Monday, November 21, 2005

The Unforgettable Ego

In a recent interview on 60 Minutes, U2's Bono declared that his activist work will most likely be forgotten in 100 years, but his music will live on. His faith in U2's musical longevity is due to his belief that their songs "occupy an emotional terrain that didn't exist before our group did". He declared that, at 45, he wasn't ready to burn out or fade away just yet and that he was looking forward to making more "extraordinary" music with his bandmates. Ok, then.


At the risk of pissing off one of my most loyal readers (sorry, Layla) I have to say that Bono gets more and more on my nerves every day. What an ego on this guy! He started to bug me back around the time that Achtung, Baby came out, when he started buzzing around with those enormous sunglasses, pretending he was a fly. Still, that was a great record so I didn't let it affect me too much.

Then, with Zooropa,the quality of music started to decline and Bono sprouted devil horns to become "MacPhisto". At that point, I really started to feel bad for the guy. I was sure that he had made so much money that he really had become "crazy rich", so to speak. I figured his mind just snapped under the stress of intense fame and success.

My suspicions were confirmed, at least in my own mind, when U2 didn't put out another record for four years, and when they did it was the weird, wannabe disco album, Pop. Finally, a bit of the old U2 resurfaced in 2000 with All That You Can't Leave Behind. However, I feel that record, as well as the latest, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, are more "U2-light". They don't have quite the same edge as they once did, and many of their songs seem awfully formulaic. (Hmm, maybe they should go back to the short, snappy album titles.)

Now, I'm not saying that they can't evolve and should've released six more versions of The Joshua Tree. Not at all. They were evolving. The change between that signature record and Achtung, Baby was fascinating. U2 was able to go in a completely different musical direction and experiment with a more dance-beat sound, while still staying true to their rock roots. So, what happened after that? The two follow-up records were pretty uninspired, if not completely boring, and the most recent two have been little more than standard pop fare, boasting the occasional gem. I can see glimpses of the old U2 in songs like "Beautiful Day" and "Miracle Drug", but aside from that they seem content to rest on their laurels by churning out a few hits at a time and charging Average Joes a week's salary for concert tickets.

U2 absolutely deserves their recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I am by no means trying to suggest that they aren't worthy of their successes. They influenced an entire generation and continue to make good music. I guess the issue I have is that Bono is talking about continuing to make "extraordinary" music, and he hasn't really done that since he killed The Fly. I think U2 still has it in them, but they'll never recapture the musical magic that they once had until they stop believing in their own hype.

And Bono, when you become almost as pretentious and annoying as Tom Cruise, that means you need to bring it down a few notches. Please. As I often say, I'm a lover of all things Irish. So, stop being such a gobshite.

22 comments:

Ruthie In The Sky said...

Your blog is really professional. I want to let you know that I am voting for it in the battle of the blogs.

rG said...

Thank you for being so apt. Bono, seriously, you're stuck in a moment that you can't (won't?) get out of.

Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

Bono is the absolute best. My hero. I read your post, but I had trouble taking it in because my pinkies were jammed in my ears and I was hollering na-na-na-na-can't hear you-na-na-na-na!"

Teri said...

I like U2, and that bono cat, he does some good stuff. He's also a wee bit strange, methinks...

Neo said...

Becky -His ego has inflated quite a bit over the years. I still like their music, but sometimes as you said, you have to shrink your head a little and still be down to earth.

RockyJay said...

Obviously you don't know a thing about U2. This space provided by blogger isn't enough for my comment I was going to write inspired by your post.

Instead, I am going to do my version and simply send you a link.

Gosh! You mess with U2, you mess with me! GRRR!

Kate said...

I still love this band and I think Bono is one of those famous people I'd like to have over for dinner (if this were a meme).
Their early stuff is really rough and yes, he went through a huge phase of pretentiousness (and probably still is), but as someone who can listen to both Henry Rollins and U2 unironically, I just have to say I really appreciate their music.
But I think you're right. Achtung Baby was really something. Zooropa was OK, and I could just never own or fully embrace Pop. That will be the one album of theirs I will never own. Toooooo weeeeeird.
HTDAAB is OK...in fact, it's rather meh. There are some good songs on it, but....meh. Kind of disappointing after ATYCLB.

cmhl said...

bono has definite potential to be a couch jumper, aka batshit crazy tom..

BeckEye said...

Oh God...I knew I would take some heat from the Bono worshippers out there....

Ruthie - Thank you!

rg - I kind of like that song, although I think it, "Walk On" and the one...what's the other one..."When I Look at the World"...they're all much too similar. I get them all confused. I would say "Stuck in a Moment" is the best one, especially after I found out from Layla that it was written about Michael Hutchence. Layla is probably putting the finishing touches on my voodoo doll right about now.

BRFA - If you would take your fingers out of your ears, you could hear that their music isn't what it once was. Oh, snap! Ha ha...Hey, it's just an opinion. Bono seems like a decent fellow, but he definitely has a few screws loose.

Teri - Yeah, Bono has done some good things, but I think he's starting to think of himself as a saint. I just don't get how he can go on these crusades against poverty and then charge outrageous ticket prices for his shows, live the high life on a private jet and wear designer clothes. He has done good, but he's a walking contradiction, which I find maddening.

Neo - If his ego inflates any more, he'll just be a floating head, like the great and powerful Oz.

Rockyjay - I already commented on your blog...I feel your pain because nothing riles me up more than when people diss Eddie Vedder. (Enter BadGod.) Still, it's just an opinion and I don't know that you read the whole post. I LIKE U2. I always have. I just think they've become content with being a giant, commercial monster like The Rolling Stones, and they were the last band I ever would've imagined would go that route. I don't know anything about them?? I own most of their records, I've seen them live...I even went to see that stupid movie, Rattle and Hum when it came out in theaters. I know enough about them to know that they're better than what they're doing right now.

Kate - Funny you should mention Henry Rollins. I heard a quote of his about U2 one day, I think he may have been on Howard Stern. He was talking about the song "When I Look at the World" and said something to the effect of it was a perfect example of "Bono having nothing left to say". Ouch. I even sort of flinched at that remark. I wouldn't go that far. And I think Henry Rollins is kind of a self-important jackass. I appreciate his musical integrity, but I don't appreciate his music.

cmhl - Maybe they should fight on Celebrity Death Match? I'd definitely root for Bono.

Lee Ann said...

BeckEye, I am impressed, you put it down and expressed yourself in a professional manner. I like U2 also, I don't know them the way you do, but I do know that happens when some people reach a certain level of fame. It's a shame.

Bar Bar A said...

thank goodness you called me pretty first!

seriously, sometimes ya just have to agree to disagree.

Long live Bono!!

Homer Jay said...

Gotta agree with you there Beckeye. Good music (mostly) bad attitude.
It's pretty much the reason (I'm sorry for this Beckeye) I slowly stopped listening to Pearl Jam. I pretty much got sick of Eddie Vedder's attitude and preaching. I couldn't listen to the music without thinking about how much he annoyed me.

Homer Jay said...

Uh. Should have read the comments before I commented.
Sorry about the Eddie bashing Becky. Please don't hate me.

BeckEye said...

Lee ann - It's just irritating because I always liked Bono. I'll even admit to finding MacPhisto rather comical at first. (The Lemon video still makes me laugh...or it would if I knew where the hell to find videos.) And I know that, as far as issues go, his heart is in the right place. But he gets under my skin because it's like he thinks he's an icon now, so the pressure's off...as far as the music is concerned. When an artist becomes complacent, that's when the music ceases to be interesting.

Layla - But you are pretty!! :)
I still like Larry Mullen, Jr.

Homer Jay - Aha! Trying to beat me at my own game! On my own blog!! Ha ha. I know a lot of people don't like Eddie. He's done some things that have even annoyed me. I don't mind so much when musicians use their fame as a platform to speak their minds. They're as entitled to their opinions as anyone else. And if they want to help promote a particular politician or party, then I say let them. The problem is when they start to forget that they are musicians FIRST. I don't spend my hard-earned money to go to a concert and hear a political debate. I want to hear music. A few comments is fine, but I don't like it to become too heavy-handed, whether I agree with their position or not.

Writeprocrastinator said...

"And Bono, when you become almost as pretenious and annoying as Tom Cruise, you need to bring it down a few notches. Please. As I often say, I'm a lover of all things Irish. So, stop being such a gobshite."

I'm not a Bono fan per se, I only love about a dozen U2 songs but I love the man for trying to erase world debt. Still, how would someone of his stature come down to Earth?

Everyone on both sides of the pond blowing smoke up his ***. Hell, he even had conservative Republicans kissing up to him every time he visited a political function or attended a summit.

Everybody fawning over you wherever you go, eat the best food, and you have more money than almost anyone else that you know because Ireland doesn't make "artists" pay taxes (I love that, seriously).

It's been over two decades since Bono has been Paul Hewson and he has been this other persona almost half of his life. I wouldn't expect the guy to be grounded anymore because everyone prostrates themselves before him so that his feet won't touch mud or carries him around on their shoulders, whether he puts out a good album or not.

I just hope he doesn't do an Elvis.

Kate said...

I mentioned Henry Rollins cause while I like him, I know he has almost like a personal vendetta against Bono himself.
Which is kind of funny, cause yeah you're right, Henry Rollins has been known to grandstand his own opinions at times. I went to a concert and he was advising his crowd to not do drugs and not smoke, cause the corporations want you to be hooked and he thought they should be too smart to let a corporation rule their life. Or something like that. So he needs to look in the mirror himself, but then I think there is also a place in rock music for that kind of grandstanding in the first place. But who says that anyone has to follow what a rock star says anyhow?

Mr. Happy said...

They certainly have staying power. I used to be a fan, I still like some of their stuff but the last CD I bought was Rattle & Hum.

Sangroncito said...

Have a great Thanksgiving!!!! "See you" next week...sending lots of Thanksgiving hugs...sangroncito

Redphi5h said...

I'm pretty sure the lassitude that accompanies nausea was around before this pop band.

Mybrid said...

Bono, much like Bill Gates, deserves to have an ego! He's not only an awesome musician, but a wonderful person and a great humanitarian. Maybe not all his albums are the best, but neither were all the Beatles or any other band or musicians on earth.

Bono rocks! I don't care if he has an ego. So what?! So do many other nobodies. At least his is justified!!!

Alice said...

oh.. beck... i am conflicted. because your reasoning is definitely sound, and yet... and yet... i am a total adoring fan of U2. something in their music hits me viscerally, and i can't explain what or why, just that OH MY GOD I LOVE THEM. maybe it's some form of musical hypnosis?

An80sNut said...

I also rate Achtung Baby as their pinnacle. I am not a huge fan of How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb but liked the strength of some songs on All That You Can't Leave Behind. U2's strong-point has always been the passion behind some of their songs. Without the drive and fire, they'd be forgettable. I have trouble believing that they introduced something new to music other than the writing, production and direction when I would put any of their top songs on even ground with Bob Marley's. Sure, I'd put them about the Rolling Stones but I think when you get to be as big as they have gotten, they are more worried about keeping the status quo than breaking new ground as they did with Achtung Baby.

 

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