Monday, February 23, 2015

Be the Song That You Hear in Your Head ... Appreciating U2's POP

Released in March of 1997, Pop is probably one of the most despised of U2's albums, but I love it. First and foremost, it was a huge risk on U2's part. They had just come off a huge tour and poor reception to Achtung Baby's follow up album, Zooropa. It was far different from anything people heard. But I always felt there was something there.

Recently, I've been listening to this album again, wondering what synapses in my brain are telling me to listen to this album. The lyrics are heavy; a lot of contemplation, but at the same time, serious fun with a more mature tone. Hanging with Frank Sinatra pre-recording this album definitely translated into some of these vibes. But it was tonight as I as listening to it on the R train home that it hit me ... but I won't share that with you until the very end of this post.

Let's review - one of U2's least liked albums, Pop.

Okay, so this song confused the hell out of people. Maybe it was Bono's mid-mid life crisis after he had the existential Machphisto
mid-life crisis, Discothèque was an interesting choice to open the album too because there is nothing else on the album like it. And then there is the video --  

Do You Feel Loved
Bono really experimented with Lyrics on this album - it isn't clear exactly what this song is about, some say ecstasy, others Bono's fame and fan worship of him, and then other always point to religion. Whatever it is, Adam Clayton is getting some bass love on this album.

Bono always seems to pen one song about his mother who was lost to him at a very young age. This song might be the most revealing about Bono -  as it captures so many questions of his existence, sans mother, including filling the void of her loss, his religion, and becoming a father.It also includes many artistic references that many will miss including two quotes from both Salman Rushdie and William Butler Yeats.

If God Will Send His Angels
A beautiful song that never got the recognition it deserved. It is full of so many vivid images of the world we live in, the despair, hope, and questions of the world and the spirituality that many question everyday. Again, Bono goes after faith and the selling of religion, the commercialization of it, and the loss of its true meaning.
Does love...light up your Christmas Tree
The next minute your blowing a fuse
And the cartoon network turns into the news

Staring at the Sun
Bono again goes with the internal review of self with this song. It's catchy, acoustic, and again bass heavy. Let's look at the title alone - what happens when you stare at the sun? Everyone does it right, because you're not supposed to. I'm not the only one whose happy to go blind, Bono sings. We do what we aren't supposed to and then tell others not to do it. Will we ever live in peace? 'Cause those that can't do often have to, Those that can't do often have to preach. It's as much a song about practicing what you preach as it is about looking past the burning blindness of the sun and seeing the real truth. See, I told you this album was deep.

Last Night on Earth
While the video seems very apocalyptic, it's semi-obvious that it is probably about Paul Yates, ex-wife of Bob Geldof, lover of Michael Hutchence, and tabloid fodder. This is what gave it away for me:

She's not waiting on a savior to come
She's at a bus stop with the News of the World
And the
Sun here it comes
She's not waiting for anyone

The tabloids, News of the World, the Sun and a sad prediction:
The future is so predictable
The past is too uncomfortable

This is a very rock and roll song and a special one for such a family man. Bon wrote this about loving rock but missing his family while on the road. And again, praise the bass lords on this album, this songs

This is a silly little ditty, no message but relaxing on the beach.

The Playboy Mansion
There are blurred lines here between the heaven of Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion and the religious heaven. It's a little Vegas at time's and you can feel Bono channeling the Riviera Hotel's  vibes in this song. And again, our sneaky song writers show that years of study at Mount Temple. Then will there be no time for sorrow, then will there be no time for pain is a reference to Revelations 21:4 - curious blurred reference indeed.

If You Wear the Velvet Dress
This is a haunting song about the moments of temptation and the morning after when life seems more clear than the moon that casts shadows and false images:
Sunlight fills my room
It's sharp and it's clear
But nothing at all like the moon

A very timely and foreshadowing song, Please was written about the Northern Ireland Peace Process. It's about the love of country that gets people killed. Love is hard, love is though but love is not what you're thinking of. While written and recorded in 1997, in 2001, the following lines would echo in our ears, an eerie premonition from Bono:
Streets capsizing
Spilling over
Down the drain
Shards of glass splinters like rain
But you could only feel
Your own pain

Wake Up Dead Man
My favorite song on the album. It's a prayer made in time of question and desperation and an order to wake up, wake up and take care of me and my needs.
Jesus, Jesus help me
I'm alone in this world
And a fucked up world it is too
Tell me, tell me the story
The one about eternity
And the way it's all gonna be
Wake up, wake up dead man
Wake up, wake up dead man
Jesus, I'm waiting here boss
I know you're looking out for us
But maybe your hands aren't free
Your father, made the world in seven
He's in charge of heaven
Will you put in a word in for me?

So what was that final epiphany? What made me smile a little and then feel slightly inadequate. I am now that same age that Bono was when this album was released. I can relate to this time in life where you look back, analyze the now, and then wonder what the hell life is going to be like? I might not have the question of what it's like to leave my family and go out on the road, I have questioned God, religion, life, realized that while there is bad there is also the good. I feel that when you reach this almost 40 age, it's a time of reflection and recollection of those lost and moments that could have been different. You also take stock in the fact that you've worked hard enough and earned those times of joy, whether it's at the Playboy Mansion or at Miami.

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