Some songs just make great covers. “Unchained Melody,” a song written in 1954, was covered first by The Righteous Brothers in the 1960s. Later, in 1990, it was included on the soundtrack to the movie Ghost. Since its original release, the track been recorded more than 1500 times in various languages. “Hallelujah” has a similar story of reinvention. The song didn’t make history as a Leonard Cohen song—it didn’t become a classic until Jeff Buckley’s cover.
Galaxy of Covers, an interactive visualization by the design firm Interactive Things, charts just how popular certain cover songs are. Drawing from a list compiled by the BBC of the 50 most popular cover songs of all time, it turns each original song into suns, anchoring solar systems of moving cover-song planets.
The visualization packs a lot of detail into a concise image. Each planet’s color refers to the genre the cover belongs to (decoded by a key at the top of the graphic), and the radius of the orbits indicate the time between song publication dates.
If you click on the solar system, a timeline of covers of that song pops up, where each planet has a size and valence according to that cover’s energy and whether it conveys positive or negative emotions (high valence means positive). The data on tempo, energy, and other musical features comes from Echo Nest.
Explore for yourself here.
All images via Interactive Things.