Biggest Cover Versions Of The 1990s

Biggest Cover Versions Of The 1990s

sinead o'connor
Sinead O'Connor. Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collecton.

Some of the biggest hits of the 1990s had originally been performed by other artists. And besides the traditional cover versions, there were also a number of big singles that took their hook from a previous hit thanks to the rise of sampling during that decade. Here’s your year-by-year guide to the biggest remakes of the ’90s.


"Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinéad O’Connor

Peak: number 1

Position on year-end chart: number 1

Written by Princeand later recorded live by him as well – “Nothing Compares 2 U” had originally been released by The Family, a band signed to Paisley Park that featured a number of ex-The Time members in its line-up. The album track was transformed by Sinéad O’Connor into an anguished, tear-jerking (literally) ballad that raced to the number 1 spot in Australia and stayed there for eight weeks, making the Irish singer a household name in the process.


"The Horses” by Daryl Braithwaite

Peak: number 1

Position on year-end chart: number 4

Another song that languished as an album track before being turned into a chart-topper is this second single from Daryl Braithwaite’s 1990 album, Rise. Before it became one of Australia’s unofficial national anthems, “The Horses” had appeared on Rickie Lee Jones’ 1989 album, Flying Cowboys. Featuring backing vocals by Margaret Urlich (who didn’t appear in the music video), the song returned Daryl to the number 1 spot for the first time since 1976 and Sherbet’s “Howzat”.


"Please Don’t Go” by K.W.S.

Peak: number 2

Position on year-end chart: number 7

This cover version was of a song that had already been to the top of the Australian chart before – in 1980 for KC & The Sunshine Band. This dance remake by British trio K.W.S. was inspired by a rival version released by Italy’s Double You. So similar to their cover was the K.W.S. version that legal proceedings ensued, resulting in the finding that there had been copyright in Double You’s arrangement of the song.


"I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston

Peak: number 1

Position on year-end chart: number 2

In the final weeks of 1992, Whitney Houston’s revamp of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” sold enough copies to become the year’s 17th biggest single. But, thanks to the song’s mammoth 10-week run at number 1, it did even better on 1993’s annual countdown. Before being included on the soundtrack of The Bodyguard, “I Will Always Love You” had been released by Dolly twice - firstly in 1974 and then again in 1982 when she re-recorded it for use in The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.


“Love Is All Around” by Wet Wet Wet

Peak: number 1

Position on year-end chart: number 1

This update of the 1967 single by The Troggs was another inescapable chart-topper that owed some of its success to its use in a box office smash. Wet Wet Wet’s version of “Love Is All Around” featured in rom-com Four Weddings And A Funeral and had been chosen by the British band from a list of three songs offered to them. The other two: “I Will Survive” and “Can’t Smile Without You”.


"Stayin’ Alive” by N-Trance featuring Ricardo Da Force

Peak: number 1

Position on year-end chart: number 2

This is where things get tricky. The year-end chart-topper for 1995, “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio featuring L.V., might have made significant use of Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise”, but it wasn’t a cover version as such. The year’s runner-up by British dance act N-Trance, a new take on Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever disco classic “Stayin’ Alive”, also featured rapped verses around the chorus hook from the original – but it was classed as a remake.


"Killing Me Softly” by Fugees

Peak: number 1

Position on year-end chart: number 2

Made famous in 1973 by Roberta Flack, and originally recorded two years earlier by Lori Lieberman, “Killing Me Softly With His Song” was given a hip-hop makeover by Fugees, who also shortened the title. The trio apparently wanted to update the lyrics as well, but the songwriters, Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, who’d also penned the theme tunes for Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, refused.


"Break My Stride” by Unique II

Peak: number 2

Position on year-end chart: number 10

The top-selling single for 1997 (and all-time) was Elton John’s reworking of his own “Candle In The Wind”, while sample-heavy tracks “I’ll Be Missing You” and “Men In Black” also placed higher on the year-end chart, but as far as straight cover versions go, Unique II’s reggae-influenced Eurodance redo of “Break My Stride” performed the best for the year. By reaching number 2, the Austrian one-hit wonders peaked higher than the original 1983 version by Matthew Wilder, who in 1996-97 was enjoying success as the producer of No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom.


"Last Thing On My Mind” by Steps

Peak: number 5

Position on year-end chart: number 18

Jason Nevins’ radical remix of Run-DMC’s “It’s Like That” and the “Islands In The Stream”-sampling “Ghetto Supastar” ended the year higher, but British pop group Steps breathed new life into a Bananarama flop from 1992 to give them a second hit to follow “5,6,7,8”. That said, the appearance of the line-dancing song (which had been deleted in its own right) as a bonus track on the Australian CD single of “Last Thing On My Mind” probably had a little something to do with the song’s chart performance.


"When You Say Nothing At All” by Ronan Keating

Peak: number 3

Position on year-end chart: number 15

He might have ventured away from Boyzone for the first time with this single from the soundtrack to Notting Hill, but Ronan Keating maintained the boy band’s habit of recording remakes. “When You Say Nothing At All” had originally been recorded by Keith Whitley in 1988 and, in 1995, was covered by Alison Krauss and Union Station on a tribute album to the American country singer.

You'll find plenty more awesome 90s throwbacks on our Hits Of The 90s playlist:

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