Jan 012020

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

U2 War

Happy 2020 to you!

U2’s “New Year’s Day” was the first international hit song for the band that would go on to become worldwide superstars, both musically and in the realm of socio-political activism. Perhaps a response, at least in part, to the turbulence and unrest of the early 1980s, “New Year’s Day” heralded the beginning of a more focused effort on the part of the band to use their platform to call attention to issues much larger than those typically addressed in popular music of the time. Though it was originally conceived as a love song, the lyrics take on a much deeper, starker meaning when you look at them through the lens of Bono’s inspiration: Solidarity, the labor union/social activism movement that was instrumental in ending Communist rule in Poland. It’s a popular song for bands to cover; secondhandsongs.com lists over 40 versions. From the three selected here…

The Stella Starlight Trio did a good job.
The Rialto Burns did it better.
The Dangerous did it best.

The Stella Starlight Trio – New Year’s Day (U2 cover)

Little information is available about the Stella Starlight Trio, but after all, it’s the music that matters. This version is a full-on lounge jazz version of the original, complete with upright bass, a vibraphone, piano, and brushes on the drums. It’s musically solid — the musicianship is spot-on. The slightly nasal female vocals are a little bit distracting, but not enough to write it off. Rather than the bastardization that it could have been, this version works, although it doesn’t convey all the power and emotion of the original. It’s worth a listen.

The Rialto Burns – New Year’s Day (U2 cover)

The Rialto Burns was a Liverpool band that was active up until 2012. Their keyboard-forward version is an interesting take on the original, a little faster in tempo and built over an EDM-like synth line. The vocals are deeper than Bono’s, and are reminiscent of the Mission UK’s Wayne Hussey. It’s unfortunate that this band is no longer together; they were never as successful as this cover indicates they should have been.

The Dangerous – New Year’s Day (U2 cover)

Based out of San Jose, California, The Dangerous is a relatively new band, formed in 2018 by childhood friends Keviano Azevedo and Edgar Fernandez. They bill themselves as an Indie Reggae band, and they have some serious reggae credentials, having performed with Bunny Wailer and Black Uhuru, among others. This version of “New Year’s Day” is most certainly reggae-flavored, with a standard reggae beat driving the verses. The guitar work is strong, and stays true to the original, while the keyboards add a lushness that’s markedly different from the stark, treble-heavy sound U2 achieved in the studio. The result is a version that’s different from its source. While more is not always better, in this case, it’s pretty darn good.

Check out more great covers of U2 songs in our archives.

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