval France and Italy, early America, England during many different eras, New Orleans, and the modern pop charts, with many unexpected choices.

In 2003, Thompson released an album of the 1000 Years show, which contained a version of Britney Spears’ “Oops, I Did It Again.” Thompson plays it straight, singing the song as a mid-tempo folk tune, and it sounds great. The album ends with “Marry, Ageyn Hic Hev Donne Yt,” a fragment of “Oops,” arranged like a medieval song, with a mock Middle English title. Thompson cheekily states in the liner notes that the song was from “the 13th century, possibly from Brittany.” – Jordan Becker

2. The Marías – Baby One More Time

The Marias, a band with an independence streak and known for both their English and Spanish music, stick to an English version of this Spears classic. In their version of “Baby One More Time,” the style is more dream pop than bubble gum pop. They keep the baby talk style of singing, but the lyrics are delivered almost deadpan. The song ends with a teaser of “Oops I Did it Again.” Perhaps another cover is to come… – Sara Stoudt

1. Nickel Creek – Toxic

I’m already on record as calling the Nickel Creek cover of “Toxic” the best cover of “Toxic.” More than one reader disagreed, but I’ve seen and heard nothing to dissuade me from that opinion. I still get a charge out of Sara Watkins’ violin hook, Chris Thile’s falsetto, and the sheer guts to take on a dance-pop classic, dress it in Americana, and turn it loose on an audience that doesn’t quite know whether they’re supposed to laugh or cheer. Me, I cheer. – Patrick Robbins

Check out more installments in our monthly ‘Best Covers Ever’ series, including Beyoncé, Elton John, Radiohead, and Boy Bands.

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