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8 Songs That Sound Better Acoustically

Jules Zucker |
October 16, 2014 | 11:24 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Everyone can appreciate the hours of studio work that go into the well-produced songs we hear on the radio, but sometimes simplicity can go even further. Artists that understand the power of just a guitar and a voice often evoke more emotion than any studio producer or rollicking full band, using the intimacy of acoustic performance to form a deeper connection with the listener.

Here are eight artists who have mastered the acoustic cover – decide for yourself whether it trumps the original.

"Lovesong" by Adele

Adele strips down one of the Cure's less lively tunes and transforms it into a sparse, sexy track with an almost Latin flair. The song builds halfway through with the addition of light harmonies and strings, proving that you don't need electronic bells and whistles to achieve a dramatic climax.

"XO" by John Mayer

Mayer's mellow cover is a far cry from Beyonce's original, and many Queen B fans dislike his acoustic take for draining the song of its electrifying emotion. But there's something hard to resist about just John Mayer, a guitar, a piano, and a harmonica, and it makes this cover the perfect soundtrack to an easy Sunday morning.

"I Can't Make You Love Me/Nick of Time" by Bon Iver

Indie king Justin Vernon (AKA Bon Iver) could turn "Walking on Sunshine" into a tearjerking ballad if he wanted to, but thankfully here he sticks to two Bonnie Raitt songs, the tragic "I Can't Make You Love Me" and the slightly more hopeful "Nick of Time." In nearly seven minutes of raw sob-inducing passion, Vernon breaks even the most resilient of hearts with just a piano and his smooth falsetto.

"Latch" by Sam Smith

Disclosure made Sam Smith a star with their polished electronic hit, but Smith leaves them in the dust with his own acoustic version. Combine a piano, a single cello and Smith's honeyed vocals, and listeners everywhere are aching to fall in love.

"Train Song" by Feist & Ben Gibbard

Okay, technically the original by English singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan was acoustic as well, but this cover by Feist and Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie fame) takes an arguably forgettable song and makes it deliciously spooky.

"Hey Ya" by Obadiah Parker

This well-known cover of Outkast's party hit is no more than two voices, one guitar, and a piano. While Outkast's wild, upbeat original distracted from the song's somber lyrics on the impermanence of love, Parker's version has a soft, melancholy tone that does the lyrics justice.

"Free Fallin'" by John Mayer

As embarrassed as I am that John Mayer had to go on this list twice, the man does great covers. Essentially, he's turned Tom Petty's classic into a lullaby. If you're part of the 2% of the world that hasn't heard this cover, hearken ye now.

"Maps" by Cary Brothers feat. Priscilla Ahn

This airy piano cover slows down the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' glum original, effectively making sad even sadder. Naturally, some strings come into play later, but they only augment the song's bittersweet, dreamlike quality.

Contact Staff Reporter Jules Zucker here.



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