Covering U2 – George Michael’s “Miss Sarajevo”

songs_from_the_last_century-13455428-frntlI’ve never been a fan of George Michael’s music. It’s always seemed to me to be the very embodiment of the shallow sort of disposable pop that U2 work to avoid, and that I personally eschew as a matter of taste. There’s nothing wrong with a harmless little pop ditty if you’re out with the friends at a club or if you just want something to be on in the background, but for active listening, I think we can all do much better. I guess it’s what Bono used to describe as “wallpaper music”, and I think that that term nicely sums up my feelings on George Michael’s music.

You might be asking yourself, “This is a U2 column, on a U2 web-site. What’s with all this George Michael talk?” to which I’d reply, “I’m glad you asked!”. Back in 1999, George Michael released an album titled Songs From the Last Century, which consisted entirely of covers of songs which were, presumably, Mr. Michael’s favorites from the 20th century. Normally, I’d never have given this project a second glance, but I discovered, by way of my employment at a record store, that one of the songs being covered was the Passengers single “Miss Sarajevo”. I was absolutely shocked that Mr. Michael was covering this relatively obscure gem from U2’s catalog, and I bought the record the day it came out and rushed home to hear his interpretation of one of U2’s favorite songs that they’ve ever recorded.

Miss_sarajevoLooking back to that day, some fifteen years ago, I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. I’d hoped, believed beyond any reasonable consideration, that Mr. Michael, being the professional that he is, would manage to take this beautiful song about grace in the face of horrible odds, and fashion a moving cover that did credit to the subject matter. What I got instead is the most washed-out, colorless, emotionless, worthless piece of tepid crap ever recorded. It tries to be smooth jazz, and I concede that the instrumentation and arrangement aren’t entirely devoid of merit, but they certainly don’t convey any sense of import or give any hint of the emotional weight that this song deserves. Mr. Michael’s vocal is even worse I could almost – almost, mind you – forgive this if he had really sold the mood and feeling of an intimate little jazz club that the music is striving for. The sad fact is that the singer simply doesn’t have the chops for it. His voice is weak and thready, completely lacking the warmth, humanity, dignity and range that are called for by either Bono’s original lyrics or the arrangement or Mr. Michael’s own choosing. Even worse – and I suspect that this is because Mr. Michael knew that he simply couldn’t do it justice – the opera part has been excised entirely. There’s a part of me, I’m sure the same part that believed that this could be anything other than the complete waste of time that it is, that wants to at least give credit to Mr. Michael for his adventurous choice of song to cover, but, honestly, it’s hard to hear this as anything other than an insult. I don’t usually like to write wholly negative reviews of anything, but I have to warn you, one U2 fan to another, don’t make the mistake that I made. Avoid this like the plague.

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.

Home Forums Covering U2 – George Michael’s “Miss Sarajevo”

This topic contains 4 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Pam 6 months ago.

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  • #7849

    broadsword
    Moderator

    I’ve never been a fan of George Michael’s music. It’s always seemed to me to be the very embodiment of the shallow sort of disposable pop that U2 work
    [See the full post at: Covering U2 - George Michael's "Miss Sarajevo"]

    #7853

    SPun2U
    Key Master

    Agreed. Avoid George Michael at all cost!

    #7854

    joepit
    Moderator

    I just had to Youtube it to remind myself of it. I do remember when it first came out. I think you may be a little harsh on this one. True, when comparing it to the original or comparing singers (almost impossible right) the two are incomparable, however, if U2 did not do the original or if this was an original of George Michael’s, you may look at it differently.
    Personally, I thought the entire tribute album of U2 songs that came out a year or two back was horrible, except for a few tracks. I’m man enough to admit that George Michael has a beautiful voice and has made some of the most memorable pop songs in music history, I wouldn’t call myself a fan and his music isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but I like his attempt here. Starting off your piece informing the reader that you are not a fan of George Michael’s music may be the reason for your dislike. I like it.

    #7856

    Leeny
    Participant

    Although he’s no Bono, George Michael’s cover of Miss Sarajevo is at least tolerable;

    but what he did to Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is criminal.

    #7858

    Pam
    Participant

    I´m also not a George Michael fan even though I think that he´s a talented singer. His voice sounds soulful, but for me some songs are too polished. I wouldn´t completely condemn his cover version of Miss Sarajevo. It sounds even pleasant, relaxed and nice, but for me great music has to be more than just nice. I miss the emotional depth and excitement I hear in U2´s music. Whereas U2´s original truly leads to a high point (the opera solo) George Michael´s cover purls constantly like a quiet river.

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