"[M]usic has lost the personality of human beings and musicians. It's got so shiny that it's as if there's a surface of Formica over it. And it's something that doesn't let you in."
-- Edge, 2003
Like A Video: Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own (Single Take)
December 02, 2012
[Ed. note: This is the 13th in a series of essays by the @U2 staff about U2-related visuals and videos. Some essays may be informational and educational, while others may be more personal.]
"Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" is a song about Bono's difficult relationship with his father. And since I'm going to be a father in just a few short months (less than three months, to be exact ... whoa), I've been thinking a lot about my relationship with my dad and what my relationship with my son will be like.
Two videos were made for "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own," one that included the entire band and one "single take" version that features just Bono walking the streets of what I assume to be North Dublin. The single-take version is the subject of this essay, which I dedicate to my unborn son. The song and video both contain a message that I want to tell my son now and every day for the rest of his life.
First, some technical observations about this version of the video and why I like it so much. The long, single-take shot is one of my favorite cinematic devices, partly because it espouses a sense of continuity and partly because it's quite difficult to pull off. One tiny mishap or element out of place can ruin the entire shot. Bono does a great job singing the song while he's walking (no easy feat, mind you) and an even more remarkable job of acting naturally while doing it. Because we live in the Age of Auto-Tune, I find it refreshing to see and hear a singer perform without any electronic manipulation. That Bono does this while walking and being filmed is a testament to his talent and comfort level in front of a camera. It's not a perfect performance, but that's hardly the point. For me, the fact that Bono does *not* hit every note perfectly makes the video that much better. It's an unedited, unadulterated "performance."
Bono walking the streets alone reflects the intensely personal nature of the song. The lyrics are written from the perspective of a son talking to his father, and express several emotions like anger, frustration, sadness and guilt. But as fatherhood approaches, I've begun to interpret many of the lyrics from the opposite perspective: a father trying to give (sage) advice to his son. That's what the rest of this piece is: advice I'd like to give my unborn son.
Tough, you think you've got the the stuff
Be tough, son, and strong. In mind and body. Be proud of who and what you are. Pride is not necessarily a bad thing. Pride can be fuel for success, motivation to go the extra mile not only to finish the job, but also to get the job done right. Pride is standing up for what you believe in, doing the right thing and showing respect for yourself and others.
But be careful. There is a fine line between pride and arrogance. What's the difference, you ask? Well, it's not always clear in the heat of the moment, but you could end up paying a heavy price for not recognizing the difference. Arrogance can get you into trouble, and quickly. Arrogance is not having respect for others and their opinions. Arrogance can alienate others and blind you from seeing what's really going on around you.
You don't have to put up a fight
Son, there will be times in your life when you'll struggle. Whether it's with schoolwork, your job, a relationship or sports, your best effort may not always produce the results you want. I don't say that to discourage you from trying your hardest. Quite the opposite, in fact. (Remember what I told you about taking pride in yourself and your work?) You should always put forth your best effort; it will always be expected and appreciated. But I want you to know that it's OK to reach out for help, especially to me. You can talk to me about anything. If there is any advice I can offer or any way that I can help, just ask. Or if you simply just need to vent, I'm here for that too.
Listen to me now
My dad once said to me, "As long as I am alive, you will always be my responsibility. I'll always be in your corner." I know not all fathers think this way and I am eternally grateful that mine does. And I am pretty confident that I'll think that way about my son as well.
Believe in yourself, Son, because I already believe in you. Don't ever give up. If you fall, get back up. Keep the faith that good things can happen if you believe in yourself and work hard enough. And I'll be there with you every step of the way.
Son, you'll never have to worry about having my support. I'll always have your back. I cannot do your work for you, nor can I learn the lessons you must learn for yourself. But you can count on me to be there for you in whatever capacity I can be.
Sometimes you can't make it on your own
One final piece of advice, Son: Family comes first. Always. Your mom and I didn't have the most stable family situations when we were growing up, so we're going to try our hardest to provide a warm, loving, safe home for you. It's a team effort, however. We're all in this together and we support each other through thick and thin, through good times and bad. Be kind and be good, and the rest will fall into place.
I can't wait to meet you, my Son.
(c) @U2/Endrinal, 2012