Ten Cover Songs That Changed the Meaning with Gender Swaps

Gender-swapped cover songs often avoid challenging gender norms, but simply swapping the gender perspective can give a song an entirely new meaning. This list explores ten songs with gender-swapped lyrics or perspectives that created a different and, perhaps, better version.

10 “Respect” by Aretha Franklin

Originally by Otis Redding

It’s hard to overstate the cultural influence of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” The song was an anthem for both the civil rights and feminist movements. While Otis Redding’s version lacks the iconic elements of Franklin’s, the demand for respect remains the same. However, Franklin’s version adds a powerful message of equality and mutual respect in relationships.

9 “Tumbling Dice” by Linda Rondstadt

Originally by The Rolling Stones

Linda Rondstadt’s cover of “Tumbling Dice” transformed the song’s perspective. By changing the opening line, Rondstadt shifted the meaning from a womanizing gambler’s perspective to a woman asserting herself and challenging societal expectations. This change adds depth and relevance to the song.

8 “Fire” by The Pointer Sisters

Originally by Bruce Springsteen

The Pointer Sisters’ cover of “Fire” altered the song’s meaning drastically. Changing just a few words transformed the predatory tone of Springsteen’s lyrics into a more innocent and coy pursuit. The complete 180-degree change in direction is refreshing and shows the power of a different perspective.

7 “Tonight’s the Night” by Janet Jackson

Originally by Rod Stewart

Janet Jackson’s cover of “Tonight’s the Night” brings a different perspective to the song. By alternating between addressing a man and addressing a woman in the verses, Jackson hints at bisexuality or a threesome, making it an overt call out to the LGBTQIA+ community. This change adds layers of complexity to the song.

6 “Gloria” by Patti Smith

Originally by Van Morrison

Patti Smith’s cover of “Gloria” is a transformative reinterpretation of the original. The changed lyrics and subversive perspective add depth and intensity to the song, turning it into a proto-punk manifesto. Despite the lyrical changes, the song’s indelible identity shines through.

5 “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse

Originally by The Zutons

Amy Winehouse’s cover of “Valerie” turned the song into an iconic hit, overshadowing the original. While the lyrics remain the same, Winehouse’s decision to sing a love song to a woman adds intrigue and mystery. The unexpected change in perspective adds depth to the song.

4 “Under My Thumb” by Tina Turner

Originally by The Rolling Stones

Tina Turner’s cover of “Under My Thumb” is a powerful response to the original. By performing a song that objectifies women from a female perspective, Turner transforms the narrative and challenges societal norms. Her version is a statement that needed to be made.

3 “Black Steel” by Tricky feat. Martina Topley-Bird

Originally by Public Enemy

Tricky’s cover of “Black Steel” challenges norms with its intentional gender-bending. Martina Topley-Bird’s looping delivery emphasizes the alternate perspective, bringing a new narrative crescendo to the song. The gender-bending and musical elements create a disorienting and thought-provoking experience.

2 “He’s Funny That Way” by Bob Dylan

Originally by Margaret Whiting, but associated with Billie Holiday

Bob Dylan’s cover of “He’s Funny That Way” stands out among the millennial artists on the Universal Love compilation EP. His clever choice to cover the song adds a cheeky and slightly lame twist to the lyrics, aligning with the song’s message of gay love. Dylan’s unexpected participation adds depth and intrigue to the collection.

1 Tori Amos’s Strange Little Girls Album

Originally by various artists

Tori Amos’s album Strange Little Girls is a grand artistic statement exploring identity. Each cover song, originally by a man, is sung in a female voice, transforming the perspective of the songs. The reinterpretations add layers of complexity to the songs and challenge conventional gender norms. Amos’s artistic approach raises more questions than it answers.

+ “Nothing Compares 2U” by Sinead O’Connor

Originally by Prince

Sinead O’Connor’s cover of “Nothing Compares 2U” became a hit and overshadowed Prince’s original. While the gender is not swapped, O’Connor’s emotional delivery and interpretation brought new depth to the song, making it one of the greatest covers ever recorded.

++ “Where the Wild Roses Grow” by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds feat. Blixa Bargeld

Originally by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Kylie Minogue

Nick Cave and Blixa Bargeld’s reinterpretation of “Where the Wild Roses Grow” adds homoerotic tension to the song. Their performance emphasizes the intimate connection between two men, bringing a different and powerful perspective to the original. The unlikely pairing creates a memorable and captivating rendition.


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