10 Memorable Songs From The ‘00s You May Not Have Known Were Covers

Sometimes I like to go under the covers. No, I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about digging into the histories of some of music’s biggest cover songs, specifically the cover songs that people might not necessarily know are covers.

I loved writing about the backstory of “Torn,” and the three artists who released versions of it before Natalia Imbruglia made it a ‘90s classic.

Following that, I wrote a column with a very similar title to this one about memorable songs from the ‘90s that people may not have known were covers.

This time around I’m getting a little closer to the present, as I’ve found ten great songs from the 2000s that were covers, some of which I didn’t even know were covers until putting this column together!

We’ll kick things off with one of those songs, which is so associated with the artist who covered it, you wouldn’t have ever imagined someone did it before her.

“Don’t Know Why” 

Most of us know of “Don’t Know Why” because it it took home three Grammys for Norah Jones as the lead single from her now diamond certified 2002 debut album Come Away With Me.

The song, however, was written, and released three years prior by NYC-based singer-songwriter Jesse Harris, and appeared on his 1999 album Jesse Harris & The Ferdinandos.


With all due respect to Harris, I think we can all agree “Don’t Know Why” needed Norah Jones, because for as great as the songwriting was, her vocals, and her piano, gave the song a life it didn’t have prior.


I’m not sure there’s ever been a quicker turnaround from when a song was released, to when a cover version of it came out, than “1985.”

We all think of “1985” as a Bowling for Soup classic, but it was originally written and performed by a band named SR-71. The song was included on their third album,Here We Go Again, which was released in May of 2004, but only in Japan, despite the band hailing form Maryland.


Bowling for Soup released their version just two months later, in July of 2004, with a few notable lyric changes that dialed back the malaise of the main character, and instead put more of an emphasis on the passage of time as seen through music, and pop culture.

There are conflicting stories as to how the cover version came to be, and whether SR-71’s Mitch Allan suggested it to Bowling for Soup’s Jaret Reddick, or if Jaret asked Mitch for the song, but apparently all roads lead back to the two bands’ association with producer Butch Walker.

Regardless of how it came to be, we can all be happy it happened. (Also, RIP Tawny Kitaen)


“Don’t Cha”

“Don’t Cha” was the song that introduced The Pussycat Dolls to the world. It was originally intended, however, to introduce another artist to the world – Tori Alamaze.

Written by Busta Rhymes, and CeeLo Green, and produced by the latter, the song was released by Alamaze in 2004 as her debut single.


Alamaze’s version of the song didn’t hit, however, and Universal dropped the former backing vocalist for OutKast.

“Don’t Cha” was then reportedly offered to both Sugababes, and Paris Hilton, with both declining to record it, before it made its way to The Pussycat Dolls.

PCD recorded their version of the song in 2005, with a guest appearance from Busta Rhymes, and it rocketed to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Personally, I think the group vibe of their version was the magic element that was needed for it to become a hit.



“Heaven” is a rare instance where both the original, and cover version, of a song are well known, but fans of the cover have no idea it’s a cover, and fans of the original have likely never heard the cover, or at the very least have never put two and two together.

Anyone who was alive in the ‘80s recognizes “Heaven” as a Bryan Adams classic. The power ballad hit #1 in 1985, becoming his first #1 single.


In 2001, Spain’s DJ Sammy, and Germany’s DJ, Yanou, teamed up to record a dance version of the song with vocals provided by Dutch singer Do.

Putting a totally different spin on “Heaven,” this version reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Both the original, and the cover are equally fantastic, due in large part to being wildly different. 

Again, I’d wager fans of one version of the song have no idea the other version exists.


“I Turn To You”

“I Turn to You” was the ballad that let everyone know a young Christina Aguilera was more than just another pop princess. Originally, however, it was an R&B song from the Space Jam soundtrack performed by the group All-4-One.

All-4-One are best known for their hits “I Swear,” “So Much in Love,” and “I Can Love You Like That.”

“I Turn to You” wouldn’t make an impact for them, however, because the Space Jam soundtrack had a much bigger R&B song on it – R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”

In retrospect, we should’ve focused on All-4-One.


Christina Aguilera’s version of “I Turn to You” was released in 2000 as the third single off her eponymous debut album.

It would ascend all the way to the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100, and put her a notch above her pop peers for her vocal prowess.


“The First Cut Is The Deepest”

Even though I knew this was a cover, I will still always think of it as a Sheryl Crow song.

Written by Cat Stevens in 1967, “The First Cut Is The Deepest” was originally released by singer P.P. Arnold in 1967.


After this, the song was released by Stevens himself, as well as thee other artists – Keith Hampshire, Rod Stewart, and Papa Dee – before Sheryl Crow released her version in 2003.

Whichever artist you heard perform it first is probably the one you associate the song with.

That said, the Papa Dee version is the most amazingly ‘90s thing imaginable!


When it comes to Sheryl Crow’s version, there was something in the sincerity of her vocals that really made it special.

I’m not saying the other versions aren’t also great, but in this case, the sixth cut of the song is the one for me.


“Just Got Paid”

Much like Bryan Adams’ “Heaven,” “Just Got Paid” is a song you associate with one of two artists depending on the generation you’re from, and whichever version you know and love, you likely don’t know the other version exits.

Originally released in 1988 by R&B artist Johnny Kemp, the Teddy Riley penned and produced song was intended for Keith Sweat, but when he turned it down Kemp recorded a demo version so it could be pitched to other singers.

Kemp’s demo was so good it ended up the final version of the song, and a New Jack Swing classic was born.


“Just Got Paid” was introduced to a new generation in 2000 when NSYNC covered it for their No Strings Attached album with Riley reprising his role as producer.

Being that No Strings Attached sold 2.4 million copies in its first week alone (a record at the time), it’s safe to say that even though NSYNC never released it as a single, plenty of folks heard their version of the song.



Once Amy Winehouse sang a song, it became hers, so we can all be forgiven for not knowing the original version of “Valerie” was by an English indie rock band named The Zutons.

Not for nothin’, their version is pretty damned good!


Released in 2006, The Zutons’ “Valerie” sounds nothing like the cover Winehouse provided the vocals for on Mark Ronson’s 2007 album Version. It’s the Winehouse, and Ronson version, however, that’s received placements in multiple movies, as well as a commercial for Amazon’s Echo device.

Also, it’s Amy Winehouse, so it’s an Amy Winehouse song. I don’t make the rules.


“Renegades of Funk”

Rage Against The Machine’s version of “Renegades of Funk,” with Zack de la Rocha’s trademark intense vocals, is an in-your-face blast of energy that you can feel throughout your entire body, and soul.

While that version can now be heard daily on classic rock radio (yeah, we old, yo), the original is an old school hip-hop jam from 1983 by an artist who has tarnished his legacy beyond repair.

“Renegades of Funk” was an Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force song, and Bambaataa, who was one of hip-hop’s founding fathers, cannot be discussed without mention of the countless accusations of abuse that have been levied against him (I wrote about this back in 2016 for RapReviews).


The Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force version of “Renegades of Funk” is important to the development of hip-hop, even if the man himself has turned out be someone no one should look up to.

With that in mind, it’s actually pretty great that Rage Against The Machine covered the song, and made it their own, giving it a new legacy it wouldn’t have otherwise.


“Flying Without Wings”

In America, we remember “Flying Without Wings” as the debut single from American Idol season two winner Ruben Studdard that came out in 2003.

In Ireland, and a dozen or so other countries, they remember “Flying Without Wings” as the chart topping ballad from Irish boy band Westlife that came out in 1999.

The Westlife version is technically the bigger hit, as it was heard in far more countries, and even today the video has more than 10x as many views on YouTube.


Strangely, New Zealand was the only country where both versions of the song were released, and each of them made their way into the Top 20 there, with Studdard’s version ascending all the way up to #2, the same spot where it would peak on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.

Honestly, I like Ruben’s version better, although both are way too schmaltzy for words.


OK, so be honest, how many of those songs did you know were covers?

If your answer is more than five, you probably take home all the winnings at trivia nights.


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