20 Surprising Indie And Rock Covers Of Pop Songs You Need To Hear

Tame Impala recently gave Kylie Minogue’s ‘Confide In Me’ a reverb-heavy makeover on Australian radio station Triple J – but what other indie mainstays have taken on pop songs over the years? Here’s 20 others bands, from the world of indie and rock, who have dipped their toes into glistening pop waters and come out triumphant…

20 Travis – ‘Baby One More Time’ (Britney Spears)

Lover of trilby hats and rock, Travis’ Fran Healey made a bold move in 1999 when he decided to take on this teen pop colossus. Draining the sunshine out of Britney’s hit and replacing it with a rainy day drawl actually worked out rather well for the acoustic warrior – this B-side to ‘Turn’ turned out more popular than its A-side among fans of the Scots.


19 Babes In Toyland – ‘All By Myself’ (Eric Carmen)


Kat Bjelland proves herself a magician here, turning Celine Dion’s mawkishly self-pitying ballad into a righteous battle cry. This cover showcases that classic Babes in Toyland yin and yang: candy-coated, butter-wouldn’t-melt sweetness vs pure, unadulterated rage. At times Bjelland sounds like she’s doing this song while wasted at karaoke, scraping her voice – and herself – off the floor, with nary a fuck given for the pristine aesthetic of Dion’s original.

18 Haim – ‘Wrecking Ball’ (Miley Cyrus)

Pop is hardwired into the Haim DNA – for every gnarled guitar lick in their canon, there’s a sumptuous hook or harmony tailor made for radio to go with it. Recorded for the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, the Haim sisters recently treated Miley’s landmark hit to an All-American massage, imbuing it with a driving, Springsteen edge, plonking it down in 1980s rock territory. Awesome.

17 Manic Street Preachers – ‘Umbrella’ (Rihanna)

The Manics are no strangers to a pop cover or collaboration – in 1997, long before the Welsh group’s decision to take on this Rihanna mega hit, they co-wrote two songs for Kylie’s 6th album ‘Impossible Princess’. Their version of ‘Umbrella’ is lush, trading the Barbados boss’s sass for sweet guitar effects.

16 Electrelane – ‘Smalltown Boy’ (Bronski Beat)


It’s a universal truth that few vocalists can outdo Jimmy Somerville’s heart-stopping wail. Electrelane’s Verity Susman gives it a good bash here though, taking Bronski Beat’s canonical synth-pop smash of 1984 and owning it. It’s as far from novelty as you can get –a prime example of a band paying tribute to a song they revere. Seeing Susman totally lose her shit as the song climaxes only confirms this. Electrelane were made to cover this song.

15 Charli XCX – ‘I Want It That Way’ (Backstreet Boys)

‘Sucker’, the most recent album from riot grrrl-loving Charli XCX, was full of edgy tales of getting wrecked and into all manner of shenanigans. Squeaky clean boy band Backstreet Boys probably would have balked at some of the singer’s subject matter on that record, but surely must have approved of this errant, smoky synth reworking of their late 1990s biggest hit – a total banger.

14 The Offspring – ‘Barbie Girl’ (Aqua)

If you’ve been denied the existence of this lol-a-thon up until now then we are sorry for your loss but believe us – you’re in for a real treat. A supersonic rollercoaster ride of riffs and jokes, The Offspring make Ken sound like he’s had a really heavy night and should probably think about laying off the fags pretty soon. If this is punk sacrilege then we’re going straight to hell.

13 The 1975 – ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ (One Direction)

Another Live Lounge favourite, The 1975’s Matthew Healey sang this like he really bloody meant it. Whether or not it’s a bit of tongue-in-cheek tomfoolery is up to you to decide, but the Manc group’s collision of their synth broodiness with the bubblegum fun of the original is pretty great to behold.

12 Arctic Monkeys – ‘Love Machine’ (Girls Aloud)

One of the greatest stories in contemporary pop ‘n’ roll mythology is the collaboration between Matt Helders and Sarah Harding that sadly never happened, despite strong rumours to the contrary for months and months in Girls Aloud’s hey day. All we have as consolation is this – in which Alex Turner manages to make this cheeky chart-topper sound like The Fall doing country doing Steptoe & Son. Gotta love it.

11 Belle & Sebastian – ‘Dancing Queen’ (ABBA)

Even though this video sounds like the band have assembled their best mates round the pub piano for a drunken sing-a-long, it’s still a chance to hear the Scots doing what they do best: anthemic, soaring and sugary thrills. It’s shambolic, the handclaps almost eclipse the actual singing, and we have no idea where it came from, but we would have loved to have been there.

10 The Flaming Lips – ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ (Kylie Minogue)

What with the recent Miley collab, it’s almost like Wayne Coyne was readying his adventures in pop with this version of Kylie’s glittery dancefoor filler. Packaged up with The Flaming Lip’s inimitable brand of husky, psychedelic melancholia, it comes complete with sad piano, strings and atmospheric drum rolls.

9 Of Montreal – ‘Crazy’ (Gnarls Barkley)

They have a song called ‘Lysergic Bliss’ on an album called ‘Satanic Panic in the Attic’, so it seems only right that Of Montreal should cover ‘Crazy’. Gnarls’ simple but ear-worm-y bass line of 2006 – which stayed at the UK No 1 spot for 9 weeks – has been taken on by a whole host of indie bands, including Mates of States and the Kooks, but this one – despite the shaky live video – rivals the original.

8 Arcade Fire – ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ (Cyndi Lauper)

Sensible-seeming Arcade Fire may not necessarily be the first band you’d choose to hit the town with but this unbuckling of chaos was recorded live at New Orleans Jazz Fest and shows the band having a good laugh with the track. Apparently Cyndi Lauper is one of their all-time favourite artists. Maybe they do want to have fun after all.

7 Teenage Fanclub – ‘Like A Virgin’ (Madonna)

Scotland’s answer to Big Star, purveyors of perfect power-pop Teenage Fanclub, thrashed out a version of Madonna’s 1984 classic and turned it into an instant festival-ready anthem. They recorded the song for their second album The King – which was released on Creation Records in 1991 and we would have loved to have seen Alan McGee’s initial reaction…

6 Bloc Party – ‘Say It Right’ (Nelly Furtado)

In which Kele Okereke manages to make a chart hit sound exactly like Bloc Party. Nelly Furtado once admitted that she didn’t have a clue what this song is actually about but it doesn’t matter because we could listen to Kele sing the shipping forecast and ultimately be pretty happy.

5 The Wombats – ‘Bleeding Love’ (Leona Lewis)

Apparently, if we’re right in believing the amateur video, this was recorded “in a tiny studio in Paris without Tord,” but it’s about as far from French chic as a can of spam: shambolic, puerile, and absolutely smashing.

4 Bowling For Soup – ‘Baby One More Time’ (Britney Spears)

Britney Spears’ songs were invented for reincarnation and this pop-punk second coming by Texas’ Bowling For Soup is another shining testament to the malleability of her repertoire. Turning the original on its head, this is a guitar-driven slab of chugging punk, with a solo bass-line and a vocal echo that wouldn’t sound out of place on a teen movie soundtrack.

3 Bastille – ‘Of The Night’ (Corona)

You probably know this already but Bastile’s 2013 single – which went in at No.2 in the UK – is actually a cover version of a 90s club classic; Corona’s ‘Rhythm of the Night’. It’s more mellowed out and melancholy – perhaps suited to beach bars rather than discotheques – then the original, but certainly no less spectacular.

2 Marilyn Manson – ‘Sweet Dreams’ (Eurhythmics)

Marilyn Manson and Annie Lenox are both forces to be reckoned with, albeit in different ways. In 1998, Brian Hugh Warner – as he was named by his loving parents – turned the Eurhythmics sweet dreams into a bitterly apocalyptic, nightmare and whacked it on his album Mechanical Animals. Just don’t listen to it with the lights out.

1 Ariel Pink – ‘Everybody’ (Madonna)

Madonna’s in the limelight again – why change the habit of a lifetime? It seems like her back catalogue is one of the most popular targets for indie bands looking to rework songs and, listening to this glistening Ariel Pink effort, the divisive 4AD man weaving his way around Madge’s lush vocal, you’ll understand why. A grooving charmer that shows a love and respect for the original. Listen and weep.