May 262023

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30. Damien Rice – When Doves Cry

Damien Rice isn’t much one for jolly, his voice always reeking of too much disappointment, yet there is always that hint of vainglorious hope hanging on in there, the notion that, just for once, every thing will turn out OK. This is a masterclass of interpretation, just a thrashed guitar and his voice, treading that tightrope between a whisper and a scream. Of course, there is a bit more going on in the lyrical department than Prince himself ever quite intended, as Led Zeppelin’s “Babe, I’m Going To Leave You” creeps in, channeling pure Percy. Plus it is short, so short that it isn’t enough, leaving you desperately needing more. Clever, that. Full marks, that Irishman. – Seuras Og

29. Janelle Monae – Let’s Go Crazy

Janelle Monae was fortunate and gifted enough to be mentored by Prince. “He never tried to encourage me to be like him, or to write music like him,” she said. “It was always, ‘You have something special. I’m here if you need me, but I love what it is that you do.'” That love was evident at the 2010 BET Awards, where Prince accepted a lifetime achievement award and watched a tribute to him from the front row. Some of the performances got his side-eye, but Monae’s electrifying “Let’s Go Crazy” had him nodding along and smiling at the end. Coming from a man notoriously not a fan of cover songs, that was the equivalent of a standing ovation. – Patrick Robbins

28. Age of Chance – Kiss

Prince’s “Kiss” is so uniquely Prince that no one could hope to imitate it, though many are compelled to try and make it their own. Such artists relate to the universal and inclusive lyrics, but quickly realize that the falsetto, the guitar genius, the funkiness, and the cavorting and thrusting in the video in a half shirt and leather jacket is totally out of their world.

Age of Chance were the first of hundreds to make “Kiss” part of their world, by covering it in 1986, just as the maestro’s original was sliding down the chart. The English band’s world was more about cycling jerseys, loud guitars, hip-hop beats, samples, Adidas trainers, and sounding like Soft Cell mixed with the Clash and LL Cool J. As such, they were already favorites of celebrated Radio 1 DJ John Peel and had contributed to the now-legendary series of NME C86 compilation tapes, yet they saw in Prince’s “Kiss” a real opportunity to make their mark. Indeed, you had to admire their audacity as they sprung up garishly on TV shows like Old Grey Whistle Test subverting an already iconic number by the Purple One and piping: “You don’t have to be Prince if you want to dance / You just have to get down with the Age Of Chance.” The result was an instantly notorious UK hit (well, in the Indie Chart, at least) and the track that they would most be remembered for. – Adam Mason

27. Lucy Dacus and Hayden Arp – I Would Die 4 U

While Prince found urgency and ecstasy inside the sacrifices he’d make in the name of love, Lucy Dacus leads with something subdued and sweeter instead. She partners with Hayden Arp, an instrumentalist and producer from Virginia and now based in Austria, to transform Prince’s fervent funk into a mellow reverie, pairing acoustic fingerpicking with whispered harmonies. Initially released as an under-the-radar Bandcamp single, the track sound like it’s distinctly meant for bedroom listening, far away from the sweaty crowds and stage spotlights of First Avenue. An ideal mixtape closer, shared direct from one heart to another. – Ben Easton

26. School of Fish – Let’s Pretend We’re Married

“Let’s Pretend We’re Married” was the final single from Prince’s mammoth 1999 album and didn’t do as well as the previous three (“1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Delirious”). But despite its relative obscurity–emphasis on relative–it’s earned one killer cover. Early-’90s alt-rockers School of Fish put this Prince cover on the B-side of their biggest single “3 Strange Days.” Perhaps the line about seven years was supposed to connect with three days? At any rate, the song works surprisingly well in this grunge-era remake, stripped of the original’s sexy funk arrangement but given some vocal swing by singer Josh Clayton-Felt atop the distorted guitars and thudding drums. – Ray Padgett

25. Meli’sa Morgan – Do Me Baby

For the sake of transparency, we need to talk about a deep bit of Prince lore regarding the birth of “Do Me, Baby.” The story goes that Prince’s boyhood friend and fellow musical dreamer Andre Cymone actually composed this track and Prince “stole” it (Cymone has suggested this in interviews). Prince ultimately recorded it for 1981’s Controversy album and took sole songwriting credit for it. It is widely regarded and known as a Prince song and it’s hard to imagine anyone topping the lusty hysteria of the Prince version. So make of that what you will. Mel’isa Morgan’s 1985 cover went all the way to #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and was a staple of many a late-night ’80s Quiet Storm-themed radio show (for sure on WBLS in NY where I was listening; I swear they played it every single night for at least a year). No one could straddle (pun intended) the line between sexy and funny as well as Prince. “International Lover,” “Kiss,” “Do Me, Baby”: the list of hot ‘n’ hilarious is endless. But Morgan’s oh-so ’80s-sounding cover of “Do Me, Baby” isn’t here to make you giggle. No fooling, no teasing. As her voluptuous, virtuosic vocal makes abundantly clear, this cover has only one purpose: to turn you on. . – Hope Silverman

24. Ray Prim – Starfish & Coffee

Ray Prim delivers a faithful rendition of this lighthearted song. He brings a little more falsetto in the opening of the verses, but he still ends up with that overall soulful vibe. The drum style remains, but there is a slightly different accompaniment sound in the opening that reoccurs in the choruses, like dainty plucks in tandem from string instruments. The chorus will get stuck in your head, perfect for puttering around the kitchen in the morning. – Sara Stoudt

23. Chris Cornell – Nothing Compares 2 U

Whether it was with Soundgarden, Audio Adrenaline, or solo, nothing compares to Chris Cornell’s voice. In this cello and acoustic supported live cover, Cornell shows what he can do with a slow song. Although his voice can do screaming things other singers would never dream of (do yourself a favor and go listen to some Soundgarden isolated vocals on YouTube!), he also projects an avalanche of power on a ballad like this. Guitarist Keaton Simons puts the cherry on top with a great acoustic solo. – Mike Misch

22. Sarah Jarosz – When Doves Cry

The combination of the jazzy bass line and the small but mighty ukulele brings coffeeshop and speakeasy ambiances together. It’s slinky and sultry with a dash of whimsy. You can hear the recognition from the crowd when they actually get going with the lyrics. It’s an inventive take on a Prince classic, and both instruments get solos that make this go beyond a simple cover and towards a jam session between the dainty and the resonant. – Sara Stoudt

21. London Grammar – Purple Rain

It is tempting to see where the template for this lovebomb came from, the idea of stripping back a Price song into a slow and silky hymn, but there’s actually a bit more to it than that. Certainly Hannah Reid has a dreamy gloop of a voice, the passion evident and no need for histrionics. But it is the backing that nails it; on one hand the slow swathe of synth, with then the sparkling bubbles of sequencer slotting alongside. Less an anthem of intent, it becomes an insistent passive-aggressive statement of regret. And, y’know, you feel she will get her way. London Grammar, seemingly on another hiatus, don’t do that many covers, but when they do, they tend to be worth a listen. – Seuras Og

The list continues on Page 4.

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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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