Author Topic: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?  (Read 7424 times)

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Offline xy

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #90 on: February 03, 2013, 05:28:06 AM »
The in-character songs on NLOTH are awesome lyrics. The personal lyrics on ATYCLB and Bomb are clearly giving way to other things. I think Edge got more credit on ATYCLB and Bomb than NLOTH for lyrics.

I think Bono was best lyrically on UF, JT and AB.

Offline dirtdrybonesandstone

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #91 on: February 03, 2013, 07:48:02 AM »
TUF lyrics are stunning and perhaps their peak.    Hard to argue though, that the perfect combination of music, lyrics, concept and landscape occurred on TJT.   

HyperU2

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #92 on: February 03, 2013, 10:38:41 AM »
It's funny because for all the bashing they get for now trying to be mainstream and play it safe nothing did that better than AB.  Mysterious Ways, EBTTRT, WGRYWH all fit the radio so well at that time, better than JT in its day.   It was only unnatural to U2 fans.    Still my favorite album though.   I think they're doing fine in this day and age lyrically, half the people that know their music don't get the lyrics anyway, never have.   
« Last Edit: February 03, 2013, 10:41:57 AM by HyperU2 »

Offline jick

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #93 on: February 03, 2013, 06:30:49 PM »
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It's funny because for all the bashing they get for now trying to be mainstream and play it safe nothing did that better than AB.  Mysterious Ways, EBTTRT, WGRYWH all fit the radio so well at that time, better than JT in its day.   It was only unnatural to U2 fans.    Still my favorite album though.   I think they're doing fine in this day and age lyrically, half the people that know their music don't get the lyrics anyway, never have.

The Joshua Tree was their most successful album sales-wise.

For "trying to be mainstream", their grandest attempt was POP. It was the album that spawned the most singles, and with all after the first two re-recorded or re-arranged for the single versions to make them more radio friendly. It sure was a "try" but it failed.

Back to U2's perceived lyrical bankruptcy, I am wondering if there are truly any war reporters who got moved to tears listening to Cedars Of Lebanon. Or was it just a lame attempt by Bono to mimic a persona he has no real experience about?

Cheers,

J

Offline EnduringChill

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #94 on: February 03, 2013, 07:29:21 PM »
Okay, I wanted to respond to all of these 6 points, so... sorry.

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What I really meant is that Bono is running out of new ideas because:
1. He rehashes some key phrases such as "future needs a big kiss" or "begging bowl" or "baby baby baby" or "love and lust".
I noticed that. The middle two aren't as noticeable though. And I wanted to add "vision over visibility" and "because we can, we must." Those are like Bono quoting himself and turning his ideas into lyrics.

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2. Songs revolve around the same themes. It was novel when U2 did a Bible-inspired ending with 40. But then other Bible or Christianity-inspired endings came: Wake Up Dead Man, Grace, and something as obvious as the song title itself Yahweh.  For NLOTH, the obligatory "God" song was Magnificent.
I never noticed that Magnificent was about God. I thought the first verse was about a romantic partner and the second verse was about U2's fans. But I see where you're coming from, and I actually don't mind it. Somehow I don't think using Christianity-inspired endings is a sign of lyrical stagnation. I think U2 have just always been inspired by their religion and have felt the need to write many songs about it.

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3.  There is always a war song. Sunday Bloody Sunday was the origin, but then it was rehashed with Please, then Love And Peace, and now "I don't want to talk about the war between nations".
This, however, is something I noticed and agree with. Don't forget Bullet The Blue Sky. I feel like U2 feels like they *have* to do one because it's expected of them. Either that or the topic of war is still something to get outraged at. But I guess it's not really outrage, and I don't think their more recent "war songs" like Love And Peace Or Else were written with anything specific in mind. So yeah, they're definitely rehashing this idea a bit too much.

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4.  The rest of the band start getting more lyric-writing credits in the more recent albums, perhaps signalling that Bono's well has dried up?
That's interesting to note and very well could be true. I never noticed that the lyric-writing-credits had changed- I assumed they were credited to Bono and Edge as usual. Will have to go back and look at that...

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5.  More songs contain the word "love" in it, even up to the b-sides "I can't wait any longer for your love." Why always beat on this theme?
I do agree that there is an overuse of "love" in their most recent songs. But hey, love and romance and anything that falls under that general category is a topic that is easy to write about and lends itself to a lot of interpretations (such as Mercy, which is all about the power of love and what it can do for people, and also uses "love" probably more times than any other U2 song). Love is something that can always be relied on for inspiration, I think. I don't find anything wrong with using it over and over.

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6.  Some songs are just filled with cliches and common metaphors or figures of speech, they sound forced and unnatural.
Yeah... "ATM Machine..." "Intellectual tortoise (what the heck even is that?)..." But I don't notice that as much. It would be helpful to point out some examples that I can't remember off the top of my head.

I don't think lyrically "bankrupt" is exactly the right word. Maybe something that implies decline of creativity would fit better.

Offline DGordon1

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #95 on: February 04, 2013, 02:23:22 PM »
Bono used the word "love" a lot in the 80's and 90's - it's hardly something that's arisen in the last decade.

Offline Quenchable Thirst

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #96 on: February 04, 2013, 04:52:43 PM »
I just found a spoof article that could be relevant to this discussion.

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U2 talk down ‘mediocre’ new album

Irish rockers U2 have been unusually candid in a round of interviews given on the eve of the release of their latest album, There’s Worse Ways To Kill 50 Minutes. Tired of thinking up increasingly extravagant hyperbole to make what is essentially the same as their last three albums seem like the Second Coming, the band have decided to be more realistic.

‘We realised people who want exciting, revolutionary, important music aren’t buying latter-day U2 albums are they?’ said Bono frankly, And that’s how we came up with the first single, ‘Dad-Rock Doldrums’.

Atypical critic quotes such as ‘No surprises here’, ‘What you’d expect’ and ‘Are you sure this isn’t a compilation?’ are proudly emblazoned upon promotional materials. And the strategy is paying off with crowds of frightened middle-aged men up and down the country clamoring for the album.

‘It’s the least adventurous album we’ve ever made’ says Edge. ‘Over the last few albums I’ve added more and more guitar pedals to find new sounds, the pedals were beginning to look like a keyboard. Asked about his lyrical direction on this release, Bono blows a rasberry and laughs while the rest of the band make armpit fart noises. ‘Really now’ says Bono ‘if you’re concerned about my lyrical direction then I’m concerned about you. If you must know I wrote this on a bit of paper:
 'Soaring angels take flight on the wings of love in the early light
 A new day begins in the breath that floats from a child’s eye'
. Then cut the individual words up with scissors and shook them around in a hat'

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« Last Edit: February 04, 2013, 04:54:43 PM by Quenchable Thirst »

Offline jick

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #97 on: February 04, 2013, 07:36:27 PM »
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Bono used the word "love" a lot in the 80's and 90's - it's hardly something that's arisen in the last decade.

Just do a lyric count. Compare The Joshua Tree to any other modern album with the use of the word love. You will see great disparity there.

I remember reading about the Zooropa sessions, U2 put a list of words that were "banned" for lyrics because they were used too much.  If only they do it again for the upcoming album.  Their constant repetition of old phrases and quotes just strengthens the notion that they may truly be lyrically bankrupt already.

Cheers,

J

Offline The Unknown Caller

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #98 on: February 04, 2013, 08:13:39 PM »
The word "baby" on Achtung Baby surely disproves that hypothesis...

Offline Bads316

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #99 on: February 05, 2013, 05:33:40 AM »
What an absolute load of bo****ks.







Offline Pocket Merlin

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #100 on: February 05, 2013, 08:01:24 AM »
"Soon" is one of the best lyrics Bono has ever written IMO. Bono hasn't lost his ability, he's just become gun-shy.

Offline Johnny Feathers

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #101 on: February 05, 2013, 10:11:02 AM »
I'm not sure there's an aspect of U2's music that HASN'T declined over the years, or which wasn't at its peak at AB.  Sort of fish in a barrel, isn't it?

Offline emalvick

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #102 on: February 05, 2013, 12:04:44 PM »
An earlier post discussed the use of Love as a metaphor for God.  U2 have done that quite a bit even in the past (not necessarily with the word Love it self but other words).  They've always danced around the religious nature of their songs to some extent and have made music that is ambiguous such that it can speak to people in many ways.   The ambiguity is what made U2 speak to more people than any specific lyrics could.

Also, looking at the word love as a flaw is tough.  A lot of music is based on that theme, although I'll admit that U2 at its best looked at love darkly (like the 90's albums did).  This brings up a thought I've had in general about modern music and older bands...

Generally, the best music seems to come from artists in their 20's and maybe 30's, and I think a lot of it speaks to the struggles these musicians go through to establish a career, support themselves, and their view of the world around them.  When musicians make it to their 30's, 40's, 50's, on up, they've likely had successes; they're making their fortunes; they're happy in life.  There isn't as much anger to talk about only happiness.  And, let's face it, the darkest music and lyrics are often the richest.  U2 are in some ways manufacturing the anger by rehashing themes that have occurred in U2 songs of the past.  I don't thing this is completely a sign of lyrical decline but rather than a complacency they have in rehashing the past because that is what succeeded before.   It's fairly obvious that their last three albums have been based on revisiting themes and styles in earlier U2 albums.  It's not horrible, but it is redundant.  I don't think that is solely because Bono can't write lyrics; it's likely and economical decision.

Bono can probably still write good lyrics, but he needs to be passionate about something and preferably something that he sees negative with the world from the individual to the collective.  U2 and the world need a slap in the face. 

Offline jick

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #103 on: February 06, 2013, 01:09:09 AM »
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Generally, the best music seems to come from artists in their 20's and maybe 30's, and I think a lot of it speaks to the struggles these musicians go through to establish a career, support themselves, and their view of the world around them.  When musicians make it to their 30's, 40's, 50's, on up, they've likely had successes; they're making their fortunes; they're happy in life.  There isn't as much anger to talk about only happiness.  And, let's face it, the darkest music and lyrics are often the richest.  U2 are in some ways manufacturing the anger by rehashing themes that have occurred in U2 songs of the past.  I don't thing this is completely a sign of lyrical decline but rather than a complacency they have in rehashing the past because that is what succeeded before.   It's fairly obvious that their last three albums have been based on revisiting themes and styles in earlier U2 albums.  It's not horrible, but it is redundant.  I don't think that is solely because Bono can't write lyrics; it's likely and economical decision.

Bono can probably still write good lyrics, but he needs to be passionate about something and preferably something that he sees negative with the world from the individual to the collective.  U2 and the world need a slap in the face.

About being "happy in life" - U2 did manage to pull that off well with Beautiful Day.  They have always said it is hard to convey joy in a song but U2 did it well.

As for revisiting old themes, it already seems formulaic such that every U2 album must have a "war" song, then a "God" song, then a few other things that are more habitual and viewed as necessary instead of looking at artistic pursuits.

And you are right, maybe it is not lyrical decline but more about complacency.  I still think they are musically evolving.  They never fail to find new sounds, especially The Edge.  Bono is finding ways to maximize his thinning voice and finding new sounds and methods to sing at high registers.  Clayton has made his playing more bubbly - something I don't personally like but you have to give credit to him.  Mullen Jr. has been adding new licks to his drumming and bringing new life and sophistication to even older songs (the trained ear will notice that he drummed Pride differently in 360 Tour that all the other tours).

If only U2 were not this "complacent" and Bono could someone act like a man writing because his life depending on it, with some urgency as if the very existence and relevance of the band was at stake, then perhaps U2 could avoid this lyrical stagnation. 

Cheers,

J

Offline BringCitrus

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #104 on: February 06, 2013, 08:02:05 AM »
I haven't read through the 7 pages of this topic yet but I've discussed this before and thought I'd share my views, which are probably pretty similar to other things already said here by others. Bono's lyrics in the mid/late 80's were so much more poetic yet vague enough for people to find a relation to. I think a major reason why TUF is my favorite album is due to the landscapes that are painted in those words. Follow that up with TJT, which, to me, tells a story in each song (i.e. the miner in RHMT, the priest in Exit, the lovers/drug addicts in RTSS, etc.). It was said that there were 3 characters in NLOTH, but their stories just aren't as relatable or understandable to the stories in TJT. It's difficult to make sense of them and what's going on. I think R&H and AB (and Zooropa to some extent) started showing off Bono's witty side. Lots of contradictions and such in songs like WLCTT and The Fly. And though I love Pop, I feel there were songs on there like Miami and The Playboy Mansion where the lyrics started to become almost too specific to subjects I could never relate to. I think HTDAAB actually went back to more relatable themes but by then the poetry was gone. Does this make sense to anyone else?