According to Wikipedia, the term “cover” goes back decades when a cover version originally described a rival version of a tune recorded to compete with the recently released (original) version. It’s so much more than that however!
A brief breakdown of terminology is in order as there are at least a couple different types of Cover categorizations. A Cover can be as simple as a re-record of a song just by a different artist than that who originally released the song. This new rendition, is a reproduction, and if done properly can often be mistaken for the original. A re-imagination, becomes a reinterpretation altogether from the original and may involve changing many components that are contained in the original like tempo, key, melody line or the structure itself. Many artists try and infuse their own style into this new incarnation by doing things like stripping down the instrumentation from the original take or perhaps doing a full orchestration with sound design known as trailerizing.
The thing that is so appealing about doing covers is that it gets to showcase an already popular song along with the individual personality of the artist. This translates into a win-win for those syncing music to picture as a well-known tune that can be utilized in a unique fashion while still maintaining a sense of familiarity about it. Not to mention, that it offers a new revenue stream for music publishers that own the copyright.
Remember, when you record a cover, you own the rights to just the recording itself (Master). However, the Publisher still maintains ownership of the original copyright. You will need permission from the publisher for you to distribute the song they own the rights to.
Many extremely popular songs throughout history are actually just Covers. In fact, some may argue that they are much more enjoyable than their original counterparts. Did you know that the following are all Covers?
“Respect” (Aretha Franklin cover of an Otis Redding song)
“Twist and Shout” (Beatles cover of an Isley Brothers song)
“Nothing Compares 2 U” (Sinead O’Connor cover of a Prince song)
“Hallelujah” (Jeff Buckley cover of a Leonard Cohen song)
“I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston cover of a Dolly Parton song)
“For Once in My Life” (Stevie Wonder cover of a Jean DuShon song)
“Killing Me Softly” (The Fugees cover of a Roberta Flack song)
Other great Cover songs can be found here: https://bestlifeonline.com/cover-songs-better-than-original/
For a deep dive into the origins of how covers were first used in movie trailers, try this article from the New Yorker:
TUNEDGE even has a modest collection of well-done and reimagined Covers to check out: