On Wednesday night, Weezer released their Teal Album, a collection of cover songs by artists like TLC, Tears for Fears, and Toto, whose “Africa” they recorded to shocking popularity in 2018. Amidst the selection of ‘80s and ‘90s pop hits, though, is an outlier: a version of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” where Rivers Cuomo attempts his best Ozzy Osbourne impression. The entire song — and album, for that matter — sounds like a cheap imitation of the original, which is saying a lot given the original was decried by its own bassist as a Led Zeppelin rip.
Weezer is not the only band to have covered “Paranoid,” of course, which despite its bassist’s judgment is one of Black Sabbath’s most enduring songs. There are at least 21 existing recorded covers of “Paranoid,” including versions by Sabbath successors like Megadeth and Avenged Sevenfold, obscure metal and hardcore bands from Germany and Russia, and even a couple soft acoustic versions. Weezer’s may become the most well-known, simply because it’s bound to rack up thousands of streams in the coming days, but it’s not the best. It’s not even the worst, for that matter, or the weirdest. I tried to sift through them all, in order to see which artists did their best at communicating the original’s depraved paranoia, and which just sounded insane.
21. 3rd Strike
This song wouldn’t be ranked last if it ended after about 90 seconds, but then someone screams “paranoid” — a word that doesn’t appear in the original version — before launching into a short, aggravating rapped verse. The whole nu-metal thing is okay, I guess, and I also understand making the song your own, but there’s a fine line between innovation and “oh my god, he’s actually rapping.”
20. Avenged Sevenfold
The image on the Warner Bros. Records' covers-only compilation album, where A7X's song appeared, depicts a record player with a white sheet thrown over it. Similarly, you can still see the original shape, but it’s no use.
19. Gus Black
This acoustic version is just far too sad for a song titled “Paranoid,” an emotion made for antic freakouts, not staring at a wall.
The music is technically faithful, but Rivers Cuomo’s Ozzy Osbourne impression sounds like current Ozzy finally decided to stop mumbling, and reap the benefits of autotune. Besides, we know his paranoia manifests in the shape of “making people understand which of my songs are written about Asian women, and which aren’t,” not, uh, biting the heads off bats.
Weirdly produced as though sung through a megaphone, this is just a reproduction of the original until little spurts of industrial rhythms inspire hope mid-song, unfortunately followed by a weird echo of c’mon, c’mon, c’mon.
16. Big Country
This sounds a whole lot like Sabbath before the distant, new wave-y vocals kick in, and it sort of rides out. Related: the Scottish rockers in Big Country once released a compilation album called Kings of Emotion, but appear to have never smiled.
15. Mystic Prophecy
This cover by the German power metal band is at least loud, which is cool, and “Mystic Prophecy” is probably the name that’s spiritually closest to the original Black Sabbath. I like how everyone in the band has their hands in their pockets.
Slowed-down, dreamy, maybe the most psychedelic track on the list. All things I normally enjoy, but it lulled me to Sleep (a band who also does slow, dreamy and psychedelic, but better).
13. Cindy & Bert
Now we’re getting into the good stuff. This is Cindy und Bert, a German couple who covered the song as “Der Hund Von Baskerville,” which title translates as “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” The lyrics are apparently about Sherlock Holmes, and not a nervous breakdown, but the dancing teenagers seem very enthused. I bet the East Berliners didn’t think their countrymen were having this kind of fun.
12. The Dickies
Like their namesake, the Dickies were cursed by their proximity to pop-punk, but with the way critical tastes are shifting they should be due for a reappraisal sometime soon. Actually, never mind.
11. George Lynch
I’m not sure what constitutes “true metal,” but this is prime ‘80s glam; you can hear the power slides and windmills popping through the spitfire guitar work. Docked a point for the whiny vocals, undoubtedly an afterthought as Lynch got caught up riffing.
10. The Claypeople
This actually sounds like it’s being sung from a well, the natural destination of all paranoiacs.
9. Extra Hot Sauce
I will Venmo $1 to anyone who can explain what’s going on with the cover of the album where this appears, Taco of Death.
At almost seven-and-a-half minutes, this is one of the slower and more drawn-out versions on the list, and not in a boring way. Apart from the lyrics, there’s no resemblance to the original, but with Peter Steele’s bass-baritone it sounds like Type-O, and that’s all I need.
7. Steel Pole Bath Tub
Recalling the Butthole Surfers, this noisy cover was unsurprisingly released by the infamous Boner Records. They even sample an earlier Sabbath song titled “Black Sabbath” at the beginning, proving their undying fandom.
Preceded by over twenty minutes of silence and a sample telling the listener not to leave because there’s still something to settle, this secret track is one of the heavier on the list. The guttural dual vocals and crustiness add an original element one can’t ignore.
Unsurprisingly, this is very tight musically, with less blues and more shred than Sabbath. It’s what a cover should be, despite Mustaine’s often overbearing vocals, and the fact that he’s goofier than Ozzy.
This thrash metal cover adds a harsh Russian accent, and a pummeling drumbeat that really does sound like a nervous breakdown.
3. Adam Parfrey
A weird one, almost as heavy as the original. Parfrey, the New York-based journalist and publisher, included this song on his album A Sordid Evening of Sonic Sorrows. It consists of the spoken words of a madman, unsure how to relate to the world, with a hint of irony and a sludgy guitar solo. And what a cover!
It’s calm yet chaotic, with a sincere appeal to help. An inability to relate is brought to the fore, but small interjections of some distant male vocals signify another’s presence. I don’t think I’m hallucinating that, either.
1. Dillinger Escape Plan
Apart from the weird genre-bending jazzy thing in the middle that reminds me of Jello Biafra, it still sounds a lot like Sabbath. With their schizophrenic version, the extremely heavy math rockers encapsulate the meaning of the song’s title and what a cover should be. If nothing else, listen to this one after Weezer’s.