Author Topic: We're not just being negative: an open letter to ardent defenders of the new U2  (Read 8714 times)

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Offline podiumboy

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When I saw U2 in 2015, something that kinda surprised me; the crowd was considerably youngish.  Beautiful Day, Elevation, Vertigo, City of Blinding Lights all got huge responses from the audience.  Meanwhile during songs like "Electric Co" and "Bad", the crowd was sorta like "huh...?"

I just saw them again this summer, and the same thing happened.  They play BD, Elevation, Vertigo and Mysterious Ways all in a row, and that was the most that the band AND the crowd got into the show, it seemed.  The JT part was cool, but it sorta seemed like it was "JT: The Musical".  It didn't really feel like a concert until the encore. 

While obviously their biggest hits will always be WOWY, SBS, Pride, One, BD, Vertigo, it seems like the fan base is changing.  I think it's great that the fans are still accepting of the more recent material.  I know the SOI songs mostly went over well (EBW piano being the low point). 

Offline davis

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Original poster here.  First of all, I'm gratified by all the thoughtful responses to my post.  My reason for writing it was mostly to try to put into words that sense of loss I (and not only I) feel and to attempt to put it in such a way that others who don't feel it might understand where we're coming from.  I apologize to NOLA Fly and anyone else who feels I was being condescending. 

I would like to add one additional thought to the discussion: though I agree we can never completely separate our subjective responses from our judgements about works of art, I think it is false to say aesthetic evaluations are merely or totally subjective. 

For instance, there's a big difference between saying "I don't enjoy reading Shakespeare" and "Shakespeare is a terrible writer."  The first statement is perfectly acceptable; the second is just not true.  There are, in fact, objective reasons for concluding that (many of) the works of Shakespeare are among the greatest literary achievements in human history.

Or, to bring it a little closer to home, you or I may have personal reasons to prefer Mumford and Sons to Bob Dylan, but Mumford and Sons is not even in the same universe as Bob Dylan in terms of artistic achievement and significance.  To argue otherwise is absurd. 

I don't mean to imply that things are so cut and dried when it comes to judging U2's work.  And many of you are right to point out that my judgments are inherently tied up in my own experiences as a fan.  But, as I tried to express in my original post, I think there are certain objective (though difficult to define) qualities of U2's heyday which are missing, for the most part, in more recent output. 

p.s. I hope you understand, if you read my original post, that I remain a fan and will always be immensely grateful to this band. 
 


 
« Last Edit: August 31, 2017, 06:24:34 PM by davis »

Offline Nagrom76

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Great thoughts. I agree with a lot of what you say.
I cannot blame U2 entirely for lacking in ambition (relative to the 90s, at least), because I understand that with age and money comes comfort, and comfort doesn't lead to an album with the darkness or passion of Achtung Baby or Pop. It isn't the band's fault. They made some amazing, daring albums with deep meaning and creativity. U2 took the risks and have reaped the rewards, being semi-retired already and could have fully retired over ten years ago. Good for them, everything after Pop has been a bonus.

U2 are the biggest fluke in the history of music. It is unbelievable that a band of average, self-taught musicians did what they loved and against all odds went on to become the biggest band in the world for the better part of a decade. What initially made U2 successful was not technical ability, but ambition and a flawless chemistry, which enables each member of the band to compliment each other's playing effortlessly.

It doesn't make sense, but I'm ok with that. God bless U2.

(I didn't know I could write so passionately myself, so thank the band for the inspiration and contagious spirit!).

Love this post.

Offline Moser

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I think it's pointless to compare somebody writing music in their 40s and 50s to when they were in their youth. People change. Musical interests change. Musicians change. Drumming styles changes. Vocal cords change. People's sense of right and wrong change. You and I have changed. Wishing the way things were blinds you from looking ahead. And you'd have to accept that others have changed while you still yearn for the past. If U2 doesn't give you butterflies anymore, then look to another band for that lovely feeling. Because that old U2 isn't coming back to you. Those 17 years of four boys growing into men are not going to be the same as the sound of men growing into old men. They're gone. And if that makes you sad, then so be it. That music is with you forever though. You'll never lose it. As for me, I want to hear what these older men put out. Because I still connect with their music. It gives me goosebumps. It still makes me feel like I did listening to the pre-millennium U2 when I was too young to even know who they were.

I mean, just a seriously large piece of me would be missing without these songs during the past ten years of my life.

Beautiful Day
Kite
When I Look At The World
Grace
Vertigo
Original of the Species
One Step Closer
Magnificent
Moment of Surrender
White As Snow
Every Breaking Wave
Raised By Wolves
Cedarwood Road
Sleep Like A Baby
The Troubles

It's hard to imagine what other U2 songs from before 2000 could fill that hole. Maybe because I'm getting older too. Maybe because I'm changing. Maybe those earlier U2 songs connected with me then as a teenager, but I now understand these later U2 songs better as a grown man. If anything, I haven't felt a sense of loss with the changing U2. It's more of a discovery.


Offline lucas.homem

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I would like to add one additional thought to the discussion: though I agree we can never completely separate our subjective responses from our judgements about works of art, I think it is false to say aesthetic evaluations are merely or totally subjective. 

For instance, there's a big difference between saying "I don't enjoy reading Shakespeare" and "Shakespeare is a terrible writer."  The first statement is perfectly acceptable; the second is just not true.  There are, in fact, objective reasons for concluding that (many of) the works of Shakespeare are among the greatest literary achievements in human history.
 

Shakespeare's talent is set in stone nowadays, but it happened after centuries of discussions and many many many articles and books about that. And all the people that worshipped Shakespeare actually explained his greatness in many ways, about how he could put some light in the human nature or how he depeloped the english language. He undoubtedly contributed to the history of literature and that's why it's so easy to say almost objectively that Shakespeare was a great writer. And the most important thing is that he is still a best seller of some sort, and that means he is influential and loved by many (in the end, our subjective love for him is what keept him being seen as Great).

But even if we suppose that "objective quality" is inherent to its art (I disagree), the objectiviness should be "proven" just like it happened to Shakespeare, not just by putting some personal opinions over others. This is just a forum, of course, so nobody is expecting a thesis here. But if we should be informal about our preferences, we should also be more humble and respectfull towards other opinions. Even because art is not simple.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2017, 10:46:56 PM by lucas.homem »

Offline shineinthesummernight

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Well said, Lucas.  I agree with the above poster who stated that I would have had a lesser experience in the last ten years without "Magnificent",
"Moment of Surrender", "The Troubles", etc.  I thank the Lord that U2 are still around doing what they do and doing it well.

Offline soloyan

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Great thread. I'll just add my 0.2.

I always considered U2 as distant friends. Albums are postcards. Concerts are meetings/ hangouts/ whatever... One thing I've learned from my friends is that you have to accept people for what they are. And support your friends for what they are. I don't have a problem with someone losing interest in U2 or having the interest diminish... But being negative most of the time on these boards, I just don't get it. Why lose the time & energy ? It never occurs to me, when I'm meeting with friends, to compare them with what they were or compare what they're doing to what they've achieved. I just need to know how they feel. And I accept how they feel, whatever that is.
When we cease to accept the band for what they are, we become consumers, customers. We're not fans anymore. As consumers, we have a choice : buy or don't buy. I think this forum should be for fans discussions rather than consumers opinions.

What breaks my fan's heart when I come here (rest assured, I'll live) is the unnecessary bashing and negativity. I've endured U2 bashing all my life. I've been a fan since 1987. I think that, historically, the only period U2 was free of U2 bashing was from Boy To War. As soon as TUF came out, the U2 bashing began : U2 were a sell out act and Bono just an egomaniac. And it has not changed since.
I really wish that forum was free of bashing. I'm french and I stopped going on french forums for this very reason.

Offline sulphur76

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We had it all, and what we had is not coming back............Zach.

                                                                                          - Bono, 2017

Offline AlexandriaRising

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This post nailed it. Thanks Dave. I'm 44 too. Longtime love-hate relationship with the band, but obviously more love or I wouldn't be posting here and reading, right? I agree with the bulk of what you're saying. I do think there have been some great moments post-Pop like, as others have said, Cedars of Lebanon, The Troubles, etc. for example, but the lads seem so scared or formulaic these days. Sometimes - and I have no right to do this as a fan - I just want to say, 'You're U2, do whatever you want!' I recall at one point, they were talking about doing a dark and a light side double CD - this was before SOI was released - but Adam said something to the effect of they didn't know how they would pull it off live with only playing certain themed songs on certain nights. Of course, I was thinking, 'You're U2, do what you want. People will come. Be experimental. Go crazy. When you do that, it is great! You don't have to open every encore with the same song! You can play in crazy time signatures or add a string section or have a band with guest artists or do a Passengers 2 album. It is fine. You have nothing left to prove!' Strange days. I mean the paint by the numbers stuff makes October sound revolutionary and experimental! (and, yes, I actually do like that album) I do think the Eno-Lanois work is the best and it is a shame they let them go per se. I really think NLOTH had the potential to be a great exploration and a solid album, but someone got scared and they crammed the middle of it with what they hoped would be radio friendly hits. Maybe they'll change? Maybe SOE will surprise us? In the meantime, I can always enjoy the electric violin on War, the rage electronica of Pop and some UF psychedelic ventures....

Offline Argo

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This post nailed it. Thanks Dave. I'm 44 too. Longtime love-hate relationship with the band, but obviously more love or I wouldn't be posting here and reading, right? I agree with the bulk of what you're saying. I do think there have been some great moments post-Pop like, as others have said, Cedars of Lebanon, The Troubles, etc. for example, but the lads seem so scared or formulaic these days. Sometimes - and I have no right to do this as a fan - I just want to say, 'You're U2, do whatever you want!' I recall at one point, they were talking about doing a dark and a light side double CD - this was before SOI was released - but Adam said something to the effect of they didn't know how they would pull it off live with only playing certain themed songs on certain nights. Of course, I was thinking, 'You're U2, do what you want. People will come. Be experimental. Go crazy. When you do that, it is great! You don't have to open every encore with the same song! You can play in crazy time signatures or add a string section or have a band with guest artists or do a Passengers 2 album. It is fine. You have nothing left to prove!' Strange days. I mean the paint by the numbers stuff makes October sound revolutionary and experimental! (and, yes, I actually do like that album) I do think the Eno-Lanois work is the best and it is a shame they let them go per se. I really think NLOTH had the potential to be a great exploration and a solid album, but someone got scared and they crammed the middle of it with what they hoped would be radio friendly hits. Maybe they'll change? Maybe SOE will surprise us? In the meantime, I can always enjoy the electric violin on War, the rage electronica of Pop and some UF psychedelic ventures....

I think they are doing what they want. Not just want some people think they wish they want them to do. Maybe what they are doing is conservative but that's most people, especially people in their late 50s, rock stars or not. You might say their legacy wouldn't be tarnished if they did an album full of The Wanderer type songs (see what bites I get at that) but maybe - probably - they don't want to be as adventurous as some want. And that's fine. It is their music. You just have to enjoy what you get for what it is. I keep getting something out of each album. And if you don't, well you have had a good run with them and switch to whatever takes your fancy.

We are about to get the 14th album of a band that most of us on here see as the best ever (to us). Wow. How good is that. Plus all the other non album release stuff. And they just happen to be a killer live band and you can download pretty much every concert they have ever done for free. How good is this deal. It will never happen again. Not for any of us, in our lifetimes anyway. It really doesn't get much better than this in terms of a rock band to have latched onto. What we have got from this band is amazing. Don't worry about what you wish you had and didn't get.

Offline trevgreg

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I just want to say, 'You're U2, do whatever you want!' I recall at one point, they were talking about doing a dark and a light side double CD - this was before SOI was released - but Adam said something to the effect of they didn't know how they would pull it off live with only playing certain themed songs on certain nights. Of course, I was thinking, 'You're U2, do what you want. People will come. Be experimental. Go crazy. When you do that, it is great! You don't have to open every encore with the same song! You can play in crazy time signatures or add a string section or have a band with guest artists or do a Passengers 2 album. It is fine. You have nothing left to prove!' Strange days.

Maybe it's just me, but if the band's the only four or so people that are going to be at 100+ shows on a tour, then their insight into what constitutes a "good" show or not is worth considering. For all the fans on here (which sometimes includes me) that wouldn't mind hearing so-and-so, it's going to be limited by the fact that I only attend 1-3 shows on any given tour. Not even 2-5% of them, really. And if something weird is played, then a lot of us just might watch two minutes of it on YouTube, think "Cool" and be done with it. I don't know if that alone justifies saying "Just play whatever you want," imo. Heck, there's quite a few songs off a lot of their albums that I couldn't sing along to for the life of me, and I consider myself a fan enough to post on here.

In the end, it's the same discussion 99% of bands have on their message boards anyway. The important thing I take out of it is that set lists will never satisfy every single online fan and there's always going to be a discussion of safe vs. experimental/"new" styles for studio albums. It's hard enough to write a song as it is and unless someone's done it before, you probably can't realize that restricting yourself to just this or that form or whatever is going to make your work suffer in the end. A lot of it is being spontaneous and making thousands of decisions at a time into what it is and what it's supposed to be. I don't need every song to sound "different" or have an electronic beep or bop for street cred among 10 or 20 people that post opinions online... just give me a good song at the end of the day.

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I think they are doing what they want. Not just want some people think they wish they want them to do. Maybe what they are doing is conservative but that's most people, especially people in their late 50s, rock stars or not. You might say their legacy wouldn't be tarnished if they did an album full of The Wanderer type songs (see what bites I get at that) but maybe - probably - they don't want to be as adventurous as some want. And that's fine. It is their music. You just have to enjoy what you get for what it is. I keep getting something out of each album. And if you don't, well you have had a good run with them and switch to whatever takes your fancy.

We are about to get the 14th album of a band that most of us on here see as the best ever (to us). Wow. How good is that. Plus all the other non album release stuff. And they just happen to be a killer live band and you can download pretty much every concert they have ever done for free. How good is this deal. It will never happen again. Not for any of us, in our lifetimes anyway. It really doesn't get much better than this in terms of a rock band to have latched onto. What we have got from this band is amazing. Don't worry about what you wish you had and didn't get.

Nail on the head (for me anyway). Bootlegs of every show I go to and a favorite band still recording/releasing in light of a bunch of musicians we lost recently... like you said, I usually get something out of it every time. At this point, it's gravy.

Offline Matty_Mullens

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I certainly love U2's 80's and 90's work more so than their post Pop work.  But I'll make a small list of essential post Pop songs that I think can possibly rank with their 80's/90's work:

Beautiful Day
Elevation
Walk On
Vertigo
Miracle Drug
City of Blinding Lights
No Line on the Horizon
Magnificent
Moment of Surrender
Fez/Being Born
Breathe


I know this list is pretty short and some people might not agree with some of the choices, but I simply tried to pick some songs that could possibly compete with their earlier work.
One thing I'll say is that the song titles of the last few albums have not been my favorite.  U2 used to have great song titles.  Until the End of the World, Stay(Far Away, So Close!), Mofo, Bullet the Blue Sky, I could go on.  Nowadays with the Little Things That Give You Away and other possible new song titles like Summer of Love and You're the Best Thing About Me.  I don't know.  They're just too wordy!  Plus, when it comes to the actual music, they all have a similar sound.  The past 5 years or so.  Hopefully they will prove me wrong with Songs of Experience.  We discuss all of this stuff because as fans we care.  We might care too much lol.  But that doesn't mean I dislike U2 nowadays.  I just want to like their new material because I actually like it.  Not because U2 is my favorite band and they happen to have released new music.

Offline Olek

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Greetings. Many thanks to all who've created and contributed to this post. I regret I cannot offer some meaningful insight, but I regard U2 as kind of like the Fellowship of the Ring.  When they started, they reminded me of Frodo(s) - earnest and courageous and fearless, or at least full of angst and other visceral stuff. And as they've evolved and progressed and created, they now remind me more of Galdalf - older and wiser and more powerful, yet a bit more philosophical and whimsical. Who's better - Frodo or Gandalf?  Both are important and both can be appreciated, but both are also distinct and different.

Yes, I know that this is a ridiculous premise, but I figured I'd contribute it anyway, and I'd make two other observations

First, I do find that many of the modern artists publishing stuff today seem to opt for formulaic or sampled or digitally-familiar stuff that sounds rather bland. Its not that these artists are bad people, but perhaps, their record companies or managers or minders are providing them with advice to make something catchy or popular or trendy, and thus some generic elements creeps into their output AND they end up adopting a narrower range of sound or profile. I've not always agreed with U2's choices and musical evolution, but I've never associated U2 with this preference for copying or narrowness at any stage of their career, including the most recent.

Second, and as an aside, I'd considered citing some famous actor or actress for purposes of artistic reference, whose image has changed or evolved AND this would likely be more practical, as it would be examining one entity in different stages of his / her life. But I could not come up with a great example except say Helen Mirren, whose had a long career and a pretty diverse range of roles. All of U2's output can learn to be appreciated, though the first or second half will be more appealing based on one's age and when they discovered the band. Keep well and safe travels too.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2017, 12:43:45 AM by Olek »

Offline Allhorizonbomb

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All of you who think the band don't make good music anymore don't buy it anymore, simple as that. Don't complain that U2 is dead because according to you they've been dead for over 20 years now, and nothing has changed. Just don't buy and leave the people that actually still like the band alone.

Offline robgalloway

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All of you who think the band don't make good music anymore don't buy it anymore, simple as that. Don't complain that U2 is dead because according to you they've been dead for over 20 years now, and nothing has changed. Just don't buy and leave the people that actually still like the band alone.

Absolutely +1



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