With U2 on their 2011 tour now and scheduled to hit Winnipeg May 29 and Edmonton on June 1, there’s no better time to look back on their long career and dig up some of the many, many covers which have been done of their songs. Some are brilliant, some are cheesy, some are hilarious, and some are just plain weird. Here’s six of our faves. Did we miss yours? Let us know in the comments.
Also, if you still need U2 tickets for Winnipeg, Edmonton, or any of their tour dates, you can always get them from us at ShowTimeTickets.com, where we’re never sold out.
The Bravery – “An Cat Dubh”
The Bravery, famous for their 2005 sorta-hit “An Honest Mistake,” aren’t exactly the most original, groundbreaking, or wildly popular modern rock act, but they’re pretty good as an example of what slightly cool guitar bands are doing lately. They had a spirited take on the mid-00s dance-punk/new wave/nu-rave thing where guitar bands made disco or house influenced rock, they got a ton of press in the UK, and the singer got to write some tracks for Shakira and Christina Aguilera (“She Wolf” and “Monday Morning,” respectively).
So the Bravery (oh, wait, they’re also on the Twilight soundtrack) are a pretty good representation of what rock music sounds like in the 21st century. That’s why this cover of U2’s “An Cat Dubh” is interesting—you can really see the similarities between Bono’s voice and that of the Bravery’s Sam Endicott. The instrumental is really not all that different from the Bravery’s other stuff, but the only difference from the U2 version is the cheap studio tricks mandatory in the 21st century if a band doesn’t want to sound “quiet”: there are no dynamics (the song is just loud throughout), everything is huge and immediate and squashed and sounds as if it’s being pumped right into your ear. If you listened to the two bands live, though, you’d be hearing something very, very similar.
Cher – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
First things first, Cher is a great singer. She belted this U2 classic (from Joshua Tree) out like few others can on her “Farewell” and “Do You Believe” tours. Watching her sing it, it’s this belting which gets weird, especially when combined with the arrangement her backing band is playing. The song, originally a gospel-influenced mid-tempo track about religious yearning, becomes a huge flashy disco house anthem where Cher seems about as introspective as a Radio City Rockette. Somehow, it works.
Bonnie Tyler – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”
Cher wasn’t the only dance music diva to put out a U2 cover, and while she and Bonnie Tyler picked the same song, the results couldn’t be more different. The “Total Eclipse of the Heart” singer put out Heart Strings, a 2003 album of covers backed by the Prague Philharmonic Symphony, and this U2 cover from it works surprisingly well. Tyler’s gravelly, rasping voice, combined with the ethereal, droning arrangement, evokes the spirit behind the original while sounding totally different.
Pet Shop Boys – “Where the Streets Have No Name”
This is a weird one. The self-aware, emotionally reserved electronic group Pet Shop Boys are perhaps not the best choice to cover U2’s anthemic, heart-on-sleeve song. Double odd is the fact that the song is in fact a medley of covers, incorporating parts of Frankie Valli’s sixties hit “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” (or at least the 1981 disco version of it). It all makes sense when you realize that the song is, in fact, a mockery—the “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” bit is put in right after the chorus to point out the similarities between the two hooks (and tacitly accuse Bono of ripping off Frankie Valli). Despite the added insult to injury of the single charting higher than U2’s version ever did, the Pet Shop Boys and U2 eventually kissed and made up.
Johnny Cash. – “One”
Recorded as part of the American series, Johnny Cash’s version of U2’s “One” was typical of his late-in-life work. Much like his more popular cover of the Nine Inch Nails track “Hurt,” his cover of “One” saw him perform a stripped-down version of the song, his deep, tenuous old man’s voice backed up with a pair of gently strummed acoustic guitars and some minimalist piano and organ. Like many of the songs, it manages to find deeper meaning in a pop song, and evokes a man looking back on a lifetime of pain, loss, and bad decisions.
Bank of America – “One”
Coming in at number one on our list just for its sheer insanity is this video of “One” being covered by… well, we’re not sure what his name is (a quick Google search says it’s BofA branch manager Ethan Chandler. Okay, then). He’s wearing dress pants, a nametag and a tie, he’s balding, and he’s singing an incredibly emotional version of U2’s “One” at a Bank of America corporate conference, only he’s changed all the lyrics to reflect Bank of America’s value system and great financial products, and he’s doing it with a totally straight face.
Replacing U2’s original lyrics with ones like “We’ll make lots of money” and “Have you heard about Michelle Shepard? She’s leading the team in the Northeast” while amping Bono’s already emotional delivery up to 11, this version of “One” left YouTubers worldwide shrieking with laughter when it was leaked in 2006. “Integration,” as the song says, “has never had us feeling so good.” Whatever that means.
If you’re ready to get really, REALLY meta, there’s also video footage of comedian David Cross performing his cover of the Bank of America cover of the original U2 song. It’s kind of like Inception but a lot sillier.