I’ll be real with you: I’m a fan of electric guitars and bass drops as much as the next person, but sometimes it’s nice to sit back and unplug from those musical tropes every once in a while. The best way to do that, in my opinion, is through the timeless bliss of the acoustic. Here are some of my favorite acoustic covers of popular music:
- Justin Bieber: “What Do You Mean” – Covered by TJ Brown
Using a loop pedal for his arrangement, Brown is able to successfully replicate the complexity of the original version of this song while still maintaining the smooth, crisp sound of his guitar. No matter how many times I watch this video, I am always impressed by how quickly and how beautifully he was able to construct this familiar track.
- Radiohead: “Creep” – Covered by Chase Eagleson
While definitely simpler than the previous entry, Eagleson’s cover is all it needs to be: clean, powerful, and evocative of the original’s angst. The control Eagleson has over his voice in this track is what really sells me on it.
- Arctic Monkeys: “Do I Wanna Know” – Covered by Hozier
Almost a complete departure from Arctic Monkeys’ original version, Hozier does what he does best in this BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge cover. Stripping down the original’s energy to a crawl with the addition of strings and some great backup singers, the song transforms into one of the most soothing pieces of music I think I’ve ever heard. Now this technically isn’t a purely acoustic cover (given the electric guitar in Hozier’s hands), but I think the feel of this track earns it a spot on this list.
- OutKast: “Hey Ya” – Covered by Avriel & the Sequoias
Speaking of complete departures from the original version, enter the folkiest cover of a song you will ever witness. “Banjo” isn’t generally the word you’d expect to hear when discussing OutKast’s funky smash-hit of the early 2000s, and yet here we are. Enjoy.
- Fetty Wap: “Trap Queen” – Covered by Ed Sheeran ft. the Roots
Ed Sheeran, despite the sappy love songs he’s known for, is no stranger to hip-hop. Over the course of his career, the artist has explored many different sectors of the genre, covering tracks ranging from Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” to Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” with nothing but his staple acoustic guitar. This cover in particular stands out to me because of the Roots’ addition, whom I find add a whole new level of depth to the track.
- The Chainsmokers: “Closer” – Covered by Boyce Avenue ft. Sarah Hyland
Once again, I please ask you to ignore the single electric guitar lingering behind the acoustic guitar, cajón, and other assorted acoustic instruments that make up the majority of the track. Cool? Cool. A far cry from the overproduction associated with the Chainsmokers, Boyce Avenue’s approach here takes the complex drop of the original track and compresses that down into a simple guitar riff. Also, apparently Sarah Hyland can sing. Like really well. Phil and Claire must be so proud.
- Frank Sinatra: “Fly Me to the Moon” – Covered by Julien Mueller
Originally performed on the streets of Rennes in France, this live performance of the Sinatra classic really shows just how good of a musician Mueller is. You’d be hard-pressed to find a note he missed through the whole video, even when he decides to imitate the brass section with just his voice.
- Jon Bellion: “Stupid Deep” – Covered by…Jon Bellion
Though I tried to limit this list to just covers performed by other artists, this is just too good. Bellion’s rearrangement of his own song, the third single from his most recent album Glory Sound Prep (2018), is one of the most beautiful and honest pieces of music I have ever heard. You can tell that a lot of work went into this one, and it is very much appreciated.