May 262023

Go back to the beginning.

40. Tom Jones & the Art of Noise – Kiss

The pairing of The Art of Noise & Tom Jones looks on paper like it’d be chalk and cheese. An experimental, once-semi-anonymous electronic collective, backing one of the biggest on-stage showboats of the 20th century? Huh. Yet unlike some of Jones’ later records–genre turns toward country and primal blues which were squarely left-of-center, relatively speaking–there’s little that ends up being esoteric about this “Kiss,” released in 1989. Indeed, the collaboration sounds like the best late-80s dancefloor bangers: jet-puffed with Huey Lewis-y baritone sax riffs, mega-metallic drum machines, all faders pushed to 11. At the fore and atop it all is Jones’s booming baritone, with a performance that hits a strangely satisfying sweet spot, somewhere between his usual Vegas showroom fervor and wild catwalk strut. The whole collaboration amounts to a Happy Meal toy version of the original — a chintzy plastic caricature, sure, but also a great little bauble to commemorate one of Prince’s funkiest tunes. – Ben Easton

39. Montys Loco – Paisley Park

The second single from Around the World in a Day, Prince’s “Paisley Park” saw him showing yet another facet of his diamond brilliance — this time, drawing a psychedelic-hippie arrow from his quiver. “Admission is easy, just say you believe,” he sang, “and come to this place in your heart.” Scandinavian poppers Montys Loco give the song a considerable makeover, rendering it as clean and fresh as the Nordic sea. – Patrick Robbins

38. Ginuwine – When Doves Cry

Talking to Spice Girl Mel B about people covering his songs, Prince said, “If it’s genuine and it comes from the artist’s heart, then I’m cool with it. If they’re being egged on by their management and their record companies, well, that’s not genuine. That’s just trying to get a piece of the purple pie.” One artist he felt had helped himself to a sizable slice was Ginuwine, who took “When Doves Cry” and tailored it to fit himself, much to Prince’s chagrin (“You can’t change my song, man. He didn’t even get the groove right”). But the reconfiguration still works and works well as a song, thanks to Timbaland’s production and Ginuwine’s smooth, strong voice. – Patrick Robbins

37. Derailers – Raspberry Beret

The Derailers, from Austin, TX, are a true blue country band in the rough and rowdy mold. It just so happened that they didn’t mind bringing a Beatles sensibility to their harmonies, and they didn’t see why “Raspberry Beret” couldn’t be twangified to everyone’s satisfaction. Listen for yourself–it works! It works at least as well as the Beatles doing Buck Owens. But why, when The Derailers released this cover on their 1997 Reverb Deluxe album, did they make it a hidden track? Maybe Prince didn’t approve? Maybe the label thought true blue country fans weren’t ready for some purple? As a hidden track, it didn’t get the hearing it deserved. Time to uncover this fine cover. – Tom McDonald

36. Holly Humberstone – I Would Die 4 U

The glittery, gloriously ambiguous, and mind-bogglingly melodic “I Would Die 4 U” contains multitudes. It is a matter-of-fact reassurance from a higher power. It is a definitive mission statement from the Purple One explaining what he himself is and isn’t. It is an affirmation and tribute to the beauty of otherness. And, true confession, it is most definitely one of my all-time favorite songs (explanation here).
Singer-songwriter Holly Humberstone’s cover of the otherworldly anthem is one of the more recent entrants in our countdown. Released as a free-standing single in 2022, Humberstone eschews the booming euphoria of the original and keeps things spare and simple. A plaintive piano morphs into a low-key synthetic groove, while Humberstone serves up a vocal of genuine warmth and reverence. It’s a tearjerker… and it positively dazzles. – Hope Silverman

35. Sam Bettens – Little Red Corvette

Belgian singer Sam Bettens finds the touching core of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” in this intimate cover. The song has a Hall & Oates soul feeling to it, with a masterfully played guitar and keyboard finding just the right amount of funk and chill. Bettens’ voice is front and center where it deserves to be, but when he is joined with harmonizing backing vocals the song swells in volume in an unexpected way. Even though the song never gets to a level that would bar it from showing up on lite-rock radio, Bettens makes this song groove. – Mike Misch

34. The Replacements – I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man

The final single from Prince’s album Sign o’ the Times, “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man,” is a pretty straightforward rocker, and on the studio version, Prince basically played all of the parts, including a couple of fine guitar solos. It peaked at 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in late 1987. Fellow Minneapolitans The Replacements took a stab at covering the song at some point, and it is available on the Internet as part of an unauthorized compilation called Essential Mats: Obscurities, Live Tracks, & Album Cuts. Like most ‘Mats covers, there’s not a lot of nuance, just a fast fun romp through the song. – Jordan Becker

33. Foo Fighters – Darling Nikki

The Foo Fighters covered this track from Purple Rain in 2003, releasing it as the B-side to “Have it All.” It’s a case of the B-side doing better than the A-side, and the band has returned to the song again and again in the years since. They’ve tried it acoustically, tried it with Cee Lo Green, and of course featured it at tributes to Prince. As you might expect of Grohl and company in this period, they go dark and aggressive with their treatment–very arena rock if not metal. It helps that “Darling Nikki” was overshadowed by stronger material on Purple Rain–in 2003, the world maybe wasn’t craving more versions of “When Doves Cry” or “Let’s Go Crazy” or “Purple Rain,” but ears were ready for a deeper cut fully realized by a band finally hitting its stride as a foursome. Prince returned the volley by covering the Foo Fighters during his Super Bowl set. – Tom McDonald

32. Aretha Franklin – Nothing Compares 2 U

Aretha covers Prince produced by Andre 3000. Get ready for a ride! How about a swing song? Why not? This track feels so loose and free and gives Franklin space to show off. What starts off with a bit of structure eventually goes a bit off the rails. The bass is almost as high in the mix as Franklin’s voice, the piano wanders, the horns come back in late in a flourish. Throughout it all, the highlight happens every time Franklin since “nothing” as she rockets to the upper octaves. It’s messy enough to sound like an Andre 3000 joint without being too messy to sound like an Aretha Franklin feature. – Mike Misch

31. Martin Sexton – Purple Rain

Singer/songwriter Martin Sexton included a cover of “Purple Rain” on his 2008 live album Solo. True to the album’s title, the track features Sexton alone with simply his voice and guitar. The true emotional weight of the track comes during the extended outro, which showcases Sexton’s vocal range and guitar skills. It’s a simple yet powerful reinterpretation of a classic ‘80s anthem. – Curtis Zimmermann

The list continues on Page 3.

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  7 Responses to “The 40 Best Prince Covers Ever”

Comments (7)
  1. Sandra Bernhard’s “Little Red Corvette” from Without You I’m Nothing (album, 1989; film, 1990) remains my favourite Prince cover.

  2. Great list. I’m a Prince fanatic, so it’s hard to narrow it down to just 40 … and I have a few to add.

    – I Wanna Be Your Lover – Corinne Bailey Rae
    – Take Me With U – Marshall Crenshaw
    – Fantasia’s Confidential ghetto: 1999/Once In A Lifetime/Coconut – PM Dawn
    – Never Take the Place of Your Man – Goo Goo Dolls (they left off the “I Could”)
    – The Beautiful Ones – Susan Voelz
    – I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man – Eels
    For country music covers of Purple Rain, my fave has always been LeAnn Rimes’ version.

    But my favorite of all – a track I’ve played about as many song as any other during the pandemic for some reason – is:

    – When You Were Mine – Lambchop

  3. Nice choice, but I prefer when the song is transferred to another genre and gets a different atmosphere. my number 1 is definitely senor coconut and its version “Kiss”.

  4. Jennifer Terran
    I ‘ve seen her perform this live and it is astounding every time

  5. Just off the top of my head, a couple of my favorites that didn’t make this list:

    – “Sign of the Times” by Arcwelder
    – “Little Red Corvette” by The Gear Daddies

  6. I miss Har Mar Superstar’s cover of “When you were mine”.

  7. While Prince might not have agreed with this list, I think he would have cracked a little smile that half of the top ten are by women, including the top 3! Great list!

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