The 100 Best Songs to Cover as a Bandby Exit 85 on Mar 30, 2023
Updated on May 21, 2023
Table of Contents
- Easy Songs to Cover
- Most Popular Genres to Cover
- Most Popular Decades to Cover
- Top Cover Songs For Bands At Bars
- Top Dance Songs For Cover Bands
In the world of live music, a cover band's success hinges on its ability to captivate and engage audiences. Playing music well isn't always enough; it's important to master the art of reading the crowd, to create memorable experiences that keep people dancing, singing along, and coming back for more. A happy crowds means happy venue owners, increasing your chances of being booked again and earning more money.
The first step to please a crowd is to select songs that will resonate with your audience. So we've compiled a list of the 100 best songs for bands and solo artists to cover. Each song has been carefully selected to cater to various demographics, genres, interests and abilities, to make sure your band's next setlist is a crowd-pleaser!
Easy Songs to Cover
Regardless of your skill level, if you're a band that takes requests and/or plays large set-lists, easy songs are useful because they can be learned quickly, easily remembered, and help build a strong foundation for more complex musical arrangements.
Simpler songs allow bands to focus more on stage presence, audience engagement, and perfecting their sound. They also allow for spontaneous performances when requested by audience members, which can create a more interactive and memorable show.
Here are 10 easy songs your band should explore covering:
- "Horse with No Name" by America
A simple 2 chord progression through the entire song. The repetitive structure makes it easy to learn, as well as an easy sing-along for audiences.
- "Wonderwall" by Oasis
A simple and recognizable guitar riff, as well as its relatable lyrics that speak to the feeling of unrequited love.
- "Wagon Wheel" by Old Crow Medicine Show
A straightforward chord progression and repetitive chorus, with a catchy upbeat melody that gives it infectious energy when played live.
- "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley
An uplifting song with just three chords and a message of hope and positivity.
- "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan
A popular choice for covers due to its universal themes of death and mortality, and a simple, repetitive chord progression that you can learn quickly.
- "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes
A 90s hit that has a simple structure and is easy to sing along to.
- "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
A Southern rock classic written in response to Neil Young's songs "Southern Man" and "Alabama," which were critical of the Southern US States.
- "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison
A straightforward 4 chord progression with a timeless bassline that's fun to play.
- "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC
Most AC/DC songs are surprisingly easy to play, which is not a slight! Creating iconic guitar riffs with just a couple notes is not as easy as it sounds.
- "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton
A slow, romantic ballad, with simplicity and a memorable guitar solo that's both popular and easy to play.
Most Popular Genres to Cover
A strong cover band embraces musical diversity while staying true to its identity and strengths. You likely already have a specific genre that resonates with you. If you're a cover band that only plays rock, we also have a list like this covering the 100 best rock songs to cover. The key is to master a genre that matches your band's persona and connects with your typical audience. Start with this and build a setlist around it, then you can confidently branch out, explore other styles, and add variety while maintaining a unique sound that people associate with your brand.
Here's 35 crowd-favorite cover songs, divided into the top 5 genres that audiences just love to hear: Classic Rock, Pop, R&B/Hip-Hop, Funk/Soul and Country.
Best Rock Cover Songs
- "Nothin' But a Good Time" by Poison
A classic rock anthem with a catchy chorus, upbeat tempo, and feel-good lyrics.
- "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin
A timeless classic with a beautiful, intricate guitar melody.
- "Hotel California" by Eagles
A song with captivating storytelling and an unforgettable guitar solo.
- "Black Dog" by Led Zeppelin
A hard-hitting rock classic with a heavy, bluesy riff.
- "Enter Sandman" by Metallica
A heavy metal anthem with an instantly recognizable guitar riff.
- "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" by Pink Floyd
A thought-provoking song with a catchy chorus.
- "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC
A rock anthem with an iconic guitar riff and powerful vocals.
- "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple
A classic rock hit with one of the most famous guitar riffs in history.
Best Pop Cover Songs
- "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele
Adele's powerful voice and the song's unique blend of pop, soul, and gospel elements made it a chart-topping hit and a modern classic.
- "Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran
With its fusion of pop, dancehall, and tropical house, this infectious hit became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
- "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga
This dance-pop anthem catapulted Lady Gaga to superstardom, featuring her unique fashion sense and a cleverly crafted melody that masks the song's darker undertones.
- "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay
Inspired by a painting of the French Revolution, this anthemic tune features a lush string arrangement and evocative lyrics that celebrate life's triumphs and tragedies.
- "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars
Mars wrote this romantic ballad to celebrate the beauty of imperfection and to showcase his impressive vocal range and songwriting skills.
- "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga
Known for its dark, theatrical visuals and a chorus that's impossible to forget, this pop hit showcases Lady Gaga's versatility as an artist.
- "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen
Initially a folk song, Jepsen transformed it into an infectious pop tune that became a viral sensation and one of the catchiest earworms of the 2010s.
- "Happy" by Pharrell Williams
Originally written for the animated film "Despicable Me 2," this feel-good anthem quickly became a global hit and inspired countless dance videos from fans worldwide.
Best R&B/Hip-Hop Cover Songs
- "No Diggity" by Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre
A smooth, laid-back R&B classic, this song blends sleek production with clever wordplay and features a memorable guest verse from Dr. Dre.
- "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys
A love letter to New York City, this iconic collaboration combines powerful storytelling with an unforgettable piano riff and soulful vocals.
- "Bust a Move" by Young MC
Memorable lyrics, with one of Hip-Hop's most memorable bass grooves, written by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
- "Crazy in Love" by Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z
This powerful, brass-driven song marked Beyoncé's solo debut and showcased her dynamic vocal range and fierce independence.
- "This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan
With its catchy chorus and upbeat tempo, this 90s R&B classic remains a beloved party anthem and a dance floor staple.
- "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang
As one of the first commercially successful hip-hop songs, this groundbreaking track helped introduce rap music to a wider audience and still resonates today.
Best Funk/Soul Cover Songs
- "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder
Featuring a legendary clavinet riff and a funky groove, this timeless hit showcases Wonder's extraordinary musicianship and innovative songwriting.
- "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor
A disco-era anthem of resilience and empowerment, this song has become a symbol of overcoming adversity, with Gaynor's powerful vocals taking center stage.
- "Brick House" by Commodores
With its infectious bassline and funky guitar riffs, this 70s hit remains
- "Respect" by Aretha Franklin
Originally written by Otis Redding, Franklin transformed it into a powerful feminist anthem with her iconic vocals, establishing herself as the "Queen of Soul."
- "Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry
Inspired by a real-life encounter at a nightclub, this funk-rock classic features an infectious beat and an unforgettable guitar riff.
- "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
This soulful duet, written by the legendary songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson, has become a symbol of love and perseverance.
- "Soul Man" by Sam & Dave
With its catchy horn section and energetic vocals, this soul classic has been a staple in popular culture, featured in movies, commercials, and television shows.
Best Country Cover Songs
- "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash
Originally written by June Carter Cash, this song features mariachi-inspired horns and Cash's distinctive voice, making it one of the most iconic country songs of all time.
- "Jolene" by Dolly Parton
Written by Parton about a woman trying to steal her man, this haunting ballad showcases her incredible storytelling abilities and has been covered by countless artists in various genres.
- "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks
With its relatable lyrics and infectious chorus, this honky-tonk anthem helped propel Brooks to country music superstardom.
- "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver
Evoking nostalgia for rural life, this timeless classic has become an unofficial anthem for the state of West Virginia and a beloved favorite worldwide.
- "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers
This storytelling song about a poker player sharing life advice became one of Rogers' signature hits, reflecting his unique ability to merge country and pop music.
- "I Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash
With its distinctive "boom-chicka-boom" rhythm and heartfelt lyrics, this song established Cash as a pioneering artist in the world of country music.
Most Popular Decades to Cover
It's important for a cover band to cater to different demographics and age groups. The 5 most popular decades of music to cover are: 1980s, 1990s, 1970s, 2000s, and 1960s. Knowing which decade your audience is interested in can greatly impact your band's success.
Best 60s Cover Songs
- "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones
A rebellious anthem that defined a generation, this song features one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in rock history.
- "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles
The band's first US number one hit, this joyful song marked the beginning of Beatlemania and the British Invasion.
- "My Girl" by The Temptations
With its sweet harmonies and heartfelt lyrics, this Motown classic remains a favorite for slow dances and romantic moments.
- "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & the Papas
Inspired by a longing for warmer weather, this dreamy song captures the essence of the 60s counterculture movement.
- "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys
A pioneering track in the use of unconventional instruments and recording techniques, this song is regarded as one of the finest examples of 60s pop music.
- "Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix
A great 60s throwback for high-energy rock performances.
Best 70s Cover Songs
- "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
This Southern rock anthem is a staple at parties and live events, with a guitar riff and chorus that everyone knows, no matter where you're from.
- "Staying Alive" by Bee Gees
Not everybody can pull off the falsetto vocals. But if you can, this disco-era hit is an iconic symbol of the 70s, and a favorite on dance floors worldwide.
- "Imagine" by John Lennon
As a call for peace and unity, this timeless song showcases Lennon's heartfelt songwriting and has been embraced by generations.
- "Just What I Needed" by The Cars
This classic new wave sound with an iconic guitar riff and opening intro is a great choice for energizing audiences.
- "Hotel California" by Eagles
A haunting ballad with captivating storytelling and an unforgettable guitar solo, this song has become one of the most iconic tracks of the 70s.
- "American Pie" by Don McLean
A nostalgic ballad that pays tribute to the musicians of the late 50s and early 60s, making for easy crowd participation and reflective moments.
- "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire
With its irresistible groove and uplifting lyrics, this funk/soul classic remains a party staple and a celebration of the joy of music.
Best 80s Cover Songs
- "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey
An anthem of hope and perseverance, this power ballad features soaring vocals and an unforgettable keyboard riff, making it an 80s classic.
- "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses
Combining a melodic, intricate guitar intro with powerful vocals, this song became an instant rock classic and a staple of 80s music.
- "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell
Originally a 60s soul song, Soft Cell's synth-driven version became an 80s new wave classic and a dance floor favorite.
- "Every Breath You Take" by The Police
With its haunting melody and stalker-themed lyrics, this chart-topping hit showcases the band's unique blend of rock, pop, and reggae.
- "Take on Me" by A-Ha
Known for its catchy synth riff and groundbreaking music video, this 80s pop hit remains a beloved classic and a popular choice for cover bands.
- "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper
A feminist anthem with a danceable beat, this song helped establish Lauper as a pop icon and a voice for female empowerment.
- "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi
This anthemic rock song features a memorable talk box effect and a sing-along chorus, making it an enduring favorite for fans of 80s rock.
- "I Love Rock 'n Roll" by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
A powerful, rebellious anthem, this song showcases Joan Jett's gritty vocals and helped cement her status as a rock legend.
Best 90s Cover Songs
- "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
The song that defined the 90s and launched a new genre of Grunge. It's an easy one too, that every rock cover band can have in their back pocket.
- "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" by Jet
Another catchy bass line, with an upbeat tempo, memorable chorus that people love to sing to.
- "No Scrubs" by TLC
With its catchy chorus and empowering message, this R&B classic remains a popular choice for female vocalists and girl groups.
- "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston
Originally written by Dolly Parton, Houston's powerful rendition became one of the best-selling singles of all time and a beloved ballad.
- "Black or White" by Michael Jackson
A call for racial unity, this pop-rock hit features an infectious guitar riff and a groundbreaking music video.
- "Wannabe" by Spice Girls
This catchy, upbeat pop song introduced the world to Girl Power and became an emblem of the 90s pop culture.
- "Zombie" by The Cranberries
With its haunting melody and poignant lyrics, this song remains a powerful anti-war statement and a 90s alternative rock classic.
- "Santeria" by Sublime
An easy 90s crowd-pleaser, Santeria oddly, is inspired by a real-life event in which the dalmatian of the band's lead singer Bradley Nowell, was stolen and held for ransom.
Best 2000s Cover Songs
- "Hey Ya!" by OutKast
A genre-defying hit, this song's catchy melody and upbeat tempo made it a dance floor favorite and a pop culture phenomenon.
- "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers
With its driving guitar riff and infectious chorus, this anthemic song became an indie rock staple and a defining hit of the 2000s.
- "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira ft. Wyclef Jean
Fusing Latin, reggae, and pop influences, this energetic hit showcases Shakira's unique vocal style and global appeal.
- "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes
Known for its iconic bass line (that nearly every rock bassist already knows verbatim), this song's minimalist arrangement and powerful lyrics helped it become a modern rock classic.
- "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley
A genre-blending hit that combines elements of soul, electronic, and rock, this song's catchy hook and introspective lyrics made it one of the most unique hits of the 2000s.
- "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse
With its throwback sound and brutally honest lyrics, this song showcased Winehouse's immense talent and established her as a modern soul icon.
Top Cover Songs For Bands At Bars
Playing cover songs at bars is like hitting the jackpot of audience engagement. With the right mix of familiar melodies and memorable lyrics to chant, you can turn a quiet night into a full-blown party. The secret lies in choosing songs that people can't resist singing along to, especially once they've had one too many!
Here are 10 songs a drinking crowd can't resist:
- "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks
This country anthem celebrates camaraderie and the simple pleasures of drinking at a bar, making it a perfect sing-along for a night out with friends.
- "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond
A crowd favorite that was originally inspired by Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President JFK.
- "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba
With its infectious chorus of "I get knocked down, but I get up again," this song captures the indomitable spirit of drinkers and keeps the energy high at any gathering.
- "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi
This anthem of hope and perseverance is a crowd-pleaser.
- "Should I Stay or Should I Go'" by The Clash
A catchy guitar riff with recognizable lyrics that everyone can sing along with, especially after a few at the bar.
- "Whiskey in the Jar"
A traditional Irish drinking song with countless variations, this tune has been covered by many artists, including Thin Lizzy and Metallica, and remains a favorite for raising a glass to good times and Irish heritage.
- "Red Solo Cup" by Toby Keith
A lighthearted ode to the iconic party cup, this song's catchy melody and humorous lyrics make it a go-to anthem for casual drink-fueled karaoke.
- "I Want You to Want Me" by Cheap Trick
An energetic, upbeat song that gets people dancing.
- "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield
A catchy 80s hit that is always well received and a crowd favorite.
- "Beer, Beer, Beer"
An old traditional Irish folk song that's been adapted and modernized over the years, this tune celebrates the joys of beer and the people who brew it, making it a fun and lively choice for any drinking occasion.
Top Dance Songs For Cover Bands
You may not see them at first, but every gig has a few hidden eager dancers ready to cut loose. The key to get them up and moving is finding those irresistible beats and melodies that make even the most rhythmically challenged individuals wiggling in their seats.
Give these 10 booty-shakers a try:
- "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire
A funky, infectious groove that's impossible not to dance to.
- "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
The record holder for the second-longest reign at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with a total of 14 weeks in the top spot.
- "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson
An irresistible bass-line that pioneered the first music video by a black artist to be played in heavy rotation on MTV, helping to break down racial barriers in the music industry.
- "Dancing Queen" by ABBA
A disco-era favorite written in honor of Sweden's Queen Silvia, that encourages everyone to dance and sing along.
- "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney Houston
An upbeat, feel-good song that invites people to the dance floor.
- "Super Freak" by Rick James
A funky, groove with a distinctive bassline played by James himself, that has been widely sampled in hip-hop songs.
- "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams
A contemporary hit that was the first song to reach over 100 million streams on Spotify
- "Le Freak" by Chic
A disco classic that combines a catchy hook with an irresistible dance beat.
- "Hey Ya!" by OutKast
Andre 3000 originally meant for it to be a sad breakup song, but the upbeat tempo and catchy chorus turned it into a dance floor classic.
- "Can't Stop the Feeling!" by Justin Timberlake
A grammy award winning modern pop hit originally written for the animated movie "Trolls".
Selecting the right songs can be a game-changer for a cover band. By mastering the right genre and/or decade, you can create memorable experiences that connect with your audience and encourage venues to rebook you, and pay top dollar. Choose songs that resonate with both you and your listeners, allowing you to own the spotlight, showcase your talent and keep the party going.
As the word spreads and your band's reputation continues to grow, make sure to check back here for valuable resources, financial tips, marketing and social media strategies, and insights that can help you succeed. At Band Pioneer, we're dedicated to researching the music industry's most valuable trends to help our readers grow their fanbases and generate income by making the music they love.
Leave a Reply!
Trust me, you do NOT want me singin! :D
I wast thinking the same thnig. Cant teach this old dog new tricks.sdd
You may surprise yourself!
Its always helpful to have new song ideas for our listt! I dig the mix of old classics and modern hits, catering to the typeof audience we usualy see
Glad you found it useful. Thanks!