Michael Jackson

Playlist: Songs Recorded in a Different Language

Image result for madonna veras

Back when releasing singles meant more than just posting a link, it was common for artists to record their songs in different languages. Most of them were region exclusive, making it a treasure trove for collectors. Plus, it was a nice treat for international fans. The practice isn’t as common today, but once in a while, contemporary artists will flex their language skills. Here are just a handful of artists who recorded songs in another language.

“Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu”/“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – Michael Jackson

This duet between Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret was the debut single from 1987’s Bad and was the first in a string of five number one singles for the singer. A special edition 12” single featured a Spanish re-recording of the track dubbed “Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu.” The song sounds just as sappy as the English version, but with more cringe inducing pronunciations. While the hook sounds just as pretty as the original, Jackson and Garret sound a bit awkward on the rest of the song. Then again, it’s the first time Jackson recorded a song in Spanish. They also recorded a French version, which sounds much better. The song seems better suited for French than Spanish, but at least these versions aren’t terrible.

“Gone” – Nsync

Nsync fans may remember the Spanish version of “This I Promise You,” but this version of “Gone” flew under the radar. And it sounds just as good, if not better, than the original. While their vocal delivery is a bit stilted, you can tell they’re not comfortable with the language, their harmonies are on point. They actually sound great singing in Spanish. Justin still gives a powerful vocal delivery filled with all the hurt and anguish of the original. The Spanish version of “This I Promise You” is solid, but this version of “Gone” is far better. It’s a shame it wasn’t as popular as the former song. Though it makes you wonder how other Nsync songs would sound in Spanish. How about a Spanish version of “It’s Gonna Be Me?”

“Mickey” – Toni Basil

“Mickey” is one of those baffling one hit wonders. Why was this annoying song ever a hit? And why can’t you stop singing it? It’s one of those songs you hate but will get stuck in your head all day as soon as someone mentions it. For the alternate 12” single, Basil recorded the song in Spanish. And yes, it’s just as annoying. Admittedly, it’s not as aggravating as the English version, but something about it still gets under your skin. Maybe it’s the in-your-face pep rally vibe. Or how Basil keeps repeating Mickey throughout the song. Or because it’s just an awful song no matter what language it’s in.

“Nunca Te Haré Llorar”/“I’ll Never Break Your Heart” – Backstreet Boys

Boy bands recording their big hits in Spanish was a strange phenomenon. But when you think about it, it makes sense. They have fans all over the world, so why not do something special for their non-English followers? BSB added to the trend with a Spanish version of “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” They actually don’t sound bad; their vocals still sound sweet and smooth. And it’s good to know the song is still sappy and cheesy in another language. They also recorded a Spanish version of “Anywhere for You,” but it’s not as good. Hearing Nick Carter trying so hard to enunciate is painful.

“My Cherie Amour” – Stevie Wonder

“My Cherie Amour” is one of those timeless love songs. It’s sweet, easy going, and has a simple, yet unforgettable hook. When it was released in 1969 it charted at number 4 on the Billboard Pop and R&B singles chart. Now, it’s one of Wonder’s most iconic songs. It was so popular, Wonder re-recorded it in Spanish and Italian. Wonder handles both versions well having a pretty good grasp on each language. Both versions still sound as sweet and beautiful as the original. Considering the title, you’d think he’d do a French version. It’s never too late for him to try.

“Veras”/“You’ll See” – Madonna

Madonna has always flirted with Spanish culture ever since her days of visiting “La Isla Bonita.” So it’s no surprise that she recorded her 1995 single “You’ll See” in Spanish. Translated by Argentine singer/songwriter Paz Martinez her voice sounds beautiful, yet haunting. This version of the song still has the chilling, heartbreaking tone as the original. The Spanish lyrics paired with the swirl of Latin guitars complete the bittersweet mood. It’s kind of romantic, but there’s still something sad about it. Madonna later recorded “What It Feels Like For a Girl” in Spanish along with a collaboration with Ricky Martin entitled “Be Careful with My Heart,” which sounds like a strange duet, but actually works quite well.

“Can’t Change Me” – Chris Cornell

The debut single from Chris Cornell’s solo album, Euphoria Morning, received a French version for Japanese, European, and deluxe versions of the record. While his French is a little spotty, his voice still has the same power, emotion, and drive found in the original. He sounds beautiful in this version and his voice will still give you chills. Though it is a bit weird that part of the bridge is in English. The song was translated by Alexis Lemoine, so maybe it was a style choice. It takes you out of the song for a bit, but overall it’s a fantastic reminder of why Cornell was one of rock’s best singers.

“Do Do Do De Da Da Da” – The Police

For a special 7” edition of this single, The Police recorded this song in both Spanish and Japanese. While the Spanish version isn’t bad, the Japanese recording stands out. Japanese can be a difficult language to learn, so a lot of artists opt for an easier language if they want to re-record their songs. Yet, Sting does a pretty decent job here. Sure, he sounds and a bit unnatural, like he’s a first year Japanese student, but he doesn’t sound terrible. Still, it’s better than his new album with Shaggy.

“Helden”/“Heroes” – David Bowie

David Bowie’s groundbreaking single “Heroes” was recorded in English, French, and German. Every version is fantastic, yet each one has a different feel to it. The original is filled with a sense of melancholy while the French version is beautiful and kind of romantic. The German version is bursting with emotion and finds Bowie practically shouting at the top of his lungs by the song’s end. Each version is exciting and has a timeless quality to it. It really shows off Bowie’s talent and how great his crossover appeal was.

“Mi Refljo”/“My Reflection”– Christina Aguilera

In 2000, Christina Aguilera released her second album and her first Spanish album dubbed Mi Reflejo. The record featured cuts from her debut album, like “I Turn To You” and “Genie in a Bottle” recorded in Spanish. But this single from the Mulan soundtrack is one of the best from the album. Whether it’s in Spanish or English, the song is still beautiful and heartbreaking. The way she hits her notes on this version still gives you chills. Even if you can’t understand Spanish, the power of her voice and the emotion she puts behind every word is enough to make you cry. But if you’re looking for another Spanish Aguilera song that won’t choke you up, “Ven Conmigo (Solamente Tú)” is a good choice.

“Boom Clap” – Charli XCX

For the Japanese edition of her second album, Sucker, Charli XCX re-recorded “Break the Rules” and her hit single “Boom Clap” in Japanese. Surprisingly, both songs translate very well and the former actually sounds like it could be by a J-pop girl group. Of course, her Japanese skills aren’t the strongest, but she does a fine job. The songs keep their upbeat vibe and the hook on “Boom Clap” is still so infectious, you’ll find yourself singing the Japanese version in no time, even if you don’t know what she’s saying. Since recording singles in another language isn’t as popular as it used to be, it’s cool to see an artist like Charli XCX do something like this for her fans, especially those in Japan.

“Llámame”/“Call Me” – Blondie

This iconic track received a Spanish recording for a special 12” single meant for release in Mexico and some South American countries. It was later released in the US and the UK and was featured on the 1993 compilation Blonde and Beyond. For the most part, this version is spot on, even Debbie Harry sounds decent singing in Spanish. But things get clunky around the hook which finds her repeating “call me” in English. It’s like the translators decided “Llámame” didn’t sound as catchy and stuck with the original.

“Héroe”/“Hero” – Mariah Carey

No matter what you think about Mariah Carey, she has a killer voice. Her powerful vocals and those impossible high notes she hits are enough to give you chills. She brings that same talent to the Spanish version of “Hero.” This version was recorded for the international release of her album, Music Box, and was translated by Jorge Luis Piloto. The song is gorgeous and Carey sounds confident while singing in Spanish. This version even charted on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs. She’d later record “Open Arms” and “My All” in Spanish, but after a mistranslation snafu with the latter song, it seems like we won’t be hearing sing in another language for a while.

There are a lot more artists who recorded in another language so which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

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Mini Music Review: Scream – Michael Jackson

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 6/10

Scream is the most ridiculous posthumous release from the Michael Jackson estate. The compilation collects what the Jackson estate calls Jackson’s “most electrifying and danceable tracks.” In other words, it’s a bunch of songs you already own. It seems they wanted to theme the release around Halloween and his “spooky” songs, which explains why Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” and The Jackson’s “Torture” is featured. Though it doesn’t justify why “Dirty Diana,” “Xscape,” and “Leave Me Alone” are included.

While the music is good, obviously, the release is just pointless. The only “new” track is the “Blood On the Dancefloor x Dangerous” remix by The White Panda. And it’s pretty shitty. The estate is clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one. Not that the other posthumous releases were great, but at least they gave us something new. Here, they’re repacking songs you already own under a loose theme.

If you’re a new fan it may be something to grab, but if you own all of Jackson’s records or any other greatest hits LP, then there’s no need to buy Scream. It’s a sad cash grab to sucker more money out of fans. They’re most likely banking on orders of the vinyl edition, which boasts a glow-in-the-dark disc. It won’t be long before this release finds its way to the bargain along with 2009’s Michael.

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker

Moonwalker is a weird, ambitious project by Michael Jackson. Released in 1988, the video is a collection of short segments all featuring Jackson. There’s no continuous narrative; just a lot of weirdness. The singer wanted the movie to be screened in theaters, but the budget fell through and was released straight to video instead. A video game of the same name was also released as a tie-in, but that’s for another day. To celebrate Jackson’s 59th birthday I wanted to look back on this movie, which is still one of my favorites.

It used to fill up many bored afternoons when I was a kid and it’s still something I love watching today. Whenever I need a good laugh or just want to smile, I put this on and get lost in Jackson’s weird, wonderful world for a little bit. It’s full of flaws and portions of it are ridiculous as hell, but it’s charming and a lot of fun. It’s hard to imagine this doing well in theaters since there really isn’t a plot. It’s more like a collection of segments all involving Jackson. Still, it’s an interesting project that reminds us what a visionary he was.

The film starts with a powerful performance of “Man in the Mirror” making you think that it’s a concert film. Then it goes straight into the best part, the retrospective. Following Jackson from the Jackson 5 all the way up to Bad, it’s a fun, creative look back at the music and career defining moments. This part has always been my favorite for the popping effects, different animation styles, and the great energy. Highlights include a Claymation Jackson 5 singing “ABC,” a stop-motion robot joining Jackson on “Dancing Machine,” a mini “Human Nature” video, and a creepy ode to “Ben.” Throughout, we also see related memorabilia, award ceremonies, and magazine covers showing what a big deal the singer was at his peak.

Once we reach the Bad era, we see condensed versions of “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Dirty Diana” before getting to ”Badder.” The strange segment features a bunch of kids recreating the “Bad” video with scary accuracy. This has always been another one of my favorite parts. I still love separating the good kids from those who just don’t have it (looking at you midriff kid). Did we need kids to recreate this video? No, but it’s charming and cute. Try not cracking up at the ten-year old with a five o’clock shadow.

Once mini-Jackson is done with his dance off, adult Jackson returns and proceeds to be chased down by weird, unsettling big headed people. Again, a very weird part of the film, but it’s a blast to watch. Even Jackson looks like he’s having a good time with a big smile rarely leaving his face. While on the run, he runs into a talking Statue of Liberty, chubby twin bikers who he’s clearly disgusted by, Stephen Spielberg losing his shorts, and a bunch of screaming fans. It’s a creative romp taking the piss out of Hollywood and obsessive fandom.

So how does Jackson make it out of this situation? With the help of his friend, Spike. He suits up as a Jackson-esque bunny and leads into the “Speed Demon” video. This is where the Claymation shines. Spike turns into different celebrities of the era, like Pee Wee, Tina Turner, and Sylvester Stallone. And there are clever jokes throughout the segment, like a stop at “Frank in a Box” named after his manager Frank DiLeo and even Jack Nicholson in the car chasing him. The video ends with a memorable dance off between Spike and Jackson. Yes, the whole thing is weird, but it’s imaginative. You get so sucked into the world you don’t even question how a bunny costume came to life. It perfectly shows off the child-like wonder Jackson often flaunted throughout his life.

After an interlude featuring the stop-motion “Leave Me Alone” video, we get to the extended “Smooth Criminal” segment. Sigh. Even as a kid I never really liked this part. Though the segment does look pretty slick, it’s confusing, poorly acted, and makes no sense. It follows Jackson and a group of homeless kids as they go up against Mr. Big (Joe Pesci) because Jackson found his drug den…or something. It’s not really clear why Mr. Big is trying to kill him. Also, it’s never clear what kind of world we’re in. Why are the kids homeless? Where are all the other adults? Why exactly does Mr. Big want to get kids high? And we can’t ignore that Jackson is somehow magical in this world. During the video, he turns into a car, a rocket ship, and a giant fucking robot. And the kids never find this strange. They go along with it as if it’s not weird for a man to turn into a fucking car.

They’re also never sure how to feel about Jackson. At one point he’s their friend and are concerned with finding him. When Katie finds him and points it out the other kids respond “so?” When he turns into a robot they act a little surprised but never bother to bring it up again. And when he flies over them as the rocket ship at the end, they say “Bye Michael” as if he just got on a bus. And let’s not forget how Club 30 is an abandoned, dusty place when the kids find it. But Jackson walks in and it’s a hopping bar from the 20s, which he proceeds to start trouble in. What exactly is going on here?

After defeating Mr. Big and his faceless soldiers, Jackson comes back after Katie makes a wish and whisks the kids away to a precarious backstage area with sparking plugs never explaining to the kids what the fuck just happened. Suddenly, he’s on stage performing “Come Together” in front of John Lennon’s kid. What is even happening? No bothers to pull him aside and say “Michael, what are you exactly?” The kids just take it as is and we’re supposed to say “this is fine.”

Honestly, it was hard to sit through this segment again. The entire time I wanted to skip straight to “Smooth Criminal” and turn off the rest. While I was willing to never question anything in the first segments, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief here. Perhaps if there was a flowing story to follow it wouldn’t be so bad. But there is little explanation for anything we see. The “Smooth Criminal” video itself is great, minus the weird breakdown, but the “story” around it is mind boggling. Jackson isn’t the worst actor, but he’s by no means amazing. The highlight is when he turns into the ultimate transformer. The special effects haven’t aged all that well, but there’s something about it that’s still unsettling, especially when he starts shooting crotch rockets. Otherwise, it plays out like bad drug trip starring the King of Pop.

Moonwalker is a unique, yet weird experience tailor made for Jackson fans. For casual fans or anyone who doesn’t like him, it looks like a vain, unintelligible film. It’s a long ad for the Bad album, fans will find it a fun trek through Jackson’s career and his imagination. While the first half of the movie shows off the creative flair the singer had videos, even though it all falls apart with the bigger “story.” It makes sense for Jackson to come up with something so bonkers because it sounds like something a ten-year-old would dream up. This is a movie you don’t take seriously. You’re there to enjoy the cool visuals, Jackson’s dancing, and the kick ass music. If you take it for what it is, you’ll find an anthology that’s a blast to watch especially with friends.

Playlist: Room Service

Hotels can be strange places. While they can represent a lavish lifestyle and living in the lap of luxury, they’re also mysterious, unsettling, and creepy. Why else do you think so many horror movies take place in them? Musicians spend most of their time in and out of hotel rooms around the world, so there are plenty of songs about hotels out there. While some of them view the hotel as a place of comfort or even a wild night, others see it as something mysterious and unnerving. Here are some of the more notable songs about hotels and what happens behind closed doors.

“Hotel Yorba” – The White Stripes

This early White Stripes song features the name of a real hotel in the band’s hometown of Detroit. They actually recorded the single version of this song in room 206 of the hotel. When they wanted to film the video inside the hotel, they weren’t allowed to and used various exterior shots instead. Upon initial release, the song was a hit in England before it was embraced stateside. Now, it’s considered a fan favorite, though for some reason I always disliked this song. Something about the bluegrass and the jaunty melody of the “1, 2, 3, 4” hook was annoying to me.

“Room 13” – Black Flag

Here we see a man on the brink of losing control. He’s at the point of snapping and is not sure whether or not he can make it in the world. At the same time, he wants to live and keeps begging for someone to “keep me alive/I don’t know if I can do it.” The song is brash, in your face, and outright brutal, much like Black Flag themselves. Not only is the song aggressive it leaves you wondering, what the hell is room 13? It’s never mentioned and leaves your mind to wander. Is it part of an insane asylum or prison? We’re never sure. All we know for sure is this guy is about to lose it.

“Hotel” – Cassidy ft. R. Kelly

Anybody actually remember the rapper, Cassidy? Probably not, but in 2003 he had one of the hottest hip hop songs. With R. Kelly by his side, Cassidy talks about using lush hotels to hold lavish parties and convince hotties to creep up to his hotel room. It’s similar to Chingy’s “Holidae In” and Cassidy knows this as he makes references to both that song and the iconic “Rapper’s Delight.” Honestly, it sounds like your typical rap song, but what made this one a hit was the unforgettable hook. Even if you didn’t really like the song you couldn’t help but sing the R. Kelly laced hook. You gotta admit, the man knows how to make earworm hooks.

“Room 21” – Hinder

I always saw Hinder as a sleazy band and they prove it with this song.  Sounding like a Motley Crue song, the band talks about being seduced by an irresistible woman and having a wild night in room 21. When the guy comes to the next morning, the mysterious woman is gone. He’s been used, but it was so good he doesn’t care. It’s the classic tale of excess, sex, and partying. It’s clearly meant to be a fun night to remember instead of a cautionary tale like the other songs on this list.

“Heartbreak Hotel (This Place Hotel)” – Michael Jackson

One of Jackson’s best and underrated songs, it’s about a strange hotel designed to break up couples. In it, the protagonist talks about taking his lover to what he thought would be a romantic night out and instead ends in heartache. The hotel implants two women in his room implying he’s cheating on his lover. He can’t convince her otherwise and he’s left alone. The upbeat music, Jackson’s wails, and the catchy hook distracts you from how weird this song is. A hotel made to break up couples? Just shows you never know what’s happening behind closed doors. To make the song even stranger the song title was later changed to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song.

“Room 309” – Creeper

If you’ve been following Creeper, then you’d know about the major story running across two EPs and their debut album. In a nutshell, the story follows the Callous Heart cult, the stranger, and paranormal investigator James Scythe trying to piece it all together. Room 309 is where James stays at The Dolphin Hotel in Southampton, UK. The story is so massive, it’s best to you check it all out here. As for the song itself, it’s one of the heaviest on the album and packs a major punch, showing off Creeper’s heavier side.

“Twilight Hotel” – Quiet Riot

This quintessential 80s rock band takes us to the titular hotel where “anything goes” and your wildest fantasies will be fulfilled. Frontman Kevin DuBrow sings about a “secret rendezvous” in this place that seems too good to be true. Even though it holds unbridled pleasures, there’s still an air of apprehension about the place. Appearing on their third album, QIII, the song is a typical rock ballad filled with big hooks and shredding guitars. Surprisingly, it’s not as sappy or cheesy as other ballads of the era.

“Room 409” – Bullet For My Valentine

Sometimes you don’t want to know what’s waiting for you in a room as this Bullet song explains. Frontman Matt Tuck sings about a guy walking into Room 409 and finding his girlfriend with another man. Rather than walking out the door, he goes in upset and ready to unleash his violent rage. It’s clear things aren’t going to end well with Tuck singing “[You] said his name and I came in your direction /Now I can choose what to do with both of you.” This territory isn’t new for Bullet. They have lots of songs about getting revenge on a cheating lover, but this one is probably their best.

“Chelsea Hotel #2” – Leonard Cohen

There are plenty of songs about the infamous Chelsea Hotel, but this one is about a once in a lifetime meeting. In 1968, Leonard Cohen was staying at the New York hotel working on his music. At 3 AM he ran into a woman in the elevator and proceeded to strike up a conversation. Turns out, the woman was none other than Janis Joplin. They apparently spent the night together, but their affair would be forgotten in the morning. Cohen penned this song about their meeting in 1971 not too long after her death. It’s a bittersweet account of a night spent together that’s all too fleeting.

“Hotel California” – The Eagles

The mother of all hotel songs. You can’t have a hotel playlist without this Eagles classic.

Playlist: Remembering Chris Cornell

Last month we lost one of the best voices in rock, Chris Cornell. The news came as a shock to fans and those who knew him best. Many are still trying to make sense of the situation and come to terms that he’s gone. He may no longer be with us, but at least we have the gift of his unforgettable music. Not only did he make wonderful music with Soundgarden and on his own, he recorded various covers throughout his career. Whether with Soundgarden or solo, Cornell gave us some of the most chilling and unforgettable covers reminding us why he was a phenomenal singer. To remember Cornell, let’s look at some of his best cover songs.

“Come Together” – Beatles cover from 

Soundgarden takes this psychedelic Beatles song and turns it into a gritty, dirty affair. They bring in the down tuned guitars, sludgy riffs, and screeching guitars, slowing things down and making everything heavy as hell. They manage to turn the song into a bonafide rocker making you want to bang your head and stick up those devil horns. If you didn’t know anything about The Beatles, you’d be convinced Soundgarden were the originators. It may be gritty, yet Cornell’s vocals keep the soulful vibe of the original.

“Whole Lotta Love” – Led Zeppelin cover from Guitar Heaven The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time

When you get one of music’s greatest guitar players along with one of rock’s greatest vocalists, you know you’re in for something good. In 2010, Carlos Santana and Chris Cornell teamed up for a rousing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta love.” While it’s very true to the original, you can’t deny how much it just fucking rocks. Santana lights up the guitar making the iconic riff sound sweeter and sexier. Cornell easily gives Robert Plant a run for his money. He hits every note perfectly reminding you what a great singer he was. The Led Zeppelin version will always be great, but Cornell and Santana almost have them beat with their cover. Why didn’t they do a whole album together?

“Billie Jean” – live Michael Jackson cover

Lots of artists cover this Michael Jackson hit, but no one else brings you to tears with it like Chris Cornell. With only his vocals and an acoustic guitar, his rendition is absolutely haunting. Cornell manages to bring out the underlying darkness of this song that you often forget once you hear that iconic beat. He sings the song as if he’s been through this hell himself. His vocal delivery is so powerful and so intense, it would bring tears to your eyes before his untimely death. Not to mention the violent way he plays the guitar rousing a great reaction from the crowd. It’s not only a memorable performance, it shows how versatile he was as a musician.

“Girl U Want” – Devo cover from “Outshined” single

For the b-side on the “Outshined” single, Soundgarden covered this frantic Devo track. They suck all the bouncy energy and fun vibe out of it and turn it into a sludge fest. Everything is slowed down and played heavily as if the guitar’s a sopping wet with mud. Their version is heavy and somewhat dark with the haunting way Cornell delivers the lyrics. It’s a far cry from Devo’s version; if it wasn’t for the guitar riff you wouldn’t even know they were the same song. They definitely stamped the song with their gritty, raw rock sound.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” – live Sinead O’Connor cover

Cornell had a knack for making his covers sound haunting and somber. So it’s surprising that he managed to make this Prince song sound even sadder. That’s not to say it isn’t lovely. The acoustic rendition is as beautiful as the original and Cornell’s gruff vocals are perfectly suited for the song. There’s even a country vibe to it at times, but it doesn’t last long. Since the instrumentation is subdued, it gives you the chance to hear his singing, which is mesmerizing. It’s enough to give you chills, especially with his untimely passing.

“Imagine” – John Lennon cover from Songbook

The thing about Cornell’s covers is they’re straightforward and simplistic, but it’s his voice that makes them outstanding. It’s no different with this John Lennon classic. This song always had a melancholic mood to it, but when Cornell sings it, it’s enough to break your heart. Here we get the best of both worlds; he gives us a taste of his gruff, powerful vocals he’s known for, but we mostly hear his softer, gentler crooning, which is beautiful. Again, he doesn’t try to make the song his own. Rather he adds his chilling vocals for an unshakeable effect.

“Waiting for the Sun” – Doors cover from Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path

For Soundgarden’s cover of this Doors song, things start out muted and somewhat psychedelic. Cornell sounds like he’s mumbling through the lyrics. Just when you’re ready to nod off, the band kicks into high gear and lets it rip. The distorted guitars, throbbing bass, and pounding drums add a much needed dose of adrenaline to the song. It takes a drug induced classic to something that kicks ass. Whenever you hear that brief pause before everything explodes you’re left waiting in anticipation, waiting for the sweet release. When it finally comes, it’s the most satisfying moment.

“Dear Prudence” – live Beatles cover

Cornell puts his spin on yet another Beatles hit. Cornell is known for his powerful vocals, but for this cover, we get to hear a softer side. With a gentle acoustic guitar setting the mood, Cornell croons this classic never missing a beat. He sounds downright sweet when he hits those high notes at the end of the verses. His quiet, subdued delivery makes the song beautiful. It shows Cornell’s impressive range; he had the chops to make us rock out, but his croons also bring tears to your eyes.

“Cop Killer” – live Body Count cover

Did Soundgarden really cover Body Count’s controversial 1992 song? It sounds too good to be true, but they actually did during one of their Lollapalooza sets. After an impassioned speech from Cornell about exercising your power and not letting others tell you what you can’t do, the band launches into the notorious song. Everything about the performance sounds mad as hell; Matt Cameron beats away at the drum as if trying to break them, while the guitars sound like they’re screeching on their last breath. Cornell gives it his all rallying the crowd for a call to arms. During an unforgettable break, Cornell reassures us the song’s not about killing others, it’s about fighting for your rights. He then launches into a “fuck the police” chant. It’s an exciting, heart-pounding moment that riles you up and gets you ready to fight. Too bad the performance hasn’t been cleaned up and remastered for an official release.

“Hotel California” – live Eagles cover

“Hotel California” is one of those songs everyone knows is good, but no one listens to thanks to the radio playing it to death. Cornell’s acoustic cover makes the song exciting again. It’s a simple, straightforward rendition, but as always, it’s Cornell’s vocals that take it to another level. The grittiness of his vocals makes it sound like he knows what this person’s been through. He adds this harrowing vibe to the song and makes it fresh again. His version reminds you how good the song is. He can’t outdo the original, but his version comes close.

“Thank You” – Sly and the Family Stone cover from John Peel BBC Session 

Soundgarden gets funky for this cover. With a thick bass groove that sounds like it’s summoning Flea, the band lays down a heavy dose of funk mixing it with their heavy, dirty sound. The result is a stellar cover that more people should be talking about. As soon as that opening riff hits and Cornell lets out that wild scream you can’t help but nod your head with an intense feeling of “hell yes!” The band leaves their unmistakable mark on the song, but they manage to keep the soul of the original. And just when you thought the song couldn’t get any sicker, bassist Hiro Yamamoto gives us a hot solo. It’s not only Soundgarden’s best cover, it’s one of the best cover songs out there.

“I Will Always Love You” – live Whitney Houston

You wouldn’t expect a rocker like Chris Cornell to cover this Whitney Houston classic. Performed during a 2012 concert, his version is stripped back with only him and his acoustic guitar. He doesn’t try any fancy tricks with it or even try to make it his own. He just sings it straight. It’s his honest, passionate delivery that makes it so great. Even though the poor audio quality of the Youtube videos, you can hear how amazing he sounds. He holds those soaring notes with ease and his vocals are just as powerful as Houston’s. Though you would expect the cover to make you sad after his death, in a weird way it’s reassuring as if it’s a message to fans and family. His love will always be with us through the music.

Thank you for the wonderful music, Chris Cornell. You won’t be forgotten.