Re: U2 Can someone be objective and rationalize

John J. Hlavaty ([email protected])
Fri, 31 Jul 1998 14:00:25 -0400

rob okorn ([email protected]) wrote:
> Even the contrived U2 images of the 80's and their 'holier than thou'
> slant had a much more powerful impact live than the 90's shows,

I have to disagree with this Rob. And per the plea in your
subject heading, I'll try to be as objective as possible
in my rationalizations.

As U2 have even stated, the 80's U2 "image" was one "assigned"
to them more than one they purposely created. In other words,
U2 felt that they were just being true to themselves but the press
labeled this behavior with a "holier than thou" image.
That said, U2 still worked hard on this image by squashing bad press
before it had a chance to get out and promoting their charity work.

Regardless of how U2 obtained the image, by U2's own
admission it was not one they worked to achieve. As such,
the impact this image had on the shows was by default,
far less. Keep in mind, I'm only discussing the image here,
nothing else.

In contrast, for the ZOO shows, and to a lesser extent,
the POPMart shows, U2 *purposely* created an image for themselves.
This image was then interwoven throughout the concert. Therefore,
the 90's image of U2 had a far more powerful impact on the concerts
as the image was basically just as crucial as the set-list or stage

You may not like the 90's image of U2; however, that
doesn't take away from its impact.

> Bono's vocals: infinitely more powerful before, tone, range, texture
> especially live, it's cut and dry,

Because of the argument you and J have been having, I decided
to go back and listen to many of my boots. Before-hand, I
agreed the same as you in that the 80's Bono seemingly
had a far better vocal tone and range. But upon an additional
listening to my boots, I disagree with your semtiment
completely. Bono often screamed his way through shows
as opposed to singing back then. In contrast, the 90's
Bono combines a wonderful mixture of high vocals,
falsetto, normal singing voice and spoken voice. Bono's
falsetto allows him to hit ridiculously high notes.
Some women on WIRE have admitted to having difficulty
reaching these same notes.

Bono's use of the falsetto allows him to alter the pace of a song
as well. For example, the performance of "Bad" on "Zoo Europa" is
fantastic. Bono uses his falsetto during the middle of the song
where he would normally scream the "wide awake" parts.
This allows for the song to avoid climaxing too early (how's
that for a sexual reference? ;-D). Then at the end,
he goes back to that powerful "I'm wide awake!" scream
which emphasizes the whole song. This performance - a ZOO era
performance - is one of the best I've heard of "Bad".

In other words, Bono's 80's vocal stylings gave the
illusion of passion because he screamed a lot. But
the 90's Bono is actually the far superior singer and
when passion is required, he can deliver.
> B-sides: Joshua Tree b-sides Luminous Times, Spanish Eyes, even Deep
> in the Heart and J's reject track 'Sweet Fire of Love'

You keep including "Sweet Fire of Love" in this discussion.
While I admit Bono does a great job on the vocals here
(of course, it's more screaming type of vocals), this is
not a U2 song and as such, it should not be included with
the other tracks you mentioned. If you disagree with this,
then we should be able to include any of Bono's solo work
from the 90's to back up claims that the 90's Bono is a
better singer. I can think of several solo projects that
Bono has done this decade that contain awe-inspiring vocal
performances, just as passionate if not more as anything you can
name from the 80's ("Dreaming with Tears in My Eyes" and "Save
the Children" leap to mind).

> To reiterate J's comments, any
> b-side is an inferior track, goes as far as to lump Luminous Times and
> Holy Joe as basically the same calibre. Luminous Times is vastly
> superior

But by who's standards? And how are these songs being compared?
You asked for a objective rational viewpoint, but you are
guilty of presenting your own biased opinions as "facts".

"Luminous Times" and "Holy Joe" are very different songs.
One is a slow, moving melody and the other a heavy guitar,
upbeat rock song (Garage Mix). It's difficult to compare
two such opposing songs let alone declare one "better" than the

> Red Hill Mining Town vs. Staring at the Sun: J contends that both are
> basically 'the same style' and caliber. Red Hill has infinitely more
> abandonment, far more passionate vocals, and the great vocal
> tone/range,

I will readily agree, as probably most U2 fans, that "Red
Hill Mining Town" is indeed a Bono vocal masterpiece. The trouble
is, it appears to have been a one-time performance. Bono
was unable to reproduce the song in concert due to the strain
on his vocal chords.

It's great that we were able to hear Bono realy belt out a song -
I love it! However, since U2 are known more for their
live concert work than for their albums, it behooves U2
to make songs that can be performed in concert. "Staring
at the Sun" gave U2 some concert problems as well, but these
were quickly remedied by simply converting the song into
an amazing acoustic performance. In doing so, I felt the
song was far more powerful and it allowed U2 to bond more
with the audience as this song was performed on the b-stage, away
from the effects of the "POPMart" stage. However, no
simple transition could be done to convert "Red Hill Mining
Town" into a simpler song unless Bono made some severe alterations
to the vocals. Doing so might effect the quality of the song.

So while "Red Hill Mining Town" is superb, I think
there are more many facets U2 must consider when writing a song.
And one of them is Bono's ability to sing the song night
after night for at least a year (if not more).

> many wirelgs have posted over the past year relies on a
> tight melody, no ounce of raw naturalism. That's in part why Miami is
> one the strongest pop tracks, the fluff lyrics mirror the Miami
> cliches, the track has replay value. Elvis Ate America is another very strong
> track, another track many people simply overlook.

I wouldn't say people overlook these songs. I think
many people just don't care for these songs. I enjoy
"Miami" quite a bit, but I didn't appreciate the pseudo-rap
style of "Elvis Ate America". But this is just my taste.
Just because one is a U2 fan, it doesn't mean that
we can't be fastidious. We all demand the best
from U2. However, we are also willing to acknowledge
that what may not appeal to us may appeal to others.
Unfortunately, you do not appear to be willing
to honor us in the same fashion. This is what has ultimately
caused your alienation on WIRE. You have ostracized yourself
by your apparent unwillingness to accept differing viewpoints.

> U2 eras: While I prefer the 80's, there are songs on every 90's
> album that are solid.

This is the first time I can recall you praising the 90's
U2. I'm glad that you find at least some of their recent music

One thing that one must keep in mind when comparing
the 80's U2 to the 90's U2 is that U2 *purposely* changed
their sound and image for all of their work this decade
in response to the backlash they received at the
end of the 80's. U2 *purposely* stayed away from
the "Joshua Tree" type of songs and formats. This also
included a change in Bono's vocals. Bono probably
could have created a version of "One", for example,
that sounded similar to "With or Without You". However,
this would not have created the effect they desired.

Therefore, comparing these two decades of U2's music
becomes nearly impossible. One is extent of natural
growth and the other is both natural growth AND
a heightened sense to alter the sound and performance.
Consequently, the need for this type of discussion
escapes me.

So I'll stop here. :-D



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