Author Topic: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?  (Read 7719 times)

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Offline jick

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Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« on: January 31, 2013, 01:38:28 AM »
In my opinion, U2 reached their lyric-writing peak in Achtung Baby. 

While Pop was a failure musically and melodically, there were still some lyrical gems like Gone but also duds like Playboy Manson and Miami.

All That You Can't Leave Behind helped them regain their mainstream status thanks to great tunes and melodies, but things started getting ugly with lyrics like "I was a monkey stealing honey from a swarm of bees" or most of Elevation.

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb had one of U2's most popular lead singles ever - thanks to the ultra-fast tempo and heavy guitar riffs of Vertigo - but you have to reconcile the fact that the song starts of with some Spanish counting along with the chorus chants of "hola" and "donde esta".

Finally, there is No Line On The Horizon. Virtually all the songs have irrelevant lyrics that listeners have a hard to associating their own experiences with it.  Get On Your Boots? Stand Up Comedy?  U2 in their prime would never have a pointless song title such as "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight."

No Line On The Horizon also has a lot of lyrical credits to members other than Bono.  Is the Bono-lyric writing well running dry?  Seems he needs help now and they still could not get the job executed properly.

Since Achtung Baby, U2 have been on a lyrical depreciation instead of a lyrical evolution.  With every new album, we get more cringe-worthy lyrics. Sometimes I dread what lyrics the new album will contain.

Have U2 finally become lyrically irrelevant?  Or are there still members of this board who feel that U2's more recent output in the last 4 albums have evolved to become better?

Just want to know your thoughts.

Cheers,

J



Offline The Exile

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2013, 02:48:43 AM »
I think you make some good points, Jick. However, I do think Pop's lyrics are much better than you do, although perhaps not as good as AB's were. They've been on a steady decline, on that we agree. But exactly when that decline began is a matter of debate.

Offline jick

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2013, 03:11:56 AM »
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I think you make some good points, Jick. However, I do think Pop's lyrics are much better than you do, although perhaps not as good as AB's were. They've been on a steady decline, on that we agree. But exactly when that decline began is a matter of debate.

But you do agree that Achtung Baby was their lyrical peak?

When I listen to songs like So Cruel with its gut-wrenching pain, to the slogans of The Fly, to the poignant One - even if the songs are not that specific and have vague generalized topics - I can feel it and relate to it.

But how can the listener relate to songs like Vertigo or Get On Your Boots? How can these songs touch them?  You have rockers in their 40's to 50's who are not writing something befitting of their age category.  Those lyrics don't cater to teens anyway.

In some sense, even the trashy pop music of today with lyrics filled with sexual innuendos and double meanings have something the kids can relate to.  But to what demographic does the recent lyrical output of U2 cater to?

I think U2 are worrying too much about their chemistry with their producer that is why they keep switching around.  They are more focused on finding the right musicality that will cater to a new generation of fans while striking a balance and keeping the old fans.  The problem is: along the way they have forgotten the art and heart of music-writing which is the lyrics.

Cheers,

J

Offline boom boom

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2013, 04:16:59 AM »
I think part of it is also is that unlike most bands, Bono has to come up with lyrics after hearing the music the band is working on which is more difficult.  We saw this in From the sky Down when they were working on MW and One.  Bono is just basically singing as they call it Bonogolese, just trying to channel the lyrics but more to give the band direction musically in the beginning and then come up with lyrics later.  Maybe for one project in the future Bono can present the band with lyrics first and then as a group try to come up with the music and see where that goes.  Another reason could be that after Pop most of the songwriting from Bono are more towards joy and love which would tend to not have as deep of lyrics as before when writing songs about despair, hurt and betrayal which would tend to lean on deeper lyrics.  So maybe it's the subject of the songs that Bono should look to change if we hope to get songs with deeper lyrics.  I think Bono even said before that it is easier to write songs about betrayal, hurt and despair rather than songs of joy and love, but he has to want to write them, but often subjects of songs tend to lean on where the songwriter is in his own life.  Maybe at this point in his life Bono doesn't want to focus on the darker material. 
« Last Edit: January 31, 2013, 04:20:03 AM by boom boom »

Offline BalconyTV

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2013, 04:26:23 AM »
Well as Pop was my first U2 album as such I have to say I think Pop has some pretty strong moments lyrically. But its when a certain decline happened...as I think it was the first album when they threw in lyrics that were completely from leftfield. In saying that, I think they got away with it, as the album was just so cool and goovy.

ATYCLB had some incredible lyrics on it I believe. And I think that album gets far too much flak. I feel that album is very important to a lot of people precisely because of some of the lyrics. But there are at least a couple of songs on that album that are total duds lyrically. So the ratio goes up.

HTDAAB has a lot more questionable moments. And its when we started getting some naff titles. Miracle Drug...ugh. But again, despite how crass I feel a lot of it is, I listened back to it loud recently...and it has some incredibly lyrics in it too. And I think thats the amazing thing about U2 and Bono. That they always strive to find it...

And finally NLOTH... which has Moment of Surrender... which means they are hardly bankrupt. I think NLOTH has you too applying a serious taste berometer again, despite Get on your Boots and IKIWGCIIDGCT. I have no problem with NLOTH as an album. I thought it was great.

So bankrupt...not quite...struggling to find those moments of genius...more difficult perhaps.

Offline Siberian Tiger

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2013, 04:33:46 AM »
I'm actually kind of tired of people going on about Achtung Baby being the epitome of U2. Sure there are some great songs on it, but it is only one of their albums. May as well call yourself an Achtung Baby fan instead of a U2 fan.
Songs from Atomic Bomb and No Line have been very relevant to my life.
-Moment of Surrender, while different in the context of the first person has been very apt for things in my life that I have had to surrender to.
-White as Snow is an extremely profound song.
-Magnificent a deep song of worship.
-Original of the Species speaks perfectly as a father to his first born child.
-I can also speak first hand to "All because of you I am."
-Bono's relationship with his father in Sometimes you can't make it... is nothing short of tear jerking.
-Yahwheh is a song that brings me from the depths of my own sinfulness into the joyous hope of faith in God.
-Beautiful Day speaks powerfully to the idea of selflessness- "what you don't have you don't need it now."

The story telling aspect of No Line is something I greatly appreciate too.

I feel sorry for people who can't appreciate the lyrical depth of the last three albums. They have only continued to get deeper in my opinion.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2013, 04:39:45 AM by Pasha »

Offline Siberian Tiger

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2013, 04:38:06 AM »
I actually see I'll Go crazy... as an incomplete song lyrically. 

"It's not a hill it's a mountain, as you start out the climb" is a wonderful lyric in itself, but is completely disconnected with "you know I'll go crazy if I don't go crazy tonight."  I think somehow there are two lyrical songs there squeezed into one musical song. Don't know why it happened that way. That is probably my biggest criticism of No Line in general. Most of the songs are intensely profound though.

Offline imaginary friend

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2013, 08:48:13 AM »
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I think part of it is also is that unlike most bands, Bono has to come up with lyrics after hearing the music the band is working on which is more difficult.  We saw this in From the sky Down when they were working on MW and One.  Bono is just basically singing as they call it Bonogolese, just trying to channel the lyrics but more to give the band direction musically in the beginning and then come up with lyrics later.  Maybe for one project in the future Bono can present the band with lyrics first and then as a group try to come up with the music and see where that goes.  Another reason could be that after Pop most of the songwriting from Bono are more towards joy and love which would tend to not have as deep of lyrics as before when writing songs about despair, hurt and betrayal which would tend to lean on deeper lyrics.  So maybe it's the subject of the songs that Bono should look to change if we hope to get songs with deeper lyrics.  I think Bono even said before that it is easier to write songs about betrayal, hurt and despair rather than songs of joy and love, but he has to want to write them, but often subjects of songs tend to lean on where the songwriter is in his own life.  Maybe at this point in his life Bono doesn't want to focus on the darker material. 

Lots of bands work that way. To give one example, one of the things holding up the next Tool album is that Maynard can't finish a lyric to save his life right now for music that's been completed for a few months already.

on topic: sorry, jick, you totally derailed this thread by not recognizing Pop as Bono's lyrical apex.

Offline youngmanu2

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2013, 09:16:10 AM »
Actually, I think their lyrical peak was Joshua Tree (which I rate slightly over AB because of the tightness of the songs). Although One is their finest for lyrics yet.

But, Yahweh on HTDAAB was solid, lyrically, imo. So, too, crumbs from your table.

Nevertheless, I think you are correct that their lyrics haven't been spectacular of late. It all depends on what one is looking for in a lyric. Some songs can be simplistic yet powerful. Beautiful Day is a favorite of mine and because it both connects with things in my life and it lifts me up on days I'm really down.

There is no absolute standard on lyrics, it's all about where one is, how one is touched, and what one enjoys. At certain times the light hearted is better than the heavy.

Offline JTBaby

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2013, 09:19:14 AM »
Bono is running out of ways to tell us how much he loves his god.


Offline Siberian Tiger

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2013, 09:21:43 AM »
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Bono is running out of ways to tell us how much he loves his god.



Do I detect that you are mocking Bono? Why is it you are a U2 fan?

Offline JTBaby

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2013, 09:27:01 AM »
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Bono is running out of ways to tell us how much he loves his god.



Do I detect that you are mocking Bono? Why is it you are a U2 fan?

Ummm, who are you to question my fandom exactly ?


Offline Droo

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2013, 09:30:07 AM »
I'm glad he for the most part found more subtle ways to praise his god and we don't have to suffer any more references to Zion and Jerusalem.

Offline JTBaby

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2013, 09:34:37 AM »
There's nothing subtle about Yahweh , All because of you or Magnificent.

Magnificent is a better than average U2 song at least.

The days of inner struggle and despair definitely provide better lyrical fodder than the days of peace and worship.

Lyrically, JT, AB and Pop >>>>>>> the last 3

Jick is partially correct. Painful as that was to type.


Offline Droo

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2013, 09:43:50 AM »
I don't find anything spiritual about All Because Of You. I always thought it was a song to Ali, not God.

Magnificent, too, I interpret in a more humanistic way rather than religious.