Which Cover of I Think We’re Alone Now Tops the Original?

When I was in 7th grade, a song stormed radio stations across the country. Tiffany’s cover of I Think We’re Alone Now echoed through the ears of every adolescent in the country and demanded our affections. There was just something about I Think We’re Alone Now that captivated our emotions. Fast forward a few months later, and my heart was broken by the very same song. When my parents played the oldies station, what did I hear? A 1960s pop band singing I Think We’re Alone Now. As much as I love covers now, I hated covers of my parent’s music when I was in Junior High. This was MY music, not theirs, darn it!

While Tiffany and Tommy James boast the most popular versions of I Think We’re Alone Now, the song has been covered dozens of times in every genre from New Wave to Punk to Electropop. Tiffany even redid the song in a rock and roll style. So, which of the many covers of I Think We’re Alone Now is the canonical version? I’ll examine six different versions of the song to answer that very question. This is I Cover vs Original: I Think We’re Alone Now.

Which Cover of I Think We're Alone Now Tops the Original?

Tommy James & The Shondells (1967)

Despite my initial reaction to the song, Tommy James (& The Shondells) give us a solid bubble gum pop song with their original version of I Think We’re Alone Now. The first sound, a bass line, catches our ears right away. Said bass line repeats throughout the song, and provides a solid foundation for the song.

The most striking part of the song has to be the bridges and chorus. As James sings about “Trying to get away into the night” the tempo progresses two or three times and layer upon layer of the instrument is added to the mix. All this falls away into a quiet chorus: “I think we’re alone now.” The only instrument we hear during the chorus is the same bass that started the song. The chorus tempo slows to a crawl. Even the lyrics sound whispered. The stripped-down chorus tells us that the lovers no longer have to run.

The chaos of running followed by the calm and of freedom. Two teen lovers, just trying to be alone. This is the crux of I Think We’re Alone Now. This is why the song topped the charts at number 1!

Lene Lovich (1978)

Lovich immediately shows her cover of I Think We’re Alone Now will be different than the original. Lovich replaces the bass line with an electric piano and an unidentifiable instrument (or voice) that echos “woo ooo ooo ooo ooo.” Seriously, is it a synthesizer? Is it a background singer? Is it a sample? I can’t really tell, but I like it!

Lovich doesn’t really build up the bridges as Tommy James does, but she does add a ton of electronic flair, which gives the bridges a similar effect. Synthesizers making UFO noises, and then a high-pitched noise that sounds like an alien abduction. Granted, the chorus follows the original, with minimal instruments and muted sounds.

Lovich’s cover of I Think We’re Alone Now gives us a distinct message: the teen lovers can’t be alone unless they’re whisked away on a UFO. Even then, I have the feeling the aliens would want to study the teens.

Tiffany (1987)

Like I said before, Tiffany’s cover of I Think We’re Alone Now was my first version of the song. This was the canon as far as I was concerned, Tommy James? Who cares about some old guy? Tiffany was close to my age! Tiffany was a senior in high school when I was a freshman! And oh, she was cute as a freaking button (and still is), but I digress.

Tiffany does a decent job of bringing her cover of I Think We’re Alone Now to a modern (for 1987) sound. With so many electric instruments., it’s hard to keep track of what sounds are what! I think my favorite, though, is the keyboard playing notes so fast, it sounds like a machine gun firing bullets! Even the chorus was riddled with synthesizers. Oh, what a tribute to 80s pop music! Tiffany’s cover of I Think We’re Alone Now was the most danceable song on the radio!

Tiffany’s age at the time of recording “I Think We’re Alone Now” (15), played an important part in the song. This was not just some adult singing about when they were teenagers. Tiffany was an actual teenager when she sang about teen lovers. Perhaps this is what really skyrocketed Tiffany’s versions to the youth of America. Tiffany was one of us.

Snuff (1989)

What can I say about the Snuff version? It’s loud and very punk. What else can I say about the Snuff version? Well, again, it’s loud and very punk! Really, that’s the main feature of Snuff’s cover of I Think We’re Alone Now. Three chords, played loud and fast. For the record, Snuff does play the chorus a little slower, and a little quieter than when they play the verses. And the harmonies between the lead and backup singer are absolutely gorgeous! So, I guess Snuff’s version of I Think We’re Alone Now isn’t 100 percent punk, but it’s good enough for the most pits of the late 80s.

Girls Aloud (2006)

Tiffany may have updated I Think We’re Alone Now to a 1987 sound, but electropop outfit Girls Aloud updates the song to a 2006 club sound. Layers, upon layers, upon layers of synthesizers, no discernable guitars, a bunch of programmed drum machines. This was the mid-noughties! Think the Spice Girls, only faster and more synthetic. That’s what Girls Aloud sound like while singing I Think We’re Alone Now.

Granted, synthetic isn’t an insult, at least not in this case. The Girls Aloud cover of I Think We’re Alone Now is very listenable. For certain, the song is ear candy, but it’s so sweet. It just makes you want more, more, more.

Billie Joe Armstrong (2020)

Most covers of I Think We’re Alone Now uses Tiffany’s version as a template. Billie Joe Armstrong uses the Tommy James version. It makes sense, considering Armstrong is more rock-oriented than pop-oriented. But reading a little deeper, grunge and alternative bands (such as Green Day) are part of the reason Tiffany faded from popularity in the 90s. Was Armstrong saying something here? Ok, ok, in actuality, Armstrong’s cover of I Think We’re Alone Now serves as an homage to isolation due to COVID-19. In fact, the video alludes to Armstrong really missing his bandmates. So, I’m just reading a subtest that isn’t there.

Back to the sound, Armstrong might follow the template of Tommy James, but the two versions of I Think We’re Alone Now sound nothing like each other. Armstrong inserts a lot more power-punk/pop-punk in his guitars. Armstrong also has more of a wall of a sound than James. In fact, this wall of sound might be an homage to the Tiffany version. While Armstrong uses guitars, and Tiffany uses keys and synths, both achieve the same effect after all.

Fun fact, Armstrong’s sons play the bass and drums on this cover of I Think We’re Alone now.

Which cover of I Think We’re Alone Now wins?

It is so hard to be objective on this song! I really love the Tiffany version. I mean I REALLY love the Tiffany version. But, as a music journalist, I must be objective. So let’s start out with the covers that aren’t in the running. First of all, the Snuff cover. It’s fun, and damn I do love punk covers, but this version just doesn’t make the cut for me. Likewise, I loved the Lene Lovich sci-fi, UFO-themed version. It’s unique. Still, Lovich’s version doesn’t have too much of a repeat value. I already said the Girls Aloud version was candy. Sweet, sweet candy, but candy nonetheless. As far as Billie Joe Armstrong, he does a solid cover. I actually rank this as my number two favorite version of the song. But ranked number 2 means Armstrong does not have the best cover.

So, in true cover vs original form, we have the original Tommy James version vs the cover by Tiffany. The two definitive versions and only one can come away as the winner. The thing that stands out the most between the two songs: Tiffany’s ethos. Tommy James was 20 when he recorded I Think We’re Alone Now. Tiffany was 15. Tommy was an adult and really didn’t have the problems the song boasts. Tiffany, well she was an adolescent. She probably knew well, at that time, what it was like to have your parents or siblings or cousins or whoever constantly bothering you when you just want to be alone with your high school sweetheart. So, with that in mind, I declare Tiffany the winner.

I mentioned in the introduction, Tiffany re-recorded I Think We’re Alone Now. She strips the song of electronic instruments and adds a bunch of guitars. The results sound nothing like any other version we’ve heard thus far! So, give it a listen! And while you do, leave a comment. Did I choose the best version of I Think We’re Alone Now? Was there a cover you thought was better? Let me know below! Also, let me know if there’s another song you want me to give the Cover vs Original treatment. I’m always looking out for new ideas.

Until next time, Rock on, and rocksteady.

Scroll to Top