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I want to write about Songs Of Surrender.
I want to write about Pride
I want to write with Pride.
I want to write in the name of love.
For they deserve it.
And eh, so do we.
This relentless mantra has been going on and on in my head for the past couple of weeks now and don’t think I’ve been lazy this time. I kept trying and drafting and pushing to write this blog but until today I was not able to shake off the feelings it first spurred in the community.
As you well know, I’m an online creature and that’s in moments like this really, when you get stuck, that you realize the toll social media can have on you sometimes. Even when you’re aware and cautious about it.
Nothing major, nothing important or life changing but sneakily twisting your thoughts and making you stray away from what you actually felt in the first place. And what’s music without feelings but a surgical succession of sounds? Nah. Not my jam.
There has been a lot of talk about the announcement of Songs of Surrender, a lot of debates, a lot of right and wrong and all the bitterness in between. And that’s not what I want to talk about. It’s not what I want to write about and yet I’ve come to the conclusion that if I don’t get it out of the way, I’ll probably still be doodling on my notes til the bloody thing is released.
It’s not about how, or what or why any of this happened.
It’s about who : a band I love.
A band I love bearing news that made me happy. And that’s what I’ll focus on.
Songs of Surrender doesn’t deserve anything but love.
Happy, excited and all the more grateful to be the fan of the greatest band in the world – but also one smart enough to still take chances after 46 years at it.
Yeap. That’s my band. Great sound and big brains. No wonders The Edge is in charge of this one.
And again, that’s only my opinion. And I’m fine with it.
So let’s move on from that hell pit of irrelevant chatter, and try to find my way back to the original thoughts that happened when U2 dropped the news. As always, I like to take the long path to understanding. The bigger picture. Over analyzing my feelings regarding this band? Me? never.
Songs Of Surrender.
It’s been a long time coming isn’t it ?
I was excited about this project before there was even any reason to be. When it was just a mere rumor. When reading those vague allusions in interviews these past years. I was excited about it because I know these guys – as far as a fan can know their band – and I knew that whatever they were scheming behind the apparent silence was just them being busy at creating something special.
Isn’t that quite the concept really? Taking something that exists and putting it all at risk again? Isn’t that one of the biggest creative challenges of all?
It’s easy to let your art come to life from an empty canvas, but to take your life work, your masterpiece, and decide it’s worth painting all over it because you know you can make it even better? Wow okay, you’ve got me right there.
You know what blows my mind the most about SOS?
They could have gone for those semi obscure songs the general audience don’t even remember. But nope. They went for the freaking classics. The hymns. The ones we all know by heart.
That takes balls. Or recklessness. But either way, that’s pretty brave of you.
I was excited when I started to hear words about acoustic versions of those songs. Because those are always my favorites to listen to in the comfort of my home.
U2 wrote many anthems along the years, big guitars and thunder drums, songs that could probably be used as rocket fuel to launch off whole stadiums – and what a feeling to be a part of it each time, nothing compares to that.
And yet, when reality settles in, and life is just quieter than the cogs of that engine spinning, my heart craves those simpler arrangements. The purity of a piano notes, the soulfulness of Bono’s bare voice, the scratch of fingers on those chords you can hear if you’re mindful enough. Just my mates, playing their songs, in the intimacy of my living room through my cheap speakers.
Because that’s one of the acoustic superpowers : intimacy. Realness. Closeness.
And I still remember how the version of Stuck in a moment they released during the pandemic literally stopped me in my tracks and floored me right there in the street at 7 in the morning. Feelings that were nothing but real. Tears that were nothing but necessary.
Power doesn’t always rely on pushing that amp to 11, or letting the sound deafen you and drown out the world. Sometimes actually listening to those bands that inspire you everyday whispering in your ears is a lot more powerful. Nowhere to hide. Nothing to hide. A direct connection from heart to heart. When love takes over entertainment. A shared moment.
Acoustic is also where lies a magic I can’t explain. And there’s no wonder now that the piano version of Every Breaking Wave they played during the IE tour was going to steal my heart away. That piano and that voice managed to push back the song I had held onto as my number one for 20 years, for reasons I still can’t explain and that’s the magic of it. That performance resonated with me on a whole other level of things I thought I knew. A sound that brought the bigger picture of any art form I’d ever experience. A transcendance or an epiphany, I can’t name it, but all I was left with was beauty in its purest form.
It’s been years and years but aren’t we all still talking about Edge’s performance of SBS during Popmart? Or THAT Running to stand still? Aren’t we all still head over heels about Bono’s take of So Cruel in sky down?
Acoustic has a power we all respond to, aware or not, and we always fall for its magic. Imagine what Songs of Surrender is going to bring. That’s not something we can be ready for.
But it’s not just acoustic reinvention, it’s also rearrangements and reinterpretations and in that case, if you were lucky enough to attend Stories of Surrender, you know what a treat we’re in for.
Yet another level of excitement was after seeing those songs reclaimed by Bono on that stage, with a little help from his other friends. Hearing those songs like we never heard them definitely sealed the deal for me. Beyond the beauty of it, or the meaning of it – but I’ll get back to that – a privilege I had never thought about before. The privilege to hear your favorite songs again for the very first time. And that’s quite the feeling I’m telling you.
And isn’t that U2 in a nutshell I ask you. To always push the boundaries, explore the limits of their art and ultimately be themselves? Risks taken in the name of progress, movement, improvement. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t . But at least, we can’t blame them for lack of trying. They did it with their sound, they did it with the world, damn they did it with our collective hearts – makes sense they’ve reached the point when they want to do it with their own material.
Be yourself to free yourself. Be yourself but be better than who you’ve been – or just truer to yourself. Human growth. Isn’t it the natural direction to take? Be truer? Try better? Reconcile with what’s not working for you when you know how to fix it?
Reconciliation. That’s also what I see in this album.
Bono has been vocal enough – ain’t he always – about not being so fond of his voice on their earlier work, and can you imagine the frustration it must be to hear those for him, but more importantly to know he could do so much better now?
And he does. He already does. How many songs have completely changed and evolved on stage throughout the year? If not all of them. Take EBTTRT, take Elevation, take freaking October – have you heard what he achieved with that one?
And it’s not just him. It’s the whole band. And it’s such a natural course of action that I can’t wrap my head around people asking for them to play those tunes in the exact same way they did 10, 20, 40 years ago – because how can they? They’re not the same people anymore. Their skills have evolved. Their feelings have changed. The signal in the noise, the message behind a song, has changed too and thank fuck for that. Because the world has. And to that I only need to quote one song, Walk On. Do you see it now?
They wrote some of those perfect songs when they were kids to be honest – imagine how much they can bring to them with what they know now, using experience to reignite the innocence. The concept of perfection isn’t fixed, and I know some probably think of it in terms of beats and voice but what if it had to do with how much it fills your heart with love?
Isn’t what we call perfection always a moment of bliss? of love? of how you’re feeling rather than the material in itself?
If this album is one thing, it’s a labor of love. A challenge of love. To us maybe, but more importantly to themselves. They love those songs, they’re that baggage they can’t leave behind, and they just need to bring them along.
Those songs have been defining moments in our lives, but also in theirs. Music will always be that window to the past, those sounds will always have that time machine effect whenever you hear them so why not go visit those memories and add new layers to it?
What a beautiful idea to go back to that crossroad and see how far the path you took from there goes. And all the little things you lived and loved in between. I don’t think of SOS as a much different thing from Bono’s book – it’s a testimony of life. Telling their stories from there to here with the best way they know how to, with music.
Art is the only way to capture that essence of life at a specific moment. Photography, painting, writing and of course music – but what appears to be fixed is constantly evolving for they are the expressions of ourselves. An instant captured forever, like the perfection of that last ray of sunlight coming through the curtains on a cold winter day. It’s there. And then it’s not. It’s fleeting. It’s only up to you to try what you can to make it last.
Being comfortable in your own art – and yeah I’m pushing it further on – in your own life, in your own mind and body, that’s quite an achievement in itself but don’t sit back waiting for life to pass you by. Stay curious. Keep learning. Keep teaching. And never ever stop taking chances.
And I truly think that’s also what they’re doing here. Keep moving forward even if it means looking backwards sometimes. To make it better and with any luck capture once again the beauty that lies in the human heart for who they are today.
Enough of my caffeinated nonsense now, let’s take one real example. One very personal and yet quite revealing example that reinvention is not that bad.
I’ve been called a lot of things these past few weeks. An embarrassment – well obviously -, annoying – that’s the whole point people – and last but not least, a “groupie” that just agrees and praises blindly with whatever the band puts out. And I get why. Truthfully, I do have a tendency to turn into an excited wild puppy about things I love, that’s the main part of being a fan on social media for me. Go crazy, hype it up, pass the joy and share the love. A ridiculous amount of love even sometimes, and I’m aware of that.
But maybe it only appears this way because when I don’t like something, I just don’t say anything about it ? Because simply put, why would I talk about something I have no interest in? There’s enough negativity every fucking where to add to it.
So here’s a little bit for the online detectives – you’re probably going to request my groupie, and even basic fan, card after that.
I don’t like Pride.
In the name of love or not.
Instant skip everytime.
It bores me to death.
It’s a great song, but it just doesn’t work for me unless I’m actually on the damn GA floor tearing my voice off along with everyone else – merely because I’m just a hoe for oh oh ohs.
It gets even worse than that – it’s my pee break – intense conditioning remains from the days I used to live tweet every show during the IE tour and probably due to its order in the setlist. Side note, big comfort moment when Bono wrote his 60 letters and admitted to the same issue with Wake Up by Arcade Fire. At least I’m not completely bonkers – or at least just as bonkers as he is and I can live with that.
Yeah. You got it.
Pride is that song I heard one too many times.
And I’m okay with it, we all have one.
And to be completely honest with you, now we’re at making ugly confessions, a lot of 80s U2 just don’t work for me. Of course it’s full of classics and hymns and whatever you want but definitely not my go to. Classic case of love the songs – and some of those are absolute favs of mine, don’t make me say what I didn’t – but they don’t talk to me that much vibe?
I’ve hidden for a long time behind the fact it was a generational thing – that’s a lie, it’s not – but it is what it is really. We all get touched differently by music, we all have different tastes and see, that’s also what makes our diversity and all the more interesting as a community.
Please don’t take that as a cry for help to convince me 80s U2 is the best of their career. Or you’ll very much Pride me. It’s not even a U2 thing. It’s a 80s thing. Probably still traumatized to have been born in the midst of it.
So eh, maybe that’s also why I’m so excited about hearing those songs reinvented.
Bye bye 80s, hello 20s.
I know that silence now.
You’re gone aren’t ya?
Ha. I’ll give you a few moments to recover from the shock – or go unfollow me on every known platform.
Take your time. It’s okay.
Just gonna grab a coffee, will brb.
When the news dropped that the first single we’d hear of SOS would be that very song, those brains of mine had a little Jekyll Hide moment.
*needs to pee*
Yeah hmm. Lot of hmm actually.
Peak curiosity because…
Could that reinvention turn into reconciliation?
Any chance I could actually enjoy this song again?
I mean it’s Pride… PRIDE… Lordy, I feel like a fraud on so many different levels for not liking it.
I could have passed on that one.
I could have completely ignored it.
But it’s them right?
I had to try and take a chance.
Take a chance that maybe it could work.
So I gave it a listen. And another. And ended up listening to it probably even more than I ever listened to the original.
Did it work for me?
Spoiler alert – I think it did.
Still makes me want to take a piss though.
Guys. I think I like Pride again – because it’s tapping in a whole different set of feelings for me.
What bugs me the most in the original is that feeling that the song is in control of them, and not the other way around. Running after it and merely holding it by their fingertips. Consumed by its passion. The urgency to put that message out over actually delivering it. And I’m sorry but yes, a lot has to to do with how Bono sings it. For me. Put that pitchfork down.
This version couldn’t feel more different honestly. Bono is finally owning the words he’s singing, no longer forced off him, like it always felt for me. He’s in control of the power this song holds within. Authentic. Confident. Majestic. In all the right ways.
His voice always tells a story, by his tone, by the emotions he pours into it – and I get the feeling he’s trying to convey in the original Pride, I really do, but what can I say.. I’m no good at confrontation and if you start yelling at me then the conversation is over.
I just fare much better with this reinvention. It’s much more comforting to me. And that probably has to do with what Edge’s add to it too – The layers of the guitars are gently pushing you onwards, almost soothing, a sonic spiritual retreat of sorts.There’s a kind of soft melancholy in this reinvention that you can almost touch. What a freaking genius at harnessing the beauty we can only hear.
Less of a cry for action, and more of an encouraging pace beating at your ears – and again, for me, it delivers the message of this song in a much more inspiring way than it used to.
But it’s just me.
And my particular appreciation for this song.
Remember that you don’t necessarily have to choose.
You can like one more than the other, or not.
You can also take that little advice from my book – both is good too.
I was excited about Songs of Surrender before it was even a thing.
I’m all the more excited now that I’ve heard the direction it’s taking.
I sure like it, Edge. And if these 3000+ words don’t stress it enough, I bloody can’t wait to hear it all.
It’s not just Songs of Surrender, it’s surrendering themselves to their songs. Surrendering who they once were and maybe, just maybe we can try to do it too.
Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with right and wrong. Maybe we’ll agree to disagree for once. But does it really matter? I don’t think so.
It works for me.
So take what you want of it. This blog, this album, this band – take the good and leave the bad. Take the joy it can bring you and run with it.
And for those who are not convinced with it, I’m sure as hell not trying to change your mind, but are you willing to try and take a chance here? Isn’t it what love is after all?
As long as you keep taking chances, it’s all worth it.
PS : Thanks for the letter Edge. You obviously said it better than any of us. We’ll take care of your new baby, don’t worry. And now you know where I live, drop by someday so I can kick your arse at Guitar Hero. Of course you can have coffee too. That number though? Ha. Universe. You cheeky fucker.
It has been almost a year since I was diagnosed with late stage heart failure ( very progressive ) and I lean on U2’s music for solace & sanity… I seldom read blogs, but you have managed to always put a smile & even a laughter in my heart.. So I read you.. I get you.. you’re a precious rare gem.. you’re way ahead of your time & simply one of a kind… Thank you Jo for your ability to continuously surprise me & make my days better.. Bless your BRILLIANT HEART & SOUL.. THANK YOU🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼♥️♥️♥️