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Our 15 favorite cover versions of Madonna songs

No singer can combine seemingly vapid lyrics with a bubblegum beat and transform it into an iconic anthem quite like Madonna. After all, that’s exactly why she is known as the Queen of Pop, and that’s exactly why over 1.6 million people showed up in Rio to the culmination of her Celebration Tour last month—which made history as the largest standalone concert ever.

More than 40 years since the start of her epic career, Madonna’s stage persona still slaps. And what’s even more impressive is that her music has continuously stood the test of time, which explains why so many people have taken to covering some of her greatest hits over the years.

In celebration of Pride Month—and Madonna’s all around rockstar LGBTQ+ advocacy– the following is a list of her most impactful songs covered by other musicians. Some of these cover teeter on being deep cuts, but they are all deeply entertaining and illustrate just how far-reaching Madonna’s influence has been in the music industry.

“Causing a Commotion” by Bright Light Bright Light

The main draw in this cover isn’t just singer Rod Thomas’ lower registered voice, it’s also the reworking and addition of a nu-disco beat. These elements give the song a more casual flair that wouldn’t be out of place at a gay lounge, perhaps where patrons are sipping on Pride-themed cocktails.

“Human Nature” by Sam Smith

Madonna’s “Human Nature” is an unapologetic anthem about embracing the things you want and life and not caring what anyone else thinks. And so of course Sam Smith thought it was the perfect song to cover while they got nearly naked during their 2023 “Gloria the Tour” run. The performance combined with the song was hot, and Smith absolutely embodied the Queen of Pop.

“Vogue” by Beth Ditto

The best song covers are usually impromptu song covers, and it doesn’t get more impromptu than Gossip singer Beth Ditto covering Madonna’s “Vogue” while prancing around in her bra and panties. Ditto strikes a pose and effortlessly shows off her versatile vocal range.

“Dress You Up” by Darren Crisis

Madonna’s “Dress You Up” is one of those songs that often does not get the cover treatment seemingly because of how difficult it is to put an original spin on it. Well, Glee actor Darren Crisis certainly tried with this Euro-techno makeover of the song for Fashion’s Night Out. And, well, we guess there isn’t a full version of the song for a reason.

“Express Yourself” by New Directions Girls of “Glee”

The “Power of Madonna” episode of the beloved scripted musical show Glee was iconic on many levels. It allowed the cast to really stretch the lengths of the show’s campiness, and stars Lea Michelle, Diana Agron, Amber Riley and Heather Morris really give it their all with their performance of “Express Yourself.” Within the context of the show, the girls perform the song in defiance of the way the boys of the Glee Club have been treating them and the song’s lyrics and accompanying choreography work perfectly.

“Crazy for You” by Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson has spoken very publicly about how much of a Madonna fan she is, so it’s not entirely crazy that she would be able to easily cover the ballad, “Crazy for You” when a fan requested she cover it during a show in 2012. She puts her spin on it, and the crowd goes wild.

“Lucky Star” by Kelly Clarkson

Years later, singer and songwriter Kelly Clarkson has a hit talk show, The Kelly Clarkson Show, but she hasn’t put down the mic. She regularly covers songs in her “Kellyoke” segment, and she absolutely slays this rendition of Madonna’s “Lucky Star.” Clarkson truly is a star in her own right.

“Papa Don’t Preach” by Kelly Osbourne

Here’s something people don’t talk about enough: Kelly Osbourne’s short lived turn as a punk rock princess. She covers Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach,” which is obviously a thinly veiled reference to her father Ozzy Osbourne. And all in all she isn’t half bad for what she does with the song.

“Frozen” and “Like a Prayer” by Labrinth

Having to perform two of Madonna’s most famous and critically-acclaimed songs in front of Madonna, we can only imagine what was going through Labrinth’s head at the 2016 Billboard Women in Music celebration. Labrinth did an excellent job at slowing the songs down to fit his crystal clear singing style, and the Queen of Pop looked please with the performance before she took to the stage and gave the speech of a lifetime as the Woman of the Year awardee.

“You Must Love Me” by Lana Del Rey

To be honest, this was a cover no one knew they needed. But Lana Del Rey has a habit of surprising music critics fans time and time again, and her rendition of “You Must Love Me,” made famous by Madge, was a pleasant surprise on Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Unmasked: The Platinum Collection” of compositions. Bravo, Lana.

“Don’t Tell Me” by Miley Cyrus (feat. Madonna)

Does it really count as a cover when the original singer joins in on the song? That’s what made it an extra special moment when Miley Cyrus covered Madonna’s “Don’t Tell Me” and mixed it into her hit “We Can’t Stop” during this special country-fied performance. Madonna popped up as a special guest audience member and joined Cyrus on stage, and the rest is herstory.

“Like a Virgin” by Rita Ora

If you ask us, Rita Ora doesn’t get enough credit for her pipes. In this performance, she transforms Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” into something easy and breezy, with an almost reggae vibe. It’s nicely done, and we are sure Madonna would be proud.

“You’ll See” by Susan Boyle

Out of all Madonna’s songs, “You’ll See” has the kind of defiant message all gays need stuck in their heads kicking off Pride Month. What makes this cover extra special is that it is sung by Scottish phenomenon Susan Boyle, who made many headlines during her run on “Britain’s Got Talent” for not being the obvious choice to have a successful singing career so late in life. Well, she sure did prove everyone wrong, and that’s what Madonna, and gay men and women around the world, has been doing for years and years.

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3 Comments*

  • xnetminder

    My favorites are by Susan Boyle and Darren Criss…or is that now CRISIS?????

  • Andrew

    This is a terrific list, but wow, our author here is really missing out – there’s TWO ENTIRE albums of Madonna covers called “Virgin Voices” and “Virgin Voices 2″ of techno, industrial, new wave, and punk bands. Dead or Alive, Berlin, KMFDM, Heaven 17, Information Society, Annabelle Llwyn (Bow Wow Wow), Ofra Haza, Flock of Seagulls, Switchblade Symphony, Frontline Assembly… it’s pretty amazing. Hearing 6’4” En Esch of KMFDM growling that he’s “a material girl” the first time was maybe not life altering, but still remarkably memorable. Spahn Ranch’s cover of “Swim” is (heresy!) maybe better than the original.

  • frenchy

    You’re missing 3 amazing covers by Darren Hayes: Angel, Dress You Up and The Look of Love.

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