Covering U2 – Remixes VS Covers

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know exactly where to draw the line between “covers” and “remixes”. I often see the two used interchangeably online, (which irks me no end), but the truth is that there really is a bit of a grey area between the two. Generally speaking, a cover is when one artist remakes another artist’s song. A remix is usually more of a collaborative affair – one artist reworks another’s already recorded material. Sometimes, there will be some new elements included, but some portion of the original song will still remain to be found. Some of the confusion stems from the fact that samples are so prevalent in today’s musical culture. For this reason, I’ve added this further rule – a remix must be based on the original. Think of this like movies that are based on a novel, versus two dissimilar movies featuring the same cast, with the cast being analogous to the musical ideas. When a new song is based on an older one, (but not simply a remake or a cover), that’s a remix. When a new artist makes a new and different song using some elements of another song, that’s just sampling and, for my purposes, anyway, that has no relation to the original.

By the above definition, Musique’s “New Year’s Dub” qualifies as a remix – and a damn fine one, to boot. The story goes that there was a DJ convention in Florida back in 2001 during the same time that U2 were in town to rehearse for the upcoming Elevation tour. An unsolicited remix (or third party mix – one that was made without the band’s permission) that was making the rounds at this convention was Musique’s remix of New Year’s Day, titled New Year’s dub. According to Google, a dub is “a style of popular music originating from the remixing of recorded music (especially reggae), typically with the removal of some vocals and instruments and the exaggeration of bass guitar” (note that it refers to it as a “remix”) Which is precisely what Musique did with the popular U2 track from the early 80’s. Now, it just so happened that U2 heard about this remix, and not only gave their permission for it to be commercially released, they also agreed to appear in the video! What a swell bunch of guys!

Another similar track that comes to mind while we’re on the topic is the Jeep Grrlz remix of “Wire”, titled “Re-Wired“, which was a track that the Grrlz were performing in and around Ireland back in the late 90’s. Once again, this remix received an official blessing, but was never commercially released, receiving instead only a couple of promotional discs. I kind of dig this too, to be honest, but then, I like techno and remixes, and I know that not a lot of U2 fans share those predilections.

A third track that probably merits a mention here is LMC’s “Take Me to the Clouds Above”. As far as I’m concerned, this is simply a case of U2’s music being sampled – it’s neither a cover nor a sample. I personally don’t have a copy of this release in my collection, and I don’t think much of the song even as a pop track. I’ll include a link to the video here for you to make up your own mind. Maybe it’ll help to further clarify the differences between a sample and a remix, anyway. The truth is, I frankly don’t have much time for this song. I hope you’ll enjoy it, and this week’s article, nonetheless.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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