Author Topic: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?  (Read 7409 times)

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Offline emalvick

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #105 on: February 07, 2013, 11:44:11 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.

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


And that's the problem.  It's easy to be complacent when you can ride the shirt-tails of your past.  They can't identify with the lower classes, and if they try to it sounds hypocritical. 

It's sad to think, however, that Bono's lyrics may rely on an urgency to keep relevant.  I can't help but think that's what he is doing, but it is a circular path.  They need something outside their career to give them urgency.

I also agree with the previous poster about the poetic nature of U2's lyrics.  It would be interesting to see how much effort went into writing lyrics back in the 80's vs. now.  I bet the lyrics just flowed.  I still think they do but they get over-edited and lost.  So many better lyrics were lost with HTDAAB because of this (not that they would have met the quality of earlier albums).

The ambiguity of their lyrics was a strength with their poetic nature, yet none of the themes were so deep that they were a challenge to grasp.  Fans could easily grasp a meaning that worked for them, yet we could see how other listeners might get their own meanings from each song.  I do see that the ambiguity is possibly still there when reading fans discussions of the potential biblical references in HTDAAB songs, but they are so deep that it is a struggle to reach their meaning, and it often leads to wonder if we aren't trying to make something out of what is really nothing. 

Oh well, the band does show signs of progression.  NLOTH was very close to being a masterpiece of an album, but it has a couple of songs that in essence ruin it.  It lacks coherence as an album, not because these few songs are bad (many would argue they are) but rather because they are out of place.

Offline So Cruel

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #106 on: February 07, 2013, 01:09:23 PM »
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"Soon" is one of the best lyrics Bono has ever written IMO. Bono hasn't lost his ability, he's just become gun-shy.

Really? Soon is the best that Bono has done? Not even in his top 50 in my opinion, and not even close to So Cruel, Please, The Wanderer, The First Time, I Still Haven't Found, One, Until the End of the World, When Love Comes to Town, Bullet the Blue Sky, etc.....

Soon Lyrics:

Soon, soon
 Soon, soon
 Soon, soon
 
Sing yourself on down the street
 Sing yourself right off your feet
 Sing yourself away from victory
 And from defeat
 
Sing yourself with fife and drum
 Sing yourself to overcome
 The thought that someone has lost
 And someone else has won
 
Soon
 Soon, soon
 Soon, soon
 Soon, soon
 

Offline RunningtoStandstill (The League of Extraordinary BonoPeople)

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #107 on: February 07, 2013, 01:34:16 PM »
To write good lyrics, bad stuff has to happen to you.  Or good stuff.  Inspiring stuff.  Anything that gives you a reason to sing something.  You can't possibly expect a man in his 50s with a comfy life to be experiencing the same things that made him sing when he was in his 20s or 30s can you? The lyrics on NLOtH were damn good enough for someone who clearly didn't need to get them out of his head.  Hence I think why bono chose to do characters instead of first person.  There's only so much we can get out of him, folks.  He's singing about things some people might just not relate to anymore.

Offline kathryn

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #108 on: February 07, 2013, 06:35:31 PM »
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To write good lyrics, bad stuff has to happen to you.  Or good stuff.  Inspiring stuff.  Anything that gives you a reason to sing something.  You can't possibly expect a man in his 50s with a comfy life to be experiencing the same things that made him sing when he was in his 20s or 30s can you? The lyrics on NLOtH were damn good enough for someone who clearly didn't need to get them out of his head.  Hence I think why bono chose to do characters instead of first person.  There's only so much we can get out of him, folks.  He's singing about things some people might just not relate to anymore.
Heck, I can still relate to the lyrics. I think they will always have it in them. Why? They just have to dig deeper into their soul to find the words to relate. Since my son's death I have listened to them often. The music helps to carry me through my darkest times. It shows we are all human and can relate. We change as we age. Bono has it in him. We need to accept him for the man he is now. I will always accept them. I admire them so very much. They all can not be winners...but hey, when he does get it right? Wow! It just brings it all home.

Offline striker

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #109 on: February 08, 2013, 02:52:34 PM »
Definitely not "lyrically bankrupt," but they've changed.

And people forget that bands tend to write some of their best work while under the influence of something. They're no different than the Beatles/Stones, or the popular bands that came before them--they've sampled and it showed in their early 90's work.

Offline Droo

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #110 on: February 09, 2013, 09:41:13 AM »
NLOTH has some pretty fantastic lyrics for someone who's been doing this for 30 years. Moment of Surrender, the verses in Magnificent, Being Born, White As Snow and Cedars of Lebanon are all pretty spectacular.

Offline jick

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #111 on: February 09, 2013, 08:53:36 PM »
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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?

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And that's the problem.  It's easy to be complacent when you can ride the shirt-tails of your past.  They can't identify with the lower classes, and if they try to it sounds hypocritical. 

It's sad to think, however, that Bono's lyrics may rely on an urgency to keep relevant.  I can't help but think that's what he is doing, but it is a circular path.  They need something outside their career to give them urgency.

I also agree with the previous poster about the poetic nature of U2's lyrics.  It would be interesting to see how much effort went into writing lyrics back in the 80's vs. now.  I bet the lyrics just flowed.  I still think they do but they get over-edited and lost.  So many better lyrics were lost with HTDAAB because of this (not that they would have met the quality of earlier albums).

The ambiguity of their lyrics was a strength with their poetic nature, yet none of the themes were so deep that they were a challenge to grasp.  Fans could easily grasp a meaning that worked for them, yet we could see how other listeners might get their own meanings from each song.  I do see that the ambiguity is possibly still there when reading fans discussions of the potential biblical references in HTDAAB songs, but they are so deep that it is a struggle to reach their meaning, and it often leads to wonder if we aren't trying to make something out of what is really nothing. 

Oh well, the band does show signs of progression.  NLOTH was very close to being a masterpiece of an album, but it has a couple of songs that in essence ruin it.  It lacks coherence as an album, not because these few songs are bad (many would argue they are) but rather because they are out of place.

Very well said about the ambiguity of lyrics versus those that are too specific to have a bigger audience to relate to it.

I also agree that Bono was more poetic in the past.  His lyrics now seem to be move "everyday" and more "specific".

Perhaps he is running out of universal ideas that can hit every listener, and his lyrics are more selective now in the audience it can reach or who can relate to it.

Cheers,

J

Offline The Edges Cat

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #112 on: February 10, 2013, 01:19:01 AM »
It's one thing to write interesting lyrics -- it's another thing entirely making a melody out of them.

NLOTH has terrific lyrics, particularly the title song. I'm also a fan of Standup Comedy's lyrics ("Josephine be careful, of small men with big ideas"... "Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady."). Bono's a lot more self-deprecating these days -- most of you should remember the video of Bono remastering The Joshua Tree, and wincing at the earnestness of his younger self. Whether a songwriter, poet, or novelist, everyone's writing style changes with age and are never what they were two decades ago. "What happened to the beauty I had, inside of me."

Offline singnomore

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #113 on: February 10, 2013, 02:44:21 PM »
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It's one thing to write interesting lyrics -- it's another thing entirely making a melody out of them.

NLOTH has terrific lyrics, particularly the title song. I'm also a fan of Standup Comedy's lyrics ("Josephine be careful, of small men with big ideas"... "Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady."). Bono's a lot more self-deprecating these days -- most of you should remember the video of Bono remastering The Joshua Tree, and wincing at the earnestness of his younger self. Whether a songwriter, poet, or novelist, everyone's writing style changes with age and are never what they were two decades ago. "What happened to the beauty I had, inside of me."

Agree - age and experience of the world changes most people's perspective on things. So the context may be different which may be interpreted by some as redundant?
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 03:04:13 AM by singnomore »

Offline goldtoad

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #114 on: February 12, 2013, 09:33:36 PM »
U2 is not lyrically bankrupt. NLOTH had some great lyrics, but it was hit and miss. 
I think song writing has become more difficult for Bono. He has a lot more distractions
in his life than he did in the 80s and 90s and he's been doing it for 30 years, so it has
to be very difficult to come up with fresh ideas. If Bono wants U2 to stay relevant,
he will need to spend a few months focusing primarily on the new U2 album. 

I love the spirtuality in U2's music, but I would like to see Bono return to a more abstract
lyrics like Achtung Baby on the new album - The spirituality was still there but in deeper layers
of the songs. 

Offline Pocket Merlin

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #115 on: February 12, 2013, 10:32:22 PM »
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"Soon" is one of the best lyrics Bono has ever written IMO. Bono hasn't lost his ability, he's just become gun-shy.

Really? Soon is the best that Bono has done? Not even in his top 50 in my opinion, and not even close to So Cruel, Please, The Wanderer, The First Time, I Still Haven't Found, One, Until the End of the World, When Love Comes to Town, Bullet the Blue Sky, etc.....

Soon Lyrics:

Soon, soon
 Soon, soon
 Soon, soon
 
Sing yourself on down the street
 Sing yourself right off your feet
 Sing yourself away from victory
 And from defeat
 
Sing yourself with fife and drum
 Sing yourself to overcome
 The thought that someone has lost
 And someone else has won
 
Soon
 Soon, soon
 Soon, soon
 Soon, soon
 

Most of those other songs are fantastic, you're right. "Soon" isn't a finished, completely fleshed-out work; I was only speaking in terms of, say thinking of the chorus lines in particular versus the chorus of any other song, or any isolated block of lyrics. But the sheer transcendence of those lines in "Soon", how they sum up a paradigm about spiritual equality in contrast with the "winners" and "losers" of this world, is just phenomenal, and it's not something that's as commonly written about. The concise precision of the lyrics make them phenomenal.

If I were to compare them to some of those other songs you'd listed, I'd say, yeah, they're better. "So Cruel" is poetic, but it's got some kind of cliche and facile lines in it, especially with the hook: "Sweetheart, you're so cruel." Well, OK. Not that there wasn't any emotion behind the writing, but I think a robot could have come up with that one.

I love "The First Time" too, but again, a lot of the lines are kind of cliche and simple: "I've got a lover. A lover like no other. She got soul soul soul sweet soul." It's kind of a repeat of the sentiment of about a bazillion other songs. I know, the lyric goes on and develops into a sort of prodigal son idea. "Soon" doesn't have a wide arc to develop meaning over the course of a standard-form length, but what my point is, is that there's a density and uniqueness of meaning in the lyrics of "Soon" that isn't found very often in lyrics.

Anyway, the whole idea of "Soon" is kind of to get beyond figuring out the winners and losers anyway...so maybe this is some, er...poetic irony? :)

Offline Pocket Merlin

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #116 on: February 12, 2013, 10:40:37 PM »
And right after I posted that, I started listening to "City of Blinding Lights" and rediscovered what a great line "Neon heart, day-glow eyes, city lit by fireflies, they're advertising in the skies for people like us"

Maybe I need to stop spending so much time on this forum. Ironic how my love of U2 has compelled me to come here...where my love of U2 gets torn apart by supercritics.

Offline jick

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #117 on: February 13, 2013, 05:29:25 AM »
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And right after I posted that, I started listening to "City of Blinding Lights" and rediscovered what a great line "Neon heart, day-glow eyes, city lit by fireflies, they're advertising in the skies for people like us"

Maybe I need to stop spending so much time on this forum. Ironic how my love of U2 has compelled me to come here...where my love of U2 gets torn apart by supercritics.

Just because one is of advanced age and on the fringes of irrelevancy does not mean one is not capable of occasionally "turning back the clock" and displaying "flashes of brilliance" which was more prevalent back in their heydey.

While the lyrical well was clearly on the decline the past few albums, they still managed a few good ones now and then.  But the lyrical collapse exhibited in No Line On The Horizon, coupled with the lyrical atrocities of the "new" succeeding songs like Mercy and North Star lead me to question if the bank has finally gone empty with not even a flicker of sporadic brilliance remaining.

Cheers,

J

Offline Droo

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #118 on: February 13, 2013, 06:05:11 AM »
What about Every Breaking Wave, jick? I couldn't help but notice you left it out of your criticism of the new songs.

Offline Bads316

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Re: Has U2 Finally Become Lyrically Bankrupt?
« Reply #119 on: February 13, 2013, 06:42:57 AM »
If it were empty they wouldn't be writing at all. It's just a thinly veiled dig at NLOTH, an album that many here see as an improvement, lyrically at least, over the previous ten years and the previous two pieces of work.

Also a good line does not make a good lyric, it just makes a good line.