The Beautiful Ones…And The Hot Messes: The Best And Worst Covers Of Prince Songs Over The Years
There’s not too many people in music who can put out the caliber of music Prince has since he debuted in the late ’70s. And maybe it’s for that reason so many artists, young and old, new and veterans, have tried to cover his joints and make them their own. Even Janelle Monáe and Tina Turner have done his work live and in concert. But it’s hard to outdo or really “cover” the Purple One. However, these people gave it a try and released their attempts as singles. Some to great success, others to some “what-the-hot-hell??” results. But hey, it never hurts to try, right? Check out these cover attempts and let us know which ones were good, and which one’s you thought missed the mark.
*The original Prince tracks (which were hard to find) have been hyperlinked in the descriptions if you’d like to take a walk down memory lane…
Ginuwine – “When Doves Cry”
Seriously, Timbaland has been churning out hot tracks since like ’93 (if not earlier), and while I love most of the joints he put together for folks like Aaliyah, Missy and Ginuwine back in the mid-to late 90s, this particular song was interesting to say the least. I’m one who often side-eyes any attempts to tackle Prince and turning “When Doves Cry” from an emotional rock-inspired one to an R&B dance-worthy jam (with a mean kick drum beat) was risky, but I’m not mad at G or Timb. But I could have done without him trying to sing every verse sad as hell, and the attempts to hit really high notes that even Prince wasn’t touching on the song were a no-no. While I felt he was trying too hard, I can appreciate the attempt.
Mariah Carey & Dru Hill – “The Beautiful Ones”
Hmmm, another classic from the Purple Rain album. That just had way too many hard tracks to take on, but so many people have dared to try over the years, including Mariah Carey, with the help of Sisqó and company. And I’m not going to lie. THEY KILLED IT! And kudos to Woody for still shining when Sisqó’s dramatic behind was ready to sing over folks (as usual…). Everybody sounded great, and they kept the essence of the song there, both in how they sang it, and in the synth and piano heavy instrumental. Two thumbs up!
Cyndi Lauper – “When You Were Mine”
I’m not one to hate on Cyndi Lauper, because let’s face it, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and “Time After Time” are THE jams. But before she was dropping those classics, she covered Prince’s “When You Were Mine,” from his Dirty Mind album (circa 1980). If you are into early ’80s pop like that, you might appreciate her take on the track, but compared to Prince’s version, they sound way too different. And not necessarily in a good way.
Alicia Keys & Stephanie Mills – “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”
Surprisingly enough, when you mention “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” a great deal of people assume you’re talking about the Alicia Keys version. Seriously? You’re just going to skip over not only Prince’s flawless original, but then ignore Stephanie Mills’ great cover as well? Inexcusable. But I can’t deny that every cover was well done. Stephanie’s was a bit more jazzy than the original (love her voice by the way) while Alicia’s (“How Come You Don’t Call Me”) stayed a bit closer/truer to its classic predecessor (with the exception of the cymbal sound that was added in). Both women, I would say, did the Purple One justice.
Sinéad O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Before Sinéad O’Connor made this song a global smash, the song was originally a synth/keyboard heavy song written and composed by Prince for a funk group in his Paisley Park collective, The Family. It was definitely a bit more soulful compared to O’Connor’s damn near mournful take on the track. In a way, I find her version to be a bit overrated, especially when compared to Prince’s own performance of it with Rosie Gaines back in the day, but I respect what she did what the song and the success it did have. But as always, nothing compares to the original. So thanks, but no thanks…
TLC – “If I Was Your Girlfriend”
They definitely tried to make this joint as funky as possible. They even tried to throw in a sample from “Computer Love” like nobody was going to notice. The cut was off of their acclaimed album CrazyS*xyCool, and while T-Boz tried her best to give the song her own stamp vocally, in comparison to the original jam, it’s miles behind. Good instrumental work (though the back beat could have been left out), but it makes me long to pull out the Sign “O” the Times album and have my ears soothed by Prince’s version of himself pretending to be a woman.
*Unfortunately, YouTube is an absolute piece of crap, but you can hear the cover song on Spotify or even preview the track on iTunes!
Chaka Khan – “I Feel For You”
Who doesn’t love Chaka!? And her version of this song is a must, maybe even better than the original. Yes, I went there. The song was first introduced to the world in 1979 with Prince’s self-titled debut, when he wasn’t well-known yet. Therefore, the song didn’t receive much recognition originally. But when he handed the track over to Khan and she recorded it in ’84, winner! You can’t deny the greatness of a track that has Stevie Wonder playing the harmonica on it.
D’Angelo – “She’s Always In My Hair”
This one’s up in the air. It’s definitely hard to compare these two tracks, aside from the obvious lyrical use and guitar, but there’s something extremely gritty about D’Angelo’s version. Maybe because it was being used on the soundtrack of a horror film…(Scream 2). Prince’s is very pop-rock and while he has his screaming and shouting moments on the song, dare I say that his take is not as memorable as D’s? Naw, I’m not going to say that. But D’Angelo’s was definitely a worthy cover.
Corrine Bailey Rae – “I Wanna Be Your Lover”
For her Love EP, British darling Corrine Bailey Rae took on Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” a popular track from his second album, Prince (back when he was wearing booty shorts and just started hot combing that hair). Her take on the track is heavy on the candy-coated pop. Definitely a lot different than Prince’s ’79 version, which was more funk meets disco. But what do you think? Is it a worthy cover?