Helmed by actresses like Zooey Deschanel and seasoned veterans like Linda Ronstadt and Eva Cassidy, the 10 best female cover songs combine rich, stunning vocals with inspiring lyrics and impressive instrumentals to produce lasting songs that have brought fame to singers like Whitney Houston and LeAnn Rimes and have even come to outshine the originals.
- “The Wolves” by Ellie Goulding Originally written and performed by Bon Iver for their debut 2008 album “For Emma, Forever Ago,” Ellie Goulding’s faithful cover is as sweet and soulful as the original with Goulding adding her own take with heavy reverb and her rich, echoing vocals.
- “You Really Gotta Hold on Me” by She & Him Performed by actress and singer-songwriter Zooey Deschanel of She & Him, this soft and mellow cover of the Smokey Robinson classic is one of the best female cover songs redone as a delicate ballad featuring Deschanel’s charming and soulful vocals.
- “Blackbird” by Evan Rachel Wood By far one of the best female cover songs ever performed, this beautiful cover of the 1968 Beatles classic was performed by actress Evan Rachel Wood for the Beatles-inspired 2007 film “Across the Universe.” Filmed in one complete take, Wood’s rich vocals take the lead with close to no instrumental backing and is made all the more impressive by the fact that the song was sung on the spot and stands “as-is” without any redubbing in post production.
- “Songbird” by Eva Cassidy Written by Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie for their 1977 album “Rumours,” Eva Cassidy’s cover of “Songbird” is considered one of the best female cover songs of all time. Lyrical and haunting, the cover is the title song of Cassidy’s album “Songbird,” released two years after her death from cancer in 1996.
- “How Do I Live” by LeAnn Rimes Released by Trisha Yearwood in 1997 for the action film “Con Air,” Rimes’s cover of the song was originally written for her and was released that same year. Rimes’s cover became a major pop hit and catapulted Rimes to stardom. The single was featured on her album “You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs” and spend a record-breaking 69 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
- “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston Written and released by country singer-songwriter Dolly Parton in 1974, Whitney Houston’s cover of the soundtrack for the 1992 film “The Bodyguard” featured tenor saxophone by Grammy-nominated artist Kirk Whalum and became a worldwide sensation. A favorite of countdown lists, the song ranked 68 on Billboard’s Greatest Songs of All Time.
- “Bold Riley” by The Wailin’ Jennys Performed by Canadian trio The Wailin’ Jennys from their 2008 concert at Pennsylvania’s Mauch Chunk Opera House, “Bold Riley” closed the show and is definitely one of the best female cover songs ever performed. This traditional sea shanty sent the crowd into wild applause with alto Heather Masse and mezzo Nicky Mehta in perfect harmonization with soprano Ruth Moody—all backed by an exceptional arrangement of cello and violin.
- “Anywhere I Lay My Head” by Scarlett Johansson The 2008 debut album of actress Scarlett Johansson featured a number of Tom Waits covers, among them the title track, originally performed by Waits on his 1985 album “Rain Dogs.” Panned by critics, the album is a faithful homage to Waits and this song is no exception. Johansson’s deep, smooth, feminine vocals are backed by stirring instrumentals, creating what is undoubtedly one of the best female cover songs of the decade.
- “Your Song” by Ellie Goulding The first single from “Bright Lights” and the re-release of the 2010 debut album “Lights” by British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding, this Elton John cover is softer and slower than the original and features less piano. Goulding’s sharp vocals combine with a backing of cellos, giving this poignant cover a deserving place among the best female cover songs.
- “Blue Bayou” by Linda Ronstadt Originally written and performed by Roy Orbison, Linda Ronstadt breathed new life into this sentimental cover, taking the song to number three on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1977 and was the first of three Gold singles for Ronstadt.
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