U2 front man, Bono, has just turned 60 and, as his gift to the world, he’s released a Spotify playlist, ’60 Songs That Saved My Life’.
So, what is it that makes U2, and Bono in particular, so on the nose?
Media about the playlist was received with the, by now, usual derision and scorn on social media, with comments ranging from dissing Bono’s tastes in music to the sort of outright nastiness that’s become a staple of social media across the board.
Here are just a few examples …
“Most of the songs are the biggest hit (or near enough) by that artist. Few album tracks. If you really love a band/singer their biggest hit is also their most played/heard and you’re sick as fuck of hearing it instead of the better album tracks.”
“What a boring list of predictable songs/artists. Plenty of good stuff but so unimaginative. Good grief. No wonder U2 are so anodyne and pedestrian.”
“Bonzo, the world’s most important man, what a fooking balloon he is.”
“The Irish spunktrumpet doesn’t realise that hurt by Johnny Cash is actually a cover version of a Nine inch Nails track…..”
All of which begs the question, why do people hate Bono and U2 so much?
Before going on, I must declare my interest here. I didn’t really like U2’s earlier stuff, at the time they just didn’t sound punk enough for me. Then came Under A Blood Red Sky and I bought into all their white-flag-waving emotionality in a big way. I really dug their live stuff.
After that I was on the U2 bandwagon for a while. I was right there with Bono when he got the timing of Martin Luther King Junior’s assassination wrong on ‘Pride (In The Name Of Love)’. The Joshua Tree carried me through a phase of endless introspection. I thought Rattle And Hum was a great album and the movie even better. Achtung Baby came at me like a bolt out of the blue, with all its cross dressing and Berlin chic it was right up my alley. In my book, Zooropa and Pop were credible continuations of U2’s reinvention.
After that, U2 began to wane for me. Somehow their recorded output wasn’t as good, or as relevant and moving. Bono began to come off like a bit of a twat with all of his fawning over politicians and believing that rock and roll really could change the world. I drifted away and, while I dip into their catalogue on occasion these days, they’re nowhere near as meaningful to me as they were.
For me, U2’s biggest sin was that their appeal wasn’t enduring. Somehow, their music doesn’t seem to have aged well.
But I’ve never hated them. I’ve found them annoying, like that time when they delivered Songs Of Innocence free of charge into my iTunes account, but I’ve never been able to muster up the energy to actively hate on them like so many people seem to be moved to do these days.
So, what is it that makes U2, and Bono in particular, so on the nose? No, really, I’m asking, because I’m puzzled by this one.
Plenty of rock stars have overstayed their welcome musically. Hell, most bands never produce anything good after their first record. Take The Strokes for example, they only ever produced one good album, but no one seems to hate them for consistently misfiring on a career that should have been nothing short of stellar.
For those bands that manage to put out a string of good records, there often seems to come a time when their new music just isn’t as good. Take The Rolling Stones, they haven’t released anything of note since the 80s, but no one hates them.
Plenty of bands have played politics, too. Mostly on the save-the-world lefty side of things — music seems to be an art form that attracts bleeding hearts — but there are the occasional gun toting, right wing, eat-the-poor types among the ranks. Take Ted Nugent for example. Usually when he gets a mention these days it’s along the lines of, great guitar player, shame about the politics, but no one seems to be able to muster up the energy to really hate him.
One of the biggest sticking points about Bono and U2 is that they’re rich and maybe don’t pay as much tax as they should. The latter is either clever management on their part, or a crime, but it’s not up to the howling masses on social media to resolve. No, the mention of their tax arrangements is always in the context of them being rich. I mean, how dare they! Imagine being a successful band and raking in the money like that! Using this as a justification for hating Bono and U2 just smacks of raging envy.
To summarise, U2 are past their use-by date musically, sickeningly political to the point of sycophancy, rich and now, with Bono having just turned 60, old. But does that really justify what seems to be a universal hatred of their brand?
Happy birthday, Bono. I’m sure you don’t give a fuck about the haters, but I’d be interested to know, because it’s one of those socio-cultural phenomena that I just don’t get.