10 Acoustic Versions Of Rock Songs That Rival Their Originals
Foo Fighters – Everlong
Every child of the late-’90s or early-’00s has cried (or been around crying people) to the acoustic version of the Foo Fighters’ Everlong. Some might think that replacing the surging power of Dave Grohl’s guitars and vocals would strip the song of its power. Instead, this softly insistent track reminds us that the moments that make us wish that ‘anything could ever feel this real forever’ are often quiet, simple, and beautiful.
Alice In Chains – Would?
Among the many incredible renditions on Alice In Chains’ Unplugged album, Would? Is especially haunting. There’s something to the track’s dark, jazzy rhythms and the Jerry Cantrell/Layne Staley vocal harmony that, without the big rock kick, feels arcane, like part of a black magic ritual. A rare moment when a distortionless version of a song sounds more satanic than the original.
Incubus – Pardon Me
Weirdly enough, the acoustic version of Pardon Me feels more like the song’s original version than the actual original version. With this cover, Incubus showed how sweet and pretty the melody behind their smash hit was, to the point where one wonders if there even needs to be an electric version. Both are awesome, to be sure, but it’s the acoustic cover that really brings down the house and displays the band’s range.
Bon Jovi – Wanted Dead Or Alive
It’s easy to think of Wanted Dead Or Alive as an acoustic track in the first place, given that most of the song is a steely cowboy anthem. But in true Bon Jovi fashion, it ends with a big guitar solos and drum kick. The acoustic cover – as performed by JBJ and guitarist Richie Sambora – keeps the song at the lonely prairie level at which you secretly wanted it to remain.
Nirvana – Come As You Are
The Nirvana episode of MTV’s Unplugged might be the most iconic instalment of the show, and with good reason. Without waves of distortion to back them up, the band are raw and vulnerable, with Kurt Cobain especially on display as a human being. This version of Come As You Are shows how much that track relies on Cobain’s honest humanity rather than the nihilistic onstage personality a lot of people are familiar with.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps
On its own, Maps by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is heartbreaking. But without the plucky indie rock of the original backing it, the track is truly gut-wrenching. When made small and simple, the song takes on a plaintive, hypnotic vibe, coming off not as a soaring romantic anthem but rather as a plea played in the tiny back room of a venue.
Paramore – Decode
In its original form, Paramore’s Decode has a ton of moving parts in it: winding guitar leads, huge drum fills, and of course Hayley Williams’ pained vocals. But as an acoustic track, the listener can pick out more of soul of the song. The focus obviously falls on Hayley, whose singing shines at the surface. But even then the acoustic guitar accompaniment shows just how many of the song’s big lode-bearing pieces are also sweet and touching in their composition alone.
Smashing Pumpkins – Disarm
Disarm is another one of those songs that sounds like it should’ve been acoustic in the first place. If you took the original Smashing Pumpkins track and got rid of the sweeping orchestral instruments and church bells, you’d still be left with the kind of alt.rock song that reaches down into your soul. Whether amplified or acoustic, no-one does turmoil like Billy Corgan.
Hole – Doll Parts
There’s something about Hole that sounds creepily childish, touching on experiences of youth that feel depressingly complicated in hindsight. And Doll Parts is better as an acoustic track for that very reason – it feels as though it should be strummed in an attic by a kid trying to drown out their shouting parents. As such, the acoustic version of the song gets at its core, adding to the strange, beautiful discomfort that Hole do so well.
Bandits Of The Acoustic Revolution – Dear Sergio
This one technically breaks the rules of this list, as Bandits Of The Acoustic Revolution is its own band and this is more of a cover than an acoustic version. But the group is made up of members of Catch-22, who originally performed this song, so we’ll allow it. While Dear Sergio is fun as a jaunty ska-punk track, it’s even better as a rambling acoustic song, with strings and horns adding a poignant folkish quality to it. The perfect soundtrack to a long drive through open country.
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