By Zachary Swickey
Today marks the 53rd birthday of the greatest person in the history of the universe: Prince.
As a performer, producer, musician and songwriter, he’s simply the best in the business (and he’s apparently quite the baller, too). And though he’s been making music for five decades now, he’s still on top of his game: he just wrapped the massively-successful “Welcome 2 America” tour, and last year’s 20Ten proved that he’s still more than capable of penning a hot jam or ten.
And while Prince has gone on record as hating cover versions of his songs, there are plenty of artists who have done versions of his hits … and, surprise, surprise, they all rule, too. So, in celebration of his big day, here are ten of best covers we could dig up.
“Nothing Compares 2 U,” as performed by Sinead O’Connor
While not exactly a Prince cover (he wrote the song for the Family, a funk band he formed in the 1980s), we couldn’t leave it off the list, since O’Connor’s version is undeniably great. It made her a star when she released it in 1990, and, like so many great songs, there’s also an urban legend attached to it: apparently the two came to fisticuffs when Prince didn’t take kindly to O’Connor’s constant swearing.
“Darling Nikki,” as performed by the Foo Fighters
Oddly, the Foo’s whiskey-drenched cover of “Darling Nikki” became a radio hit despite the fact that it was merely a B-side to their single “Have It All” and was never officially released. Prince must have been quite charmed, because he returned the favor by performing Foo’s “Best of You” live at the 2007 Super Bowl.
“Kiss,” as performed by Tom Jones w/ Art of Noise
Eighties synth-poppers Art of Noise recruited Tom Jones for their cover of Prince’s “Kiss,” and the end result was one of the biggest hits of their career. The song scaled the charts in over ten different countries. The tune takes on a new life when infused with the bravado of Mr. Jones, and helped resurrect his waning career.
“I Would Die 4 You,” as performed by Mariachi El Bronx
Mariachi El Bronx, the alter egos of LA punk thrashers the Bronx, recorded a Spanish-tinged version of “I Would Die For You” for Spin magazine’s compilation tribute Purplish Rain. The song was the group’s first official release and if you’ve ever wanted to hear a Prince tune soaked in the sounds of Mexcio then look no further.
“When Doves Cry,” as performed by Ginuwine
Ginuwine’s upbeat take on “When Doves Cry” was the first single off his totally excellent 1996 debut album. It quickly climbed the charts eventually garnering Ginuwine double platinum status. More importantly it brought to light an up-and-coming producer by the name of Timbaland. And you know the rest of the story …
“I Feel For You,” as performed by Chaka Khan
Similar to O’Connor’s own cover, Chaka Khan’s unique rendition of “I Feel For You” is arguably more identifiable to the masses than Prince’s original version is. With harmonica courtesy of Stevie Wonder and rapping provided by Melle Mel, the tune helped relaunch Khan’s career and made her album of the same name a big hit.
“If I Was Your Girlfriend,” as performed by TLC
Despite the title, Prince’s song is actually sung from a male perspective, which makes TLC’s cover “If I Was Your Girlfriend” from their ’94 breakthrough album CrazySexyCool all the more perplexing. The keyboards on the track ooze the ’90s, and the tune doesn’t stray much from the original, but it’s freakin’ Prince so no complaints here.
“How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” as performed by Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys had no problem renaming her take on the song to “How Come You Don’t Call Me,” helping it to not resemble a text message. It served as the third single from her six-time platinum debut, Songs in A Minor. For a song lamenting past love, it is a rather bouncy, carefree piano tune.
“Let’s Go Crazy,” as performed by Incubus
Incubus’ take on “Let’s Go Crazy” includes the funeral-like organ and eulogy that introduces Prince’s original version and the song’s ferocity is perfect for Incubus to tackle. Guitarist Mike Einziger channels his inner Prince without problem, showcasing his guitar prowess that sounds influenced by the Purple One itself.
“The Beautiful Ones,” as performed by Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey teamed up with Sisqó’s posse Dru Hill for a cover of “The Beautiful Ones” from Prince’s seminal Purple Rain. The slow, haunting song shows a the more emotional side of Mariah. You will also hear the diva hit some notes that are seemingly high enough to shatter glass.