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Legacy of the 'Like A Version'

Fans of triple j far and wide, sit down and enjoy Liana Naidu’s foray into the ins-and-outs of the classic Like A Version segment!


If you’ve ever listened to triple j radio, you’ve probably heard of their well-known segment Like A Version. The concept is simple; each Friday morning, a guest artist or band will enter the triple j studios to play one of their original songs and a cover version of another artist’s song, called the Like A Version. Taking place on Friday mornings during The Breakfast Show, it’s arguably one of the most well-known triple j segments, with almost twenty years of history.


The humble Like A Version holds a special place in my heart. Each Friday afternoon, my mum and I will sit down and watch the week's cover on YouTube together. I always look forward to this Friday afternoon routine, and it’s a great way to relax at the end of a long week.


Since its inception, the segment has grown in popularity and in cultural significance, with several of its covers even featured in triple j’s annual Hottest 100 countdown. The most notable example of this is The Wiggles’ cover of “Elephant” by Tame Impala, which took first place in last year’s countdown. In fact, Tame Impala also holds the record for being the most-covered artist, while The Wombats have performed the most times[1]. But there are many other covers which have helped emerging artists dramatically grow their fanbases, with many artists including their covers on concert set-lists. At its core, the Like A Version segment encourages artists to take risks and the audience to see songs which they may be familiar with, in a new light.


Being the music nerd that I am, I can't help but appreciate the amount of consideration and musical skill that goes into these performances. There is an art to crafting together a good cover. Personally, I love Luca Brasi’s cover of “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls for the way they put a unique Australian touch on a well-known song. The segment allows artists to demonstrate who they are by showcasing the music that they like.


Like A Version was introduced by Lissie Turner in 2004, who was initially skeptical about whether cover versions were a lazy option to include in band’s setlists, rather than a ‘legitimate’ type of performance [2]. But as the segment continued, her cynicism morphed into an appreciation of the skill that goes into expressing your own identity while using someone else’s song. The first cover to be performed as part of the new segment was Brent Griffin, also known as SPOD, performing “Like A Virgin” by Madonna, giving the segment its new name. From the very beginning, turning the covered song into your own piece has been integral to the premise of the segment, allowing artists to really showcase their own style, while still paying tribute to the original artists. 


In the early days, performances usually took place in a small studio setting, which encouraged stripped-back arrangements with an intimate and emotional feel. Sharon Van Etten’s cover of “People Ain’t No Good” is just one example of a cover which contains only a singer and their guitar. However, while simple arrangements are still a core part of the appeal, the setup has greatly evolved since then. As the segment grew in popularity, it changed slots in triple j’s programming several times and moved through different recording spaces. This inevitably impacted the Like A Version sound, enabling artists to use larger bands to create fuller arrangements, such as those in Gang of Youth’s cover of “Blood” by The Middle East.


Simultaneously, artists such as Montaigne were starting to introduce mainstream pop, such as Sia’s “Chandelier”, into triple j’s repertoire. Over time, the segment continued to incorporate other genres, with music producers and DJs able to perform live as production opportunities increased. Yet, at its core, the segment has remained a place of experimentation and musical expression throughout its long history. 

To celebrate the segment approaching its 20th birthday, triple j recently announced that they will do a Hottest 100 countdown purely with Like A Version covers. Viewers will be able to vote for their favourite covers until Monday 10 July, before the countdown takes place on 15 July. And with over 850 covers performed to-date, there’s a lot to choose from!


Which begs the question: what makes for a good Like A Version cover? What criteria might one consider when putting together their list of favourite covers for the Hottest 100 vote? Personally, I think there are three main factors.


Firstly, the music. As I mentioned earlier, I am very interested in the musical decisions that artists make in order to put their own spin on their chosen song. In keeping with their triple j’s approach to radio, all things inventive and original are valued in the Like A Version studio. Whether it’s dramatically changing the style of a song, such as In Hearts Wake covering “all the good girls go to hell” by Billie Eilish, or altering the number of instruments used in the arrangement song, these decisions can reshape the way we view well-known songs. 


Next, it’s worth considering the cultural impact of these covers. Artists such as Beddy Rays, Camp Cope and G Flip have demonstrated the social statements that can be made through a single performance. The segment is a wonderful opportunity to spread a message or promote representation, and taking that opportunity can elevate a cover from good to powerful.


Finally, and most obviously, for any cover to make your shortlist, you have to enjoy it. This is completely subjective, and different people will enjoy their favourites for various reasons, but regardless of your music taste, you are sure to discover some you will enjoy.


So, whether you’ve voted for your favourite covers in the Hottest 100 countdown or not, I highly recommend checking out the weekly Like A Version segments. There’s sure to be something for everyone, and it’s a great way to support your favourite Aussie artists and new surprises.





[2] Sutton, Kane. “Ahead of a historic Hottest 100 vote, we look back at the evolution of Like A Version” ABC News, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-05-18/triple-j-like-a-version-look-back-at-its-evolution/102337220. Accessed 9 June 2023.


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