UB40 – Can’t Help Falling in Love

First Hit #1: July 24, 1993

The second trend of 1993, somewhat uninspiring reggae. At least Snow had an original track – albeit a somewhat incomprehensible one – UB40 has done a bland cover of a pretty decent Elvis Presley song, and has rode that low-effort train to the top of the chart.

On one hand, UB40 does follow part one of the golden rule of good covers, that being you need to add something unique to the proceedings. Making it reggae is a change from the original, and does take it in a new, more electronic, and even arguably more eclectic direction.

On the other hand, part two of the golden rule is you have to make it better, and the group’s reggae affectations don’t really do much for the song. The song is undoubtedly stronger with Elvis singing lead, it’s actually one of his most vulnerable performances. UB40 replaces this vulnerability with their standard sound, but doesn’t really enhance it. It’s a band that assumes that a popular song made reggae is enough of a reward, but there’s nothing genuinely vital or interesting about their Elvis cover. It takes the song in a new direction, but without a reason to go there.

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One Response to UB40 – Can’t Help Falling in Love

  1. RBerman says:

    I didn’t remember this song being done by them, but as soon as “UB40 – Can’t Help Falling in Love” appeared on the web page, I could immediately imagine what it would sound like. As a thought experiment, I wondered how easy it would be to imagine UB40 doing their same “midtempo reggae cover of a pop hit” for other hits. Turns out it’s extremely easy to hear in my head. “Sledgehammer”? Yup. “Always Something There to Remind Me”? Yup. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn?” Yup. “Stayin’ Alive”? Yup. “Smoke On the Water”? Yup. All with the same tempo, same beat, same instrumentation. Thus the dangers of a schtick that becomes a crutch.

    So I was pleasantly surprised to hear the actual track. It has a different drum track than I expected, with that synthesized hi-hat keeping the eighth notes going. The synth bass has made strides since “Red Red Wine,” and some nice horns keep popping in and out. Nothing brilliant or trendsettng, but still more imaginative than the version in my head.

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