Weezer needs no introduction, they’ve only been tuning and flexing their craft since their sucker punch of a debut album, 1994’s Blue Album. Blue Album was one of the defining records of the 90s, a sublime mix of alternative rock and grunge to create a bittersweet album of electrifying riffs and heartfelt lyrics. The band enjoys fame to this day, but to say they’ve had a consistently strong track record of great music would be a lie. I love Weezer, but it’s more of a tough love, as they tend to excite me or disappoint me with their music.
But over the years, Weezer has been covering a wide array of songs in a variety of genres. They’ve begun covering songs more prominently during their Red Album era, and cover songs have been a recognized element in Weezer’s discography. Heck, their Teal Album is nothing but covers. Naturally, all of these covers vary in quality; but Weezer seems to find enjoyment in it, so more power to them. That’s why I’ve decided to review and rank (almost) each and every cover Weezer has released.
Now for stipulations: I’m not going to discuss live performances of covers due to most of them not having an “official” release from Weezer, so it’s a bit gray there; I am also ignoring Christmas with Weezer because… like, yeah. Otherwise, just about anything goes here! As noted in my Glass Animals ranking, I don’t claim to be a musical pundit; I enjoy music a lot but I’m not exactly a scholar. So these are just my humble impressions and opinions of these covers from one of my favorite bands. With that all said and done, let’s get it going:
29. Enter Sandman (Metallica)
It may be considered unfair to include the most recent cover Weezer has released at the very final spot. But on the forefront, it doesn’t seem all that special; it’s yet another Weezer cover that doesn’t feel all that different from the original, just another boring cover; which, honestly, is bad enough. But what absolutely slays me about this song is the sudden Buddy Holly riff during the guitar solo that completely halts this song. I know Weezer isn’t above having a little fun, but for a cover meant for The Metallica Blacklist tribute album, it just feels insulting to slide that one in. And the less we say about Rivers’ reciting of the prayer, the better. Weezer’s Enter Sandman somehow incorporates the absolute worst a cover song can be: to be utterly derivative of the original without a shred of originality and to be an insult to the original song. It’s the worst and most unforgivable cover Weezer has ever put out.
28. Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)
Teal Album is a bit odd in the line-up of Weezer. While conceptually it’s novel to hear a best-of-classics compilation by Weezer, it just reeks of creative bankruptcy. Just about every song on the album is either way too similar to the original or completely butchers the original, and in Billie Jean’s case, certainly falls into the latter. You get a much worse version of Michael Jackson’s classic song, coupled with distractingly bad guitar riffs and Rivers’ laughable attempts to mimic Jackson’s iconic vocal ranges and noises. This song is a fun time to laugh at, but nothing more to it. Just plain bad and one of Weezer’s all-time slip-ups.
27. Paranoid (Black Sabbath)
“They’re the same picture” but unironically. This is just Paranoid. This is JUST Paranoid. THIS IS JUST PARANOID. It’s not only just Paranoid, but it’s so close to Paranoid that it might as well be copyright infringement, had the original song not been miles better. Feeling more like a parody of the original, Weezer’s Paranoid offers nothing of substance. It’s curious that you could make a cover so familiar yet so much worse that you’re better off listening to the original. Worthless cover, one of the worst by far.
26. Mr. Blue Sky (Electric Light Orchestra)
Rivers’ vocal performance can be occasionally enjoyable, but not only do they not do anything interesting or inventive with the original song, but they dumb everything down to an offensive degree. The original Mr. Blue Sky is full of vibrant strings and instruments that truly feel like an epic, grandiose celebration; a storm of sound descending from the heavens. Weezer’s version is much thinner and bland, missing so much of the melodies and harmonies that make the original a classic. No point in ever listening to this one.
25. Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears)
Another Teal Album cover where a candle can’t possibly be held up to the original song. It’s not that it’s a bad performance, just remarkably unmemorable and ordinary. And, honestly, that’s just one of the many things that can make a bad cover: to be so unextraordinary that you may as well just listen to the original song.
24. Sweet Dreams Are Made of This (Eurythmics)
This Teal Album is gonna be the death of me. Just about all the covers on this list so far are either worse dumbed-down versions of the original song or just so similar to the original that it has no reason to exist. Luckily, this song falls into the latter; I suppose a cover being as close as possible to the original is better than being an outright insulting one. I don’t have much to say about this song, it’s just the original song with Eurythmics with slightly more distorted guitars here and there. But even the guitars don’t match up with the beautiful synths of the original song.
23. Oddfellows Local 151 (R.E.M.)
Lots of weird production choices with this one. Firstly, while I enjoy the idea of making the bass much more prominent, to take out over two minutes of the original and cut down on the wailing guitar makes this cover lose its identity. Secondly, the vocals by Scott Shriner are distorted to a degree to make this song unappealing and grating. Essentially, nothing in this cover makes any sense. With so much needlessly lost from the original, it’s a truly boring and uninspired cover of an already amazing song. I expect Weezer to do something unique with all its covers, but not if it’s going to be this grating.
22. The Weight (The Band)
The Band’s The Weight is an American rock classic, so naturally, Weezer does a cover that doesn’t do it justice and is not nearly as good. The Weight is a really warm and vibrant song, and Weezer’s version is just a weird post-rock/country/pop hybrid. It doesn’t work at all and doesn’t justify its existence, really uninventive cover all-around.
21. Take On Me (a-ha)
While it’s a Teal Album song, this cover does manage to sound just different enough be feel somewhat different from the original song. However, it is still yet another uninspired cover from the Teal Album to the point of being grating. Still, it’s enjoyable enough where it’s not unlistenable, but it could just be my attachment to the original song.
20. Africa (Toto)
Yet another Teal Album song. The concept of Weezer covering Toto was one of the biggest memes surrounding the band prior to this cover’s release. Not sure why that would be, I guess just because it’s a great song? So kudos to Weezer for embracing the meme, but this song is disappointing. The biggest plus I can give this song is the heavy guitar riffs during the chorus. Otherwise, this is a bland and dumbed-down version of Toto’s opus, a song with such a colorful and sunshiney production. The song’s charm is nowhere to be seen on this cover. On the plus side, this song did put Weezer back in the spotlight and the band made a return on the charts, so I can’t be too mad at this song.
19. Life’s What You Make It (Talk Talk)
Admittedly I don’t have strong opinions on the original song, but Weezer’s cover here doesn’t work for me. Despite having the same notes and lyrics, it lacks a lot of the components that make the original as good as it is. The song is led by a fuzzy, distorted bass and ambient vocals by Pat Wilson throughout, which makes this cover unique enough to stand out from the original, but proof that playing the same notes does not guarantee the same results. I see what Weezer was doing with this cover, but it’s more annoying than anything else.
18. You Might Think (The Cars)
A cover performed for the Cars 2 soundtrack (I dunno why they didn’t just use the band literally called THE CARS but I digress). It is… fine. The beginning of the “mid-tier” section of Weezer covers. Nothing at all interesting or unique about this cover; in fact, it’s perfectly safe and harmless as a song by itself. But overall, it’s as enjoyable as it can be. Nothing awfully bad about it, but there’s nothing that stands out. That’s all I can say about it. Next. No, seriously. Next.
17. Viva la Vida (Coldplay)
Viva la Vida by Coldplay is always going to sound nice no matter who covers it, but nobody is going to play as confidently as Coldplay. Weezer’s version feels much lighter, while the original is much grander and epic. Weezer’s cello is weaker in comparison, but at least they put in a cello instead of just using some regular guitar riffs. Although, the saving grace in this song is Rivers Cuomo’s stunning vocal performance; Rivers complements the lyrics and his vocal range is beautiful for this cover. The ambient sounds of an adoring crowd are also a nice touch. Overall, it’s a bit of a boring and uneventful cover, though saved by a great performance.
16. I’m a Believer (The Monkees)
Recorded for the soundtrack of Shrek Forever After, Weezer’s cover of I’m a Believer originally by The Monkees (but made significantly popular by Smash Mouth’s cover in the first Shrek) is pretty basic. It’s much closer to Smash Mouth’s version, save for some heavier instrumentation which helps make the song listenable at least. That’s basically it; it’s enjoyable enough, but there’s nothing really of interest about it. Not bad, but nothing special.
15. I Woke Up In Love This Morning (The Partridge Family)
The point where I find these covers quite enjoyable. This is another case where I prefer the original, but this is quite a nice listen. It’s fuzzy and distorted, really giving the song the old Weezer vibes that are sorely missing in the Hurley and Raditude era of Weezer’s mainstream, radio-friendly rock. The song feels like Weezer, something that can’t be said for a lot of these covers.
14. Happy Together (The Turtles)
Fun fact: for the film Adaptation, Weezer recorded an acoustic version of this song. However, director Spike Jonze felt the original Turtles version was more fit for the film. Not sure if that is what inspired the inclusion of this song for Teal, but food for thought. Anyway, there are some little things in this song I like, such as the background vocals and little harmonies that coincide quite well with Rivers’ vocals. Overall, this is a decent cover; it’s a bit similar but there are a bunch of little things scattered across the track that makes it stand out. It’s not great, but even just a “decent” track from Teal Album is a godsend, so I’ll take it.
13. Rosanna (Toto)
Rivers’ vocals give this song some heart; but otherwise, this cover doesn’t offer much in the way of uniqueness. It’s still a highly enjoyable and endearing song no matter who sings it, and Weezer’s cover has the bonus of having heavier instruments. So for that reason alone, it’s an enjoyable song even if it’s not nearly as iconic and harmonious as Toto’s original.
12. Stand By Me (Ben E. King)
A Teal Album track I can finally consider to be more than alright. I was a bit going back into this one since it’s a beloved classic, but I enjoyed this one quite a lot. It’s a modern spin on the song, but the guitar solo with the ambient vocals at the end makes this a great closer to the album and helps it stand out from the original where I can see people enjoy this one ever-so-slightly more. If only the rest of the album had as much energy and personality as this song.
11. Love My Way (Psychedelic Furs)
I was going into this one preparing to hate it, but much to my surprise, it’s a damn good cover. Once the harmony and vocals kicked in, I was seriously impressed. The whole song is entirely acoustic with Pat Wilson on vocals, and while some elements make the original as special as it is (such as the xylophone), I’m glad Weezer did something fairly unique compared to nearly all their covers. A somber and beautiful song that, while not as good as the original, definitely stands out in its ways for the better.
10. Velouria (The Pixies)
Weezer recorded a cover of Pixies’ Velouria as part of 1999’s Where Is My Mind?: A Tribute to The Pixies compilation album where other bands paid tribute to the 80s alt-rock band. This cover of Velouria has a sound and mix similar to Pinkerton, Weezer’s self-produced sophomore album and a commercial failure. Had Pinkerton been more successful, you’d wonder if we would have gotten more music akin to that, and Velouria is a sign of what could have been. Weighty, clean guitar riffs and is just 90s Weezer through and through. It doesn’t have the personality the original song has, but you can’t go wrong with that heavy 90s Weezer sound.
9. Kids/Poker Face (MGMT/Lady Gaga)
No, it’s not a tie; this is a cover that seamlessly combines both MGMT’s Kids and Lady Gaga’s Poker Face. Their cover of MGMT’s instrumentation is pretty beat-for-beat, but Kids already has such a wonderful and catchy melody that it works in junction with this cover, so I’m willing to let it slide here. Their cover of Poker Face feels a little less inspired, but again, keeps that catchy melody to create some high-energy moments. Seeing as how this came from the Raditude era (and we all know how GOOD that era was), this is effective as another one of Weezer’s approaches to pop music, managing to make a fun and enjoyable cover of two songs. Also, I’m biased, considering my attachment to Kids already. Serves both songs justice, and is more forgiving than the other covers that rehash the original just by simply intertwining the two songs together.
8. Lost in the Woods (Frozen 2 Cast)
I debated putting this one on the list because this and the original song for Frozen 2 were practically released in conjunction with each other, but for completionist’s sake, I figured why not. I’m admittedly not at all a fan of the original song so I was bound to enjoy the Weezer cover a lot more, but I still found a lot of enjoyment in it, especially when the heavy guitars take over in the second half. Rivers complements this sweet song as if he should’ve helmed it from the start. We should get Weezer to cover more Disney songs.
7. Unbreak My Heart (Toni Braxton)
A rare instance where the original song and Weezer’s cover feel dramatically different from each other. Toni Braxton’s song is a soft-spoken R&B song while Weezer takes the melody and gives the song a Weezer identity. With heavy guitars and a somber vocal melody, this cover incorporates what Weezer is gifted most at. I can’t even say I prefer this over the original song because Weezer managed to make the song the band’s own, which is an important asset any cover needs to succeed. Very good cover.
6. Paranoid Android (Radiohead)
Yet another instance of the original surpassing this cover, yet I do still like a lot about it. Rivers’ vocals match up with the somberness of the song quite well; in fact, there are points where I think the cover sounds direr than the original. The desperation in Rivers’ voice is hard is shake off, and the weighty instrumentals make this a really heavy performance all around. And the ending is just a perfect closer for this cover, one of the best.
5. No Scrubs (TLC)
Ignoring the hilarity of a 50-year-old man covering this song of all things, this is a great cover and undeniably the best track off of Teal Album. It doesn’t start all that grand or interesting, but the mid-point of the cover saves it: the fuzzy guitar blaring under the distorted lyrics is just so Weezer that you’d think the rest of this album was produced by mere imposters. Teal Album was a failure in many regards, but at least we got this majestic and conceptually hilarious cover. A bit sad that nearly all the Teal songs are in the back half of this COVER ranking, but I digress.
4. Are ‘Friends’ Electric? (Tubeway Army)
Weezer was doing a lot of covers during their Red Album era, and their cover of Tubeway Army’s Are ‘Friends’ Electric? is their best from that album. With a mix of synth and guitars, Weezer comes out with a cover that easily surpasses the original in my humble opinion, with Pat Wilson and Brian Bell on lead vocals with Rivers manning the synth. The synth and heavy instruments work in great conjunction together, with powerful bass and a mesmerizing snare. It’s so much unlike the original while still paying loving tribute to Gary Numan, one of Weezer’s best covers by a landslide.
3. Worry Rock (Green Day)
I’m going to admit to a great sin: I do not care much for Green Day. Even then, I can understand their influence. Weezer, by some miracle, actually created a cover that wasn’t just a carbon copy of the original song. Bringing in Petra Haden and Tanya Haden on violins and cellos, this semi-acoustic cover is a wonderful contrast to Green Day’s hard-hitting sound. This is a much more bittersweet version thanks to the wonderful string arrangements and River’s voice; just an overall pleasant and beautiful song. Plus, River changes the lyric “Fucked without a kiss again” to “Hugged without a kiss again, which perfectly fits into this much softer version. And come on; it’s just sweet.
2. Rainbow Connection (The Muppets)
Performed originally by The Muppets, Rivers Cuomo and Hayley Williams offer a beautiful duet together here for the compilation album, Muppets: The Green Album where different artists cover an array of different Muppet songs. Rainbow Connection is already an absolutely wondrous song, and together, Rivers and Hayley creates a truly enriching cover that touched my heart. Starting with some sounds of nature is a wonderful introduction to this song, and as it goes on, more lovely strings and drums overtake the song entirely. It’s so easy to get lost in this song; such a beautiful harmony coupled with the pitch-perfect performances and instruments. The final guitar at the end helps this song stick the landing, as well. One of Weezer’s all-time best songs.
1. ‘Like a Good Neighbor’ (Barry Manilow)
This song came into fruition when auto insurance company State Farm approached Weezer to sing their iconic jingle “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Of course, Rivers wasn’t willing to just settle on a simple jingle; he asked if there was a full version of the song. He discovered lyrics and sheet music written by cultural icon Barry Manilow back when he was writing simple jingles for companies just to make ends meet early in his career. The catch is that the full song was never actually recorded. Afterward, Weezer simply went to town and recorded a full song for State Farm and a passionate tribute to Barry Manilow. This cover is nothing short of incredible; with the heavy distorted guitars, the bittersweet melody, and the majestic instrumental arrangements. To be frank, this is classic Weezer top-to-bottom, the most Pinkerton-sounding song since, well, Pinkerton. This cover made me long for the old days of Weezer where their music hit harder and their lyrics didn’t feel as sunshiney and blissful. It feels weird to say, but this song about State Farm is their best Weezer cover, and one of their best songs in general. Only Weezer could ever pull an insane stunt like that off.