You Really Tried It, Huh? 10 Artists Who Tried To Cover Michael Jackson (Some Killed It, Some, Not So Much…)
Just last week we showed you a few of the singers who thought they had what it took to try and cover Prince. This week, we’ve got a few big names who thought they could take on the King of Pop. While not every rendition/cover of his classics from throughout his career were well-done, they were all a lot different than the original songs, which is step one to trying to produce a worthy cover: Do your own thing, but have respect for the originator. Check out covers by everyone from Chaka Khan to Celine Dion, Al B Sure! and even Miles Davis, and let us know which ones you think were good, and not so good after all.
And of course, the links to the actual MJ songs are included in each description!
Ginuwine – “She’s Out Of My Life”
Ginuwine really loves to cover the icons, whether he should be doing it or not. The singer tried his hand at “When Doves Cry,” on his first album, and for 100% Ginuwine, he tried his best to tackle Mike Jack’s “She’s Out Of My Life.” Vocally, he was up and down at moments (and all the crying at the beginning on the actual track could have been left behind). Physically, he looked very delicious, but alas, that doesn’t matter when you’re messing with MJ, right? Ginuwine has a slew of ballads of his own that are hot, but I think we can all agree that whether he’s covering MJ, or Prince, or singing his own jams, he’s at his best when he’s dancing up and down somebody’s stage…
Chaka Khan – “Got To Be There”
Khan is another one who can cover just about anybody and get away with it. She took on the solo hit Jackson did as a young’n and added her own touch of flair to it. It’s totally ’80s, and has a totally different groove. A mixture of smooth jazz and R&B at its finest. Call it a smooth jam you would drive home to (or lay down to) as part of one of those “Whispers In The Dark” radio programs. Absolutely beautiful!
Al B Sure! – “Lady In My Life”
Hey, this guy has a lot more to offer than just rocking a unibrow and singing “Night and Day” forever. Al B Sure! did a pretty underrated cover of “Lady In My Life” not too long ago. He somehow managed to make the track a bit more s*xy and even a bit more uptempo. And while you would immediately assume that taking it out of its essence would make such a remake trash, I found myself bobbing my head and grooving to it. The guitar on the track is hot and his voice still works, ya’ll! But what do you think of the remake?
Blackstreet – “Billie Jean Remix (No Diggity)”
A remix of sorts to “No Diggity,” Blackstreet gave “Billie Jean” new flavor with the help of bandmate, producer extraordinaire, and MJ collaborator Teddy Riley. The song left the pop realm with the R&B makeover, and while the vocals are pretty great (aside from Riley using that damn autotune), I just don’t know if I’m feeling it all that much. Maybe it’s the repetitive use of the phrase “No Diggity”? It’s cool, but I would rather stick to jamming to the much faster and much better original.
SWV – “I Wanna Be Where You Are”
Their take on “Human Nature” with “Right Here” wasn’t the only time SWV tried to cover Michael Jackson. In fact, they covered “I Wanna Be Where You Are” in 1998 for the soundtrack of the rom-com, Hav Plenty. The song was put together with the help of Missy Elliott and its new groove screamed ’90s. I was actually pleasantly impressed by their take on the song, but then again, when you have the vocals of someone like Coko, could these ladies ever really do any type of wrong?
Boyz II Men – “Human Nature”
People love to mess with “Human Nature,” right? And this version by the men of Boyz II Men was actually a pretty formidable one. Reminded me of something from a coffee shop performance as stripped down as it was with the drums, and acoustic guitar. Very gorgeous, because we all know these brothas can SANG! The song was featured on their album Throwback, Vol. 1 and they captured what is important when messing with the legends–you’ve got to be different. Shout out to Claudette Ortiz from City High, whose vocals are also featured on the track!
Celine Dion – “Man In The Mirror”
You would assume that since it’s Celine Dion of all people, with those amazing vocal abilities, that she would absolutely slay a song like “Man In The Mirror.” Well, she did okay. I definitely thought she would bring it a bit more. At least get a little funky with Mike’s ad-libs, boo! But alas, she kept it the safe route while performing the song during her popular show in Las Vegas, Celine. She’s still fabulous because she’s the untouchable Celine Dion, but if you’re not going to put your toe in that joint, I wouldn’t really bother to mess with it.
R. Kelly – “You Are Not Alone”
Okay, so the thing about this song is that it was originally said to be written by R. Kelly, and was written as he was going through a particularly hard time in life. However, in Belgium, songwriters claimed R. Kelly ripped it from then and a court over there declared that Kellz plagiarized the lyrics. Therefore, the song credits are attributed to them and the song as a whole is banned in Belgium. Dramatic, eh?
Anywho, Kelly didn’t let that ruling hold him back, as he’s still considered the songwriter here in the states. And after the death of his “idol,” he covered the track for his album Love Letter in 2010. While I hate the unnecessary beat they put in the background, R. Kelly definitely sounds good, even during his attempts to hit the same notes as MJ. Plus, you can always count on R. Kelly to throw a gospel choir in near the end of every emotional ballad…
Miles Davis – “Human Nature”
Okay, so he wasn’t singing Michael per se, but Davis tackled “Human Nature” and all the lyrics in it the only way he knew how–through that trumpet. He performed the song in 1990 and in his own way, made it even more awesome (not as amazing as the original). And if that wasn’t enough for you, jazz man (sax man to be more specific) Grover Washington brought the house down with his own take on “I Can’t Help It,” funking it up just a bit. Or make that, funking it up a whole lot. Check that jam out as well!
Grover Washington – “I Can’t Help It”
Floetry – Butterflies
This beloved track was actually written by Marsha Ambrosius (and Andre Harris), but it was given to Jackson to deliver it, in only the way he could, to the masses. It was featured on his comeback album, Invincible, in 2001, and was said to be Jackson’s favorite song on the album. But Floetry has performed the track (while they were together) as a duo many times, and in all honesty, it was theirs first. And every time I’ve watched them do it, they’ve absolutely slayed it. Even Natalie’s spoken word moments in the chorus add a great deal to the song. Classic!