It was obvious pretty much from the start that U2 were setting out to be the most important band in the world, not necessarily the most famous or the richest, but the most important band in the world. And there are some who would argue that they actually achieved this goal. The songs not only reflected a highly original style, they were passionate to the extreme and generally covered much deeper subject matter than most other songs out there.
Following is nonhollywood's list of best U2 covers, see what you think. If you like this list check out our other lists of covers by great artists such as R.E.M. and The Cure (song previews provided courtesy of iTunes).
Sunday Bloody Sunday by Lisa Bresnan
At the risk of sounding over-dramatic, I find this version to be heartbreakingly beautiful. I simply love the sparse piano arrangement and Lisa's voice just drips with emotion. If you don't feel the heartbreak in this one, then you must be made of stone. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
One Tree Hill by Mike Masse
Here's a guy who's recorded about a million covers... and pretty much all of them are terrific. The emotion on this one--I mean, let's face it, Bono is one of the most emotional singers around, so if you're going to cover U2 it really helps to nail the emotion, which Mike does here, even despite the kinda rude audience chatter going on in the background during this live performance.Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview).
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by Yellowfly
The spartan arrangement of this one works really well. Again, another vocalist who can deliver the emotional goods, and that's what I'm looking for, especially in a U2 cover. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview).
Love is Blindness by Trespassers William
There is another page on this website where I absolutely gush about Trespassers William, so I won't go there on this one (though I really love Trespassers William). I'll just say that I hope you agree that their slow, dreamy version of Love is Blindness is just way cool. Even though it is not my favorite U2 song, I still think that this one is way cool. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview).
40 by Meshell Ndegeocello
This has always been one of my favorite U2 songs. It's been a long time since I've been to one of their concerts, so I have no idea if they still end every show with this one, but I know that I love the song. And this version which appears on a charity album for the Congo has a really cool approach that I like: in a way it's pretty much like the original (all echoey and such), yet it still manages to feel quite a bit different than the original. Perhaps it's the delicate female vocals. But I really like it. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview).
With or Without You by Amy Sky
Though U2 had been gaining a bigger and bigger audience with each album, it was With or Without You that turned out to be the first gigantic super-hit of their career. So, it is only natural that there are many, many covers of this song. In my opinion, this one by Amy Sky is the best of the bunch: a gentle piano touch and deep, forlorn and tortured female vocals. I love it. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview).
Sunday Bloody Sunday by Rachel Barton
This is a fantastic string instrumental version from classical artist Rachel Barton. I'm a fan of strings and one of the things that I've always enjoyed about classical music is the way that classical composers often take several different melodies and counter-melodies and weave them together--something about hearing all of those different parts going on always thrills me. So I was thrilled when I heard this arrangement of Sunday Bloody Sunday which applies a classical string quartet feel to this emotionally impactful tune. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview).
With or Without You by Boyce Avenue feat. Kina Grannis
The emergence of Youtube has helped to make our time something of the golden age of cover tunes. And one of the groups that has made one heck of a mark in that golden age is Boyce Avenue. Here they team with fellow Youtuber Kina Grannis for a great rendition of With or Without You featuring some damned amazing harmonies. Great stuff. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by Martine Locke
As you've probably guessed, I really love this song and I'm so happy to have found a few covers that do it justice. This acoustic cover from Jamestowne hits it just right, leaving me with that same "desert-y" feeling that was evoked by The Joshua Tree but with a slightly different feel to it. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview).
In God's Country by Earl Pickens & Family
2 things here. First, In God's Country is my favorite Joshua Tree song--I feel like it's the perfect blend of melody and poetry (try reading the lyrics as a poem sometime, they work fantastically). Second, I don't generally care much for bluegrass music. But for some reason, this version on a bluegrass tribute to U2 really works for me. Go figure Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview).
Sunday Bloody Sunday by Wild Colonial Bhoys
I've recorded many songs with an acoustic guitar wherein I'm pounding the strings as hard as I can--as it just adds an aggressive feel to what is generally a pretty-sounding instrument and I love that you can get that sort of feel without distortion and an amp. So I was immediately drawn to this cover in which someone is beating the crap out of an acoustic guitar. I'm pretty sure that at least a string or 2 were broken during the recording of this one. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview).
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by Jenny & Tyler
Pride - In the Name of Love by Vitamin String Quartet
If there's one name that you'll notice recurring on my lists of covers, it is Vitamin String Quartet. I just can't say enough good things about them. And this version of Pride - In the Name of Love is, I think, one of their best. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview).
A gentle, rolling, female acoustic version here, which works extraordinarily well. I have no idea if it is Lacey or Sara doing the singing, but whichever it is, she's fantastic. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
I've always enjoyed the bass part in this song and Hazel's version does a great job of that bass part, coupled with a strumming acoustic guitar and of course, some great vocals Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
Sunday Bloody Sunday by Electron Love Theory
I'll admit it, when I saw this album billed as a "U2 Electronic Tribute," I was a bit skeptical. Luckily, this cover of Sunday, Bloody Sunday got rid of my doubts. With chill-style synths and low-keyed female vocals, it definitely feels like a completely different song, but a good different song Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
Bad by Electron Love Theory
And while we're at it, another in this series by Electron Love Theory (but with a different vocalist). Bad is one of my favorite U2 songs and I'm really surprised that I would like an electronic version of it. I love the low-key groove that's happening here and the female vocals are just right. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview).
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by The Lester McLean Trio
Imagine a scratchy old blues record from the depression-era south and that's what you get from this cover. If you are into great blues guitar stylings, then this is the version for you. (by the way, Lester does an amazing cover of Little Red Corvette... I'm just saying). Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of by Celtic Tribute Players
When you look around the internet for cover songs, you find that there are a lot of Celtic versions of pretty much everything out there. Well, this tribute to U2 actually makes sense, Celtic-ly speaking, and this great fiddle-fueled version of Stuck In a Moment shows exactly the way to go about such a thing. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
I really like the slight change in the chord progression on this Brazilian-styled acoustic version of this classic. Plus. some great congas and choral background vocals. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
With or Without You by Sarah Darling
Despite the fact that I'm not really a country music person, I feel like this country version works really well. Sarah's vocals are soft and sensitive and the pedal steel guitar makes for a mournful cry in the background. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
Okay, I know I've said this, but I'm not much of a fan of bluegrass, yet this cover works for me. I love the way that Edge's well-known guitar part is so well played on a mandolin and the harmonies on the chorus are just darned impressive. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by Two Weeks Notice
I'm always intrigued by a cappella arrangements (well, interesting and unique a cappella arrangements. I really enjoy the way the backgrounds are handled in this sweet version by Two Weeks Notice. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
Pride - In the Name of Love by Bad Influence
You may have noticed that I tend to lean toward somber and sparse covers in my lists, but just to throw you a curve, here's a great and rockin' live cover by Bad Influence. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by Erin Propp & Larry Roy
A jazzy acoustic version of this one. To be honest, when I first started listening to this one, the changes they've made to the chord voicing threw me off and turned me off, but as I listened more patiently, I began to actually enjoy it. And Erin has a downright beautiful voice. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
This is a very interesting take on this song--definite pop stylings paired with a change of time signature to give it a waltz feel. 1,2,3,1,2,3 is something I don't remember ever hearing from U2, but it works. Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
Pride - In the Name of Love by Soweto Gospel Choir
I have to be honest here, Mysterious Ways was the first U2 song that I really didn't care for (okay, let's get this out in the open: I'm one of those U2 fans from the 80s who absolutely hated their work in the 90s and waited patiently until they got back on track with All That You Can't Leave Behind). So, I really had to listen to a whole lot of covers to find one that I liked. This one takes it and makes a fun acoustic jam out of it. And this one I do like (by the way, this guy also manages to pull off one very difficult task: a live version of REM's It's the End of the World as We Know It. Try to get all of those words right in one shot sometime. Impressive). Buy it on iTunes (or hear longer preview)
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For by Christine Collister