4 Great Cover Versions of Prince and the Revolution’s “Kiss” from an Eclectic Set of Artists

In between his career-defining albums Purple Rain and Sign o’ the Times, Prince had a relative drought on the singles chart. For most artists, having four Top-40 hits over a two-year period—with three placing in the Top 10—would be a career highlight. For Prince, it was a substantial comedown after his nonstop barrage of heavy-rotation singles between early 1983 and early 1985.

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For a few months in 1986, Prince and the Revolution dominated the airwaves once again with “Kiss.” As the lead single from their Parade album (which was the soundtrack album for Prince’s film Under the Cherry Moon), “Kiss” spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and it went Gold exactly three months after its release. Its popularity hasn’t faded over the ensuing decades, as it is Prince’s second-most popular song on both Spotify and YouTube. “Kiss” has also been covered by more than 100 different artists.

One cover of “Kiss” wound up being an important single for the two artists that collaborated to make it—namely, Tom Jones and the Art of Noise. Artists as disparate as Joan as Police Woman, Richard Thompson, and Kelly Clarkson have also made compelling covers of Prince’s hit. You might think that the original is so good that we don’t need to hear any other versions. However, each of these four covers makes for a worthwhile listen.

Tom Jones and the Art of Noise

Not long after Prince released “Kiss,” the versatile Welsh crooner Tom Jones made the song a regular part of his setlists. In 1987, he performed his version of “Kiss” on The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross on the UK television network Channel 4. Upon viewing his televised performance, members of the British synth-pop group the Art of Noise contacted Jones about recording a cover of the song with them. They created a version of “Kiss” that not only brought two generations of artists together but also featured a percussion sample from Steely Dan’s “Do It Again.”

The collaboration was included on the 1988 album The Best of the Art of Noise, and it became the Art of Noise’s highest-charting single, peaking at No. 31 on the Hot 100. It also put Jones back on the Hot 100 for the first time since he went to No. 15 with the country-tinged “Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow” in 1977. Jones has not returned to the pop chart since landing there with the spare-but-danceable version of “Kiss.” However, he had a pair of dance hits in 1994 with “If I Only Knew” and a cover of Yaz’s “Situation.”

Joan as Police Woman

The one-time Dambuilders violinist Joan Wasser has released nine albums as a solo singer/songwriter under the Joan as Police Woman banner. Two of those records have been covers albums, and no cover of hers has been streamed more often on Spotify than her version of “Kiss.” Wasser turned Prince’s funky arrangement on its head, creating a gentle, intimate song with some quiet guitar, piano, drums, and vocals. It’s the leadoff track from her Cover Two album, released in 2020.

Even the cover of Wasser’s covers albums are covers of other album covers. The cover for Cover Two is based on the cover art for Loverboy’s 1981 album Get Lucky.

Richard Thompson

Thompson’s cover of “Kiss” is an upbeat version performed by himself on acoustic guitar and vocals, with Michael Jerome (formerly of the Toadies and soon to be a member of Better than Ezra) on drums. Even more notable than the cover itself is the album on which Thompson released the song. He recorded 1000 Years of Popular Music in response to a request from Playboy magazine to come up with a list of the best songs from the second millennium. The list was supposed to be published as part of a pre-Y2K feature. Playboy never ran the piece, but Thompson performed his greatest-hits-of-the-millenium setlist for a crowd at Joe’s Pub in New York in 2002. The resulting performance was released as an album in 2003.

“Kiss” shares space on the album alongside other late-20th century hits, like Britney Spears’ “Oops!…I Did It Again” (recorded in 1999 but released in 2000), Squeeze’s “Tempted,” and ABBA’s “Money, Money, Money.” Thompson took the assignment literally, as the album begins with an interpretation of a medieval composition and proceeds with covers of traditional folk songs, classical pieces, and tunes from a variety of 20th-century genres.

Kelly Clarkson

Clarkson’s version of “Kiss,” like Prince’s original, is funky and soulful, but it cooks at a much slower pace. Aside from Clarkson’s full-throttle vocal performance, this rendition distinguishes itself with Memphis-style horns. This cover came out just over 18 months after Prince’s death in 2016.

Clarkson released her version as part of the Spotify Singles series, in which artists record a cover song along with a rerecorded version of one of their own songs. Her choice for a rerecorded track was “Love So Soft,” which was the lead single from her 2017 album Meaning of Life. The Spotify version of “Love So Soft” was released two months after her original recording of the song became available as a digital download.

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Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

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