Jan 242020

Go back to the beginning

25. McAlmont & Butler – Back for Good (Take That cover)

Upon virtuosic guitarist-songwriter Bernard Butler’s acrimonious departure from Suede in 1994, most people assumed he would resurface in a similarly styled rock band. Instead, he partnered with David McAlmont of soul-shoegazers Thieves to form a duo simply known as McAlmont and Butler. They specialized in very un-Suede-like widescreen, orchestrated anthems, the most glorious of which, “Yes,” soared to #10 in the UK charts. In 2002, they recorded their version of Take That’s “Back For Good” and stamped it hard with lots of twangy, emotional guitar and McAlmont’s fabulous falsetto chewing every piece of scenery. It features a scream of emotion and is filled to the top with glitter and love. – Hope Silverman

24. Selena Gomez – I Want It That Way (Backstreet Boys cover)

This Selena Gomez cover of “I Want It That Way” is performed the way a good 95% of the song’s covers were performed – not in a studio, not onstage, but away from the world’s eyes, behind closed doors, often as not with a bunch of friends. With its mumbled verses and full-throated choruses, this cover won’t win any awards, but it was never supposed to, and that’s why I like it so much. We get to see Gomez relaxing backstage, having fun, singing a little Backstreet Boys the way she probably sang it back on her seventh birthday, when it was poised to go to #1. Her joy in singing the song is contagious, to her bandmates and to us; it makes me happy to see her happy, and I feel very fortunate that someone had a barely noticed camera there to catch it all. – Patrick Robbins

23. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – End of the Road (Boyz II Men cover)

The premise for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes cover of Boyz II Men’s 1992 chart topper “End of the Road” is quite simple. The group reinterprets the silky-smooth teenage breakup classic, changing it into an angst-driven piece of pop punk. “It’s unnatural,” you might say, especially since it’s abundantly clear in the opening verse that the punk rock supergroup cannot tackle the Boyz’ Cooley High harmonies. But the loud guitars, rapid-fire drums and emotionally-charged vocals in the chorus just seem to “belong together.” Listen to the song and “you’ll know that I’m right.” – Curtis Zimmermann

22. The Maine – As Long As You Love Me (Backstreet Boys cover)

I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, as long as you love this cover. The Maine have two EPs of covers, choosing songs spanning genres and decades. The Maine change up the iconic, teenage scream-inducing opening melody and decrease the tempo. The vocals are sadder in tone, lead singer John O’Callaghan’s voice almost breaking at times. The original’s driving percussion is removed, making this less of a song to dance to and more of a song to reminisce to. – Sara Stoudt

21. CHVRCHES – Stay Another Day (East 17 cover)

In a parallel universe one might imagine this version to be the original, and the Walthamstow “bad boy band” the cover. So well does CHVRCHES capture the nuance of plinky-plinky analog synth, the sound of a time even before boy bands. And yet it was made in 2013, 19 years after the original. I guess this is the lode this Glasgow electronica trio mine, effectively chilling any heart from the original. – Seuras Og

20. Pickin’ On – Mmmbop (Hanson cover)

CMH Records’ 2016 bluegrass covers album Pickin’ On the ‘90s featured this slow, acoustic cover of Hanson’s breakthrough hit “MMMBop.” The track forces listeners to do something they rarely did with the original: listen to the lyrics. When sung with a country gospel inflection, the words comes across deeper than one might expect. “You have so many relationships in this life/Only one or two will last/You go through all the pain and strife/Then you turn your back and they’re gone so fast.” You’d think these sentiments were written by a 50-year-old with a beard, instead of a trio of brothers who, at the time, could barely shave. – Curtis Zimmermann

19. The Baseballs – Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) (Backstreet Boys cover)

If Sun Records had recorded a boy band, it would be The Baseballs. That’s the gimmick of this German group, three hunks with greaser style doing rockabilly covers of pop tunes. They’ve made a long-running career of it, too; just witness the size of the venues they play around Europe. So “Quit Playing Games” is a natural fit, all surf guitar licks, doo-wop backing vocals, and slapped bass runs in their reimagining. Just imagine if the Backstreet Boys had been nicknamed the Billion Dollar Quintet. – Ray Padgett

18. Abbie Duquette and Maggie Kraus – Steal My Girl (One Direction cover)

Maggie Kraus, of Hannah & Maggie, and fellow Smiffenpoofs alum Abbie Duquette take on this One Direction song from their fourth album (creatively named FOUR). The original song starts out with a stadium anthem-like intro. Here we get a stripped-down version; a subtle but precise guitar provides a more mournful backdrop. The One Direction gentlemen enunciate with precision, making the verses sound clipped. In contrast, Duquette has a smoother delivery, transitioning more seamlessly into the pre-chorus “I knooooow”s while Kraus chimes in with the “na na”s essential to any classic boy band jam. – Sara Stoudt

17. Vanilla Fudge – Tearin’ Up My Heart (NSYNC cover)

Regular readers of Cover Me are no doubt familiar with the heavy-metal-cover concept. A group of long-haired guys or gals takes a song, usually a soft-rock or dance-pop favorite, and turns it into a hard rocker. In 1968, Vanilla Fudge introduced the concept to the masses when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show performing their proto-metal take on the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On.” Not content to stay a nostalgia act, when the group reunited at the turn of the millennium they added this seven-minute cover of “Tearin’ Up My Heart” to their repertoire. The song is a master class in the art of the cross-genre cover. The group reworked the track by fusing it with elements of ‘60s psychedelic rock, ‘70s prog rock, and heavy metal, all the while keeping the instantly-recognizable melody intact. – Curtis Zimmermann

16. Celestial – Can You Stand the Rain (New Edition cover)

Celestial specialize in acoustic covers of some of the most beloved R & B songs of the ’80s and ’90s. No histrionics, no expensive studio production, just exquisite voices, an acoustic guitar and a sofa. They are ridiculously good. Their performance of “Can You Stand the Rain” is the absolute antithesis of the histrionic, overwrought performances of this song that have “graced” shows like The Voice and American Idol in the past, and unquestionably crushes every last one of them. Their version is also serves as a tribute to the genius of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis: even with their glossy production stripped away, this is one hell of a beautiful song. – Hope Silverman

15. Melted – Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) (Backstreet Boys cover)

The first 19 seconds of this cover sound pleasant, in a ’90s grunge-ballad type of way. Cherish that calm intro; the feeling won’t return. This Danish hardcore band pushes the dials way past 11 on a raging roar through “Everybody.” Sonically, it couldn’t be much further than the polished-pop original. One imagines their tongues are at least cheek-adjacent – Ray Padgett

14. Scary Pockets – Bye Bye Bye (NSYNC cover)

NSYNC’s candle burned at both ends; they were one of the shorter-lived boy bands around. But “Bye Bye Bye” was a very lovely light indeed, Led this time around by The Voice semifinalist India Carney, Scary Pockets come at “Bye Bye Bye” with a pocket full of funk. Suddenly the NSYNC song has on a different pair of dancing shoes, and it sounds like it was meant for a shadowy nightclub instead of a flashbulb-packed arena. It’s no less effective for that; in fact, one listen to that bass and you’ll likely be moving with no strings attached yourself. – Patrick Robbins

13. Klaxons – No Diggity (Blackstreet cover)

“No Diggity” lends itself well to covers with its laid back pacing and infectious piano sample. You could speed it up, slow it down, rock out, or chill out. The Klaxons chose… none of those options. This is a pretty straight-forward cover, slightly stripped down and with some interesting high-hat drum work during the chorus. The overall feel is of a couple guys messing around in the basement to put together relaxed version of the original. And since the original is already so good, a slightly messy tribute works a lot better than expected. – Mike Misch

12. Brittany Howard and Jim James – I Want It That Way (Backstreet Boys cover)

The only singer less likely to be covering the Backstreet Boys than Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard might be My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. Yet here they were doing so together in 2016 – and for a Chipotle ad no less. Go figure. They turn it into a swampy soul duet, Jim on the “Tell me why”s and Brittany on the replies. – Ray Padgett

11. Holly Lang – Patience (Take That cover)

I love a good old doof doof dancefloor banger and this hits that spot to a T, as well as drawing attention to the “other” good Take That song. Working surprisingly well, the anthemic aspect of the tune is maintained by the chorale vocals, the unexpected chip-in of the lead vocal almost a surprise as it starts. I can imagine clubland delight as the song becomes realized. As one of the token old guys on the writing team, it is my daughter I can thank for my enjoyment of this, she loving both the boy band and the electronic beats that have devoured the original arrangement. – Seuras Og

The list wraps up on Page 3.

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  One Response to “The Best Boy Band Covers Ever”

Comments (1)
  1. O the years of Backstreet boys, boy did I love them!

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