Author Topic: We're not just being negative: an open letter to ardent defenders of the new U2  (Read 8721 times)

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Offline lucas.homem

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Dear davis,

I'd say 99% of U2's fanbase like old U2 much more than 21th century U2. Everybody is aware that U2 are not as prolific and great as they once were (they lost their 'mojo'). I'm not different from these people, since I love U2's 80s and 90s much more than anything they ever did after. In fact, most people moved on to other bands and don't even bother with U2 anymore (and I'm a little bit like that too).

However, one thing is putting your sentiments into words as you just did (it's a little old stories now, but it's fine)... But there's another thing completely diferent that some other people are doing: being pedantic and not emphatic to how other people feel. In this forum, you'll see people bringing the same (negative) subject over and over again regardless of the theme of the thread, or being unnecessarily agressive, or finding the one thing to complain while overshadowing the other things they could praise, or just overexaggerating things (like saying the SOE is crap based on a 15 seconds snippet).

Also, when we read about human behaviour (in psychology or behavioral economics), we lear how irrational and biased is our perception about things. Never forget to consider that your thoughts on the U2 of the 80s and 90s are completely embebbed by your feelings and music knowledge of that time (and, of course, you were younger). With time, along your life you also developed a lot of emotional bonds with all of those songs. There is a clear bias. And this same bias is affected by a lot of superficial things that happen alongside the music: the current marketing of the band, the looks of the band, your friend's reactions to the band and even the negativity or positivity of the fanbase.

It's not a surprise, then, when we see that people that are constantly negative tend to only notice the things that they don't like (suddenly, the glasses are a major problem or whatever) and get really obsessed about it. When they praise, it is also a little bitter, as if they are betraying their persona. Of course, I'm not saying that everybody here is like that (and I respect the opinions of guys like an tha, Exile and Wookiee). However, people have to look after their manias too to not exarcebate it.

At last, there is a trend of IMPOSING things as objective facts here without any kind of criteria. Overall, and I don't mean that as an insult, most people here are uneducated in music, and because of that they are very hasty in their judgements. It's not rare to see commentaries that don't make any sense comparing it to that person's own opinion, applying double standards that are clearly biased.

Well, that's my 2 cents.

You make some good points but how is it not an insult to say that "most people here are uneducated in music?"

Whether or not anyone is fluent in music terminology, chords, notes, music history, etc., everyone has their own personal music history and catalog to use as reference and whether it's timbre, music of one time period vs. another of a band's history, people like what they like, don't like what they don't like, and have every right to like it or not like it for whatever reason they want to.

Regardless, everyone on here has a lifetime of musical education behind them, and seeing as one's musical self-education is quite private (home alone, headphones), it's actually a monk-like devotion to the art form everyone possesses from an early age.

The social aspect of sharing music and opinions about music is a different thing.  I think tensions arise on discussion forums because people read things that call into question their monk-like ascetic studies and devotion to the music they love...or spur them to try to convert the others who don't see things their way.

I'm a middle age U2 fan who started listening to them in 1980.  I've enjoyed virtually every incarnation of the band and look forward to every album.  That being said, there's an album's worth of clunkers they've put out (listed in another chain), all of which arrived post-All That You Can't Leave Behind.  Someone else might love each of these songs, but for me I was surprised to NOT like them after liking pretty much...every...song...they...did.

You wrote a very detailed and eloquent post in another chain about why The Blackout is a well-made, interesting song, and I listened to it again after reading it to pay attention to all those details, but my gut response was still the same: great energy, funky bass, the song's got hips, and hits you over the head, but damn that chorus stuck in my head is annoying!

Rising Sun, I think you didn't understand my point, because I agree with you.

A person "educated in music" is not someone better than others, or someone whose opinions should be prevalent over others. First because music is subjetive. Second, there's all these things you've said about how everybody have a lifetime experience listening to music and developing their musical perception and tastes about music. This person is entitled to his own opinion and this opinion what matters to appreciate music in a personal level.

For exemple, I don't expect people to read my observations of The Blackout and like the song because of that. Those are just my feelings that I'm pointing out by highlighting some details that made me appreciate the song in a personal level. It could be said that someone more trained in music than I am can make a much more in depht analysis of the song and then conclude that it is dreadful lol. It happens. Otherwise, all the music masters would have the same opinion on every subject.

My point is that there is a big distance between people's "impressions" and their own "rationalization" of music (I'm not sure these are the best words here, but they are the one I'm using). Here, "impression" is the act of listening to a song, reacting to it and even trying to identify what you like and what you don't like in that song. As for "rationalization", it is the act of making further conclusions to investigate "why" you like it (or "why" it is good), creating thesis and propositions that would fit not only that specific song, but music in general. At this moment, you start to give intrinsic value to a lot of general characteristics (that should not be seen as something stable).

The problem with rationalization is that it is too easy to pinpoint the wrong reasons for why you liked something... and then you can reach even 'wronger' conclusions further down the road. This can happen to anyone really, but it is even more the case of someone who is untrained in music, because this person doesn't have access to some abilities and overall knowledge that studying music can give you to make this "rationalization".

This effect is pretty much clear when you come to this forum and read about the reasons of people for why their favorite U2 era is good: "it is bold", "raw", "courageous", "experimental", "soulful", "well produced". And then the bad U2 is "MOR", "unimaginative", or whatever else. Do you see how each one of these adjectives do NOT have a cohesive and clear meaning? And do you see that these adjectives do NOT really describe the music? (they are beyond the "impression" realm I talked about).
So we have all these rationalizations that can be very misleading about a lot of things. Suddenly, (1) an actually progressive song can be seen as "unimaginative" and "by the numbers" (maybe because it uses familiar timbres and effects), (2) an overproduced song is called "raw" (only because it uses distortion), (3) a very traditional song is seen as "bold" (because the lyrics are sarcastic), (4) a peculiar song is said to "not really be a song" (lol), (5) a basic song is elected as "experimental" (because of some gimmick), (6) a particular melody is said to be too "generic" (while others in the same vein are "creative" because of something entirely subjective), (7) a certain era is the band's "essence" and "soul" (just because the person likes it more), (8 ) a different era is said to be "commercial" (a lot of arbitrariness here)... and the list goes on (even with nonmusical things like marketing, image etc).

Of course, all those words should be used freely because they convey an idea. And even when used too vaguely we can figure out what the other person is trying to say (not always though). The problem is when, in a forum full of negativity, all these generic terms are thrown around to complain about things in a way that is disrespectful. Sometimes people use a strong word to belittle a song when their criticism have another explanation.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2017, 05:56:01 AM by lucas.homem »

Offline lazyboy

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I just look forward to the point where they just make music for making music 's sake, and not to be the biggest band in the world, or have a hit. This hit chasing is endless with them, and at this stage, impossible. I wish they'd just chill the beans and accept their old age, receeding relevance, and popularity.

Offline Yaro

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This is not a post about "The Blackout" or whether Songs of Experience is going to be a great album.  This is a post about why some of us seem so critical of 21st century U2 music. 

What we wish you understood (and, frankly, are confused that you don't understand) is that this band once made great music that was somehow more than great music--it was sublime.  No one knew how they did it.  They didn't even know how they did it.  But they did it.

As far back as Boy, we could sense that sublimity in their songs--in the passion, energy, freshness, and sense of reaching toward something.  Their best songs always had that sense of reaching, of longing.  Think of "Out of Control" or "Sunday Bloody Sunday" or "Forty" or "Bad" or "Where the Streets Have No Name" or "With or Without You" or "One" or "Until the End of the World" or "Discotheque" or "Gone."  And those songs were deepened by the other side of all that longing and aspiration--by a sense of brokenness, of loss, of not being who/where you want to be.  Those songs were vulnerable, authentic, and intimate, even while they were soaring above.  The writer and singer of those lyrics was mining his own deepest hurts and hopes and taking us to places we knew and felt too, places that no pop/rock music had ever gone before.  I won't pretend to diagnose where that spirit went and why Bono is unable to get to such places anymore as a writer or singer (I think it has something to do with the differences between yearning and knowing), but the last time I felt a U2 song going to such an authentic, searching place was "Kite."

And not just this.  Musically, the band in its first two decades was restless, experimental.  For us, it's a sad commentary that critics, professional and amateur alike, can now use phrases like "generic U2", "the U2 sound," or "paint by numbers U2."  For the first two decades, there was no U2 sound!  Think of how daring, inventive, and surprising the first 17 years were.  Just reflect for a minute on this string of albums: War--The Unforgettable Fire--The Joshua Tree--Achtung Baby.  No one not named the Beatles or Bob Dylan has ever produced such a run of diverse artistic excellence in a whole career, let alone a span of 8 years.  And the 90s work kept it going.  Say what you will about Zooropa and Pop--nothing on either album can be accused of being uninteresting.  Can the same thing be said about their output of the last 17 years?

I still listen to, and buy, everything they put out.  Most of it I enjoy for awhile.  Some of it I think is pretty good.  I admire that they're still together and still writing and recording music.  I still go to as many shows as possible (and have never really been disappointed live).  But it's painful to realize U2 is no longer a surprising, essential band.  They will always be the band of my lifetime (I'm 44).  Achtung Baby will always be one of my touchstones for supreme artistic greatness.  But the music U2 makes now--and the lyrics Bono writes and sings--is the work of mere mortals, not of prophets and bards. 

We feel that loss...
Well-when athletes hit the turning  point of their prime time - they retire..they 're burnt out,lacking motivation & ideas ,body and mind its not there anymore,burning desire to win is gone..so they retire & rightly so--most music bands dont..Im soo dissapointed so far with these new songs..even the just released Blackout..it just doesn't grab you,nice little meaningless toon..and I gave it 10-12 listens by now..who knows,maybe Im burnt out and I should retire listening to music,ha..but Hey baby, 3 more days until Ford Field,Detroit-and I ll get my dose of the Joshua tree once again..Im a be 5 feet away from a band that once long time ago  produced magic music ..

Offline the_chief

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Wait....Did the OP just say Bono was a prophet?!

Hate to break it to you mate but, U2 always did have a "sound!"
When a U2 song comes on the radio, you just know it's them. Same way you know it's Queen, Rolling Stones, Dylan, Quo, ABBA, GnR, Killers, AC/DC, Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson, The Beatles etc etc. Even Zooropa has their sound.

Music is what life is about for me. Without music, I may as well be dead....However, U2 still make music that touches me and my soul. If you really cannot relate to The Little Things That Give You Away, if you cannot connect with the struggle and emotion in that song, if you can't appreciate how that might touch someone who is struggling with life and mental issues, then the problem is with you mate, not the band!

A 57 year old writing lyrics like that and the canvas of music that expresses those thoughts and feelings is not good enough? Seriously man.....

Another point is, there is a lot of music people love...There is a lot of music people hate. I don't like a lot of the War album...I'm not too Crazy about TUF but, loads here do. It's subjective. Many music, good and bad, touches people in a way it might not do with others
« Last Edit: August 31, 2017, 06:49:07 AM by the_chief »

Offline timeisatrain

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I honestly think that history will tell that 360 was the Goodbye tour of U2.

I feel something different with the band after that.

And their ego will not allow them to work again with Brian eno.

It's sad but after 360 we have a band obsessed with please the pop kids of Mr. Tedder.

Offline the_chief

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I honestly think that history will tell that 360 was the Goodbye tour of U2.

I feel something different with the band after that.

And their ego will not allow them to work again with Brian eno.

It's sad but after 360 we have a band obsessed with please the pop kids of Mr. Tedder.

If you want to take that view so, may as well go back as far as Beautiful Day

Offline fpsulli3

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Great post, OP. My sentiments exactly.

Keep in mind, I realize they can't do AB again (nor would we want them to). To prefer 80's and 90's U2 is not to wish they'd write AB again. It's to wish they'd go back to being daring and experimental, while being successful in doing so (in the sense that the songs aren't just weird and random; they're truly amazing songs). Try to think of a world in which Mysterious Ways doesn't exist and therefore isn't passe. Then imagine it was written by the band who just wrapped up Lovetown.

Note: I would definitely include ATYCLB in the list of greats. Yes, it's unabashed pop, but it's damned good pop. Beautify Day is a ridiculously good pop song.

Subsequent albums seem to follow the ATYCLB formula, though. "We need a loudQUIETloud (Vertigo, Boots, Miracle). Ok now we need a slower one."

post-2000 U2 have had flashes of brilliance, though.

First of all, I thinkknow that Electrical Storm is a criminally underrated song. How this one got shuffled into the throwaway pile, I have no idea. It's among their best. I'm dead serious, it's up there with Ultraviolet.

Each album seems to have a couple great ones -- Crumbs From Your Table, Breathe, Every Breaking Wave, Iris, Sleep Like A Baby Tonight. SoI has more than its fair share, actually.

After a few listens, The Blackout doesn't strike me as particularly compelling yet, but we'll see.

PS - I don't understand what new U2 fans find so wonderful about Mercy and MoS, but I'll just chalk that up to my bad taste.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2017, 07:04:30 AM by fpsulli3 »

Offline trevgreg

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I am glad someone has done a thread like this. I guess I fall more into the camp of U2 defenders. Before I go on, let me say I do respect people's opinions. That's what makes these sites work - people's opinions and people sharing these opinions. The problem I have with the "2000s critics" (for want of a better term) is that you are living in the past. Nothing is the same as in the 80s and 90s anymore. Including you. Things change, people evolve. We got Achtung Baby because they needed to chop down The Joshua Tree. But they cant keep making Achtung Baby. They did that already. I get frustrated with the views hanging on to the past and why cant they be like that.

Subject to people's ages here, do your friends say "you were so cool in the 80s, can't you act more like that." Or "You had such a great decade in the 90s, you should keep doing what you did then." No, because you have all moved on and evolved from there. I just don't get the focus on looking back and lauding the 90s and saying that was the best, why cant they do that again. It was only 3 albums out of 13/14 ie a distinct minority.

Fortunately, I have got something out of all their post 2000s albums and am sure I will with SOE. But to me, there is no point with the continuous comparisons to the 80s/90s for the same reason (I hope) that none of us compare ourselves and friends to that time.

There was a great post I read the other day from someone claiming to be an older fan talking about evolution and looking forward. That's what I am about on this issue. Thanks for reading.

Agree with a lot of this. If they just kept making music along the lines of what they did in a certain period, then we’d be saying how they wish they’d change it up or whatever.

And from what I understand, this is a band that still jams out ideas and then start writing lyrics with whatever they’re feeling at that moment. Other than some producer decisions that might suggest things for the final product (ie, Lillywhite coming in last minute for SOE, Tedder suggesting a change in structure for EBW), that’s probably not too different from what they’ve done before or since then.

If anyone’s ever written a song before, they would know there’s millions of different decisions along the way that can affect the final product though. Hoping the band would just kick out ambient tracks for the sake of doing something ‘different’ strikes me as a bit odd. If anything, it’d make the final product suffer a bit since they’re trying to stay within the lines of a specific genre or cred.

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You make some good points but how is it not an insult to say that "most people here are uneducated in music?"

Whether or not anyone is fluent in music terminology, chords, notes, music history, etc., everyone has their own personal music history and catalog to use as reference and whether it's timbre, music of one time period vs. another of a band's history, people like what they like, don't like what they don't like, and have every right to like it or not like it for whatever reason they want to.

Regardless, everyone on here has a lifetime of musical education behind them, and seeing as one's musical self-education is quite private (home alone, headphones), it's actually a monk-like devotion to the art form everyone possesses from an early age.

The social aspect of sharing music and opinions about music is a different thing.  I think tensions arise on discussion forums because people read things that call into question their monk-like ascetic studies and devotion to the music they love...or spur them to try to convert the others who don't see things their way.

I agree with this too. I’m definitely not a virtuoso, but I can make my way around a few instruments and it does help (and hurt) in examining songs sometimes. I certainly don’t try to hold it over people’s heads as being superior or whatever, but I’ll throw my two cents out there and see if it helps out somehow (just like I did above here). And like you said, everyone has a right to like or dislike whatever.

But to be fair to any band, it’s hard enough to write a song, much less one after 12+ albums you’ve done in the past. The fact that they’re still going here is impressive in its own right (and especially after losing so many musicians in recent years, I think it makes us lucky too).

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I'm a middle age U2 fan who started listening to them in 1980.  I've enjoyed virtually every incarnation of the band and look forward to every album.  That being said, there's an album's worth of clunkers they've put out (listed in another chain), all of which arrived post-All That You Can't Leave Behind.  Someone else might love each of these songs, but for me I was surprised to NOT like them after liking pretty much...every...song...they...did.
 

Some people are going to like ATYCLB. Some are not (and maybe it helps when you come into the fan fold or not, I don’t know). I think Cedars of Lebanon is a bore of a “song” while others praise its lyrical quality and being a great track off of NLOTH. That’s cool too. I’ll disagree, but I certainly wouldn’t accuse anyone of being bad or whatever for doing that.

At the end of the day, it’s just going to be music. Yes, it can hold a very high quality to some of us and rightfully so. But only speaking for myself, I’m also not going to hold a band to an impossible standard of liking every single new track of theirs either or having pre-conceptions on what they should be doing/sound like. I don’t like every track off of their previous albums either, so it makes no sense to start now.

I posted this awhile ago, but Charles Thompson from the Pixies put it nicely when it came to how the band’s fans would respond to some of the newer material…

I feel like a certain segment of your fan base has an intense emotional attachment to the older albums and little interest in anything new, regardless of how good it is.
I mean if you're that much of a fan of anything you're going to be closed off to change. I've experienced that with other artists that I like. If certain changes are afoot, I sort of go, "Oh, I can't listen to that anymore. It's over for me."

Does that frustrate you?
Not really. There's a lot of people in the world. I don't take it personally. It's sort of like everybody has to make their own decision about what they're gonna play out of their stereo.


I agree with that. You're either going to like the material that comes out, or you're not, or be somewhere in between. If it doesn't float your boat anymore, then it doesn't. Cool. Personally, I'm not going to think that they're bad people for not writing songs in a style that I want to hear. And even then, if I get something out of a band consistently in the past, I'll probably still check out whatever they do later on to see if it clicks. If it doesn't, then I'll play whatever it is that does.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2017, 07:31:05 AM by trevgreg »

Offline Rasmus

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I totally agree with the OP. U2 were sublime and that makes it hard to accept when their output is just ok. I would even go so far as include most of ATYCLB in their glory run as it would have been fine as a single album - the problem is that it formed the basis of every album since then and has now become synonymous with the "generic" U2 sound. They still have sublime moments though as mentioned (The Troubles, SLABT, Fez etc.).

Offline fpsulli3

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But to be fair to any band, it’s hard enough to write a song, much less one after 12+ ones you’ve done in the past. The fact that they’re still going here is impressive in its own right (and especially after losing so many musicians in recent years, I think it makes us lucky too).

An important point.

Offline opening night

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awesome, davis!

What I don't understand is that most of my Twitter timeline thinks The Blackout is great.

Offline Smee

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awesome, davis!

What I don't understand is that most of my Twitter timeline thinks The Blackout is great.

People lapped up GOYB and THe Miracle too, when they were nice and shiny and new. But i bet when all is said and done, songs like those barely appear in most fans top 50 u2 songs

Offline DGordon1

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awesome, davis!

What I don't understand is that most of my Twitter timeline thinks The Blackout is great.

People lapped up GOYB and THe Miracle too, when they were nice and shiny and new. But i bet when all is said and done, songs like those barely appear in most fans top 50 u2 songs

No they didn't. The Miracle wasn't discussed that much in isolation since the whole album dropped at once, and GOYB got an absolute kicking.

Offline Saint1322

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I've said this before ... how many times can you expect four men to re-invent the wheel? How many different bands has U2 been already? Not everyone is David Bowie. Not ever great band or artist can change with each new release. IMO, all we can ask for is effort and passion, and I don't see a lack of either. In fact, the frustrating way that U2 seem to agonize over every note of every song tells me they are NOT phoning anything in and doing the best they can. Not every album is going to be as good as what came before it, and we all have our lists and opinions is which album or period of U2 was the best.

Offline trevgreg

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I've said this before ... how many times can you expect four men to re-invent the wheel? How many different bands has U2 been already? Not everyone is David Bowie. Not ever great band or artist can change with each new release. IMO, all we can ask for is effort and passion, and I don't see a lack of either. In fact, the frustrating way that U2 seem to agonize over every note of every song tells me they are NOT phoning anything in and doing the best they can. Not every album is going to be as good as what came before it, and we all have our lists and opinions is which album or period of U2 was the best.

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