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"Our music in the early '80s, it might have been ecstatic, but it wasn't really sexy, was it? Now we're sexy and ecstatic."

-- Bono, 2001

@U2 home page

Column: off the record..., vol. 12-545

@U2, December 16, 2012
By: Aaron J. Sams / @u2wanderer


off the record, from @U2

There was a buzz recently about a song Bono has done with Kanye West and Swizz Beatz called "Skyscrapers." Beatz had put a snippet on YouTube of himself listening to the track. The song is not newly recorded as we started hearing about this track back in 2011.

Swizz Beatz started talking about his new album in 2007 shortly after the release of his first. The album went through a series of name changes, and on Aug. 24, 2010, he announced that the name of the album would be Haute Living and it was due later that year. In March 2011 the album had still not been released but there was a leak of some songs from the album to the Internet. At the same time, a significant amount of promotion was done for the new album.

An April 13, 2011, interview with Papermag had Beatz announce the track with Kanye and Bono, "Yeah. We got this song -- it's me, Bono and Kanye on this one song called 'Skyscrapers.' I recorded with Kanye in the studio and then I recorded with Bono in this actual studio right here."

Later that month, a full preview copy of the album was given to for review. The release date of Haute Living was announced as Sept. 13, 2011, to coincide with Beatz's birthday. The reviewer commented on the track "Skyscrapers": "Not what you'd initially expect from a collaboration with two megastars. More Kanye than U2, the drum-heavy, mid-tempo record features empowering lyrics such as, 'Blind man's visions become skyscrapers,' where the trio envisions a world of peace. Bono provides the hook and Mr. West kisses the sky with his words, while Swizz delivers one of his most carefully-crafted verses yet."

From what I've managed to piece together, Bono went into the studio with Swizz Beatz sometime in early 2010 after they had worked together on the Haiti relief song "Stranded," and he sang some material to be included on a track that Beatz had previously recorded with Kanye. So this "new" song, on an album that still doesn't have a firm release date, is now nearing three years old. It's not just U2 that has trouble getting an album out at times, it seems. Or maybe Beatz has given up on the album idea and will stick to releasing a song every few months.

Speaking of being slow getting albums out, Rihanna released her first album in August 2005. She has released one album every year except 2008.  For the past four years an album has been waiting every November for her fans. And it's not just old material that's been repackaged, or an album of remixes -- these are brand-new albums! Can you just imagine if U2 could keep a similar schedule of releases?

George, a reader of the forums at, brought to my attention a new version of "Walk On" taken from the soundtrack of the HBO special Burma Soldier (2011). The composer of the soundtrack, Paul Brill, has made the entire soundtrack available to purchase, and the two cuts with U2 (both are mixes of "Walk On") are free to download in a variety of formats.

I am not sure how the track came about, but the performance by U2 is not a new one. It is an acoustic performance of "Walk On" done in concert in Tokyo, Japan, in 2006 during the closing days of the Vertigo tour. If you listen very carefully to the track released by Brill, the crowd noise can be heard but it has been carefully dialed back. Brill has mixed this acoustic live performance of the song with a new string arrangement. Brill released the soundtrack through his site with little fanfare until it was recently publicized through word of mouth in the U2 fan community.

Hate winter? Can't stand to see the snow start to fall? I was like that once. And I decided I'd give myself something to look forward to on days like that. Each year when the snow first hits I put on The Unforgettable Fire and listen to it from start to finish. It has always been a favorite album of mine for the winter months, and I look forward to the first storm of the year with some great music to curl up with.

Like The Unforgettable Fire, my other two favorite albums have a season as well. Zooropa tends to take over in the summer, and No Line On The Horizon seems to speak to me of spring; perhaps it's the bird noises.

Maybe if U2 ever gets a new album out I'll finally fill in a favorite for the last season.

Ewan McGregor has crossed paths with U2 a few times. He starred in The Pillow Book, the movie for which U2 originally started developing Original Soundtracks 1, but ended up only contributing "Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car." He also starred in Moulin Rouge, which featured Bono singing a song with Gavin Friday, "Children of the Revolution." McGregor also sang "Elephant Love Song," which featured a lyric from "Pride (In The Name Of Love)." But Ewan goes one step further. For those who always needed to hear Obi-Wan Kenobi strumming a guitar and singing some U2, you can shut your eyes and listen to this on YouTube. (Careful, ladies, if you're a fan to start with, this could cause you to swoon.)

(c) @U2, 2012.

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