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Column: off the record..., vol. 14-611

@U2, March 23, 2014
By: Christopher Endrinal


off the record, from @U2

It’s been three weeks since the Academy Awards and I have finally accepted “Let It Go” winning Best Original Song over “Ordinary Love.” I was cheering for U2, of course, but knew in my heart of hearts that the Disney machine couldn’t be beaten. After the ceremony, I listened to the nominees with a critical ear and came to a startling conclusion: “Let It Go” was as deserving of the Oscar as “Ordinary Love.” I can feel the collective blood pressure of the U2 community starting to rise, so before you come to my door with torches and pitchforks, allow me to explain.

From a musical perspective, both songs were Oscar-worthy. “Ordinary Love” is a fairly simple song about the most fundamental theme: love. But romantic love is not the subject here; it’s brotherly love. Individual romantic relationships cannot happen without first accepting and loving those who live with and around us. “We can’t fall any further if we can’t feel ordinary love.” “Let It Go” is necessarily musically complex because it is a song about complicated emotions. The clever lyrics and the crazy harmonic changes are symbolic of a character experiencing emotional turbulence and, ultimately, gaining self-confidence and a feeling of empowerment. This is an important message for everyone, but especially for the young girls who are part of Disney’s target audience. Make no mistake: I don’t think “Let It Go” is a better song than “Ordinary Love.” But it is an important song for today’s youth, and that’s why it also deserved to win.

I still want to hear “Ordinary Love” with the full electric setup. I absolutely loved the acoustic version the band performed on The Tonight Show, but I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that they played essentially the same version at the Academy Awards. Before the show, I was convinced that they were going to pull out all the stops and just blow the roof off the theater with a fully “plugged-in” rendition. As an unabashed Adam Clayton fan, I wanted to see and hear the full version primarily because I wanted to see and hear him play that gorgeous bass line from the studio version of the song. And I wanted to hear Edge fill the theater with his trademark echo. I appreciate the level of restraint and understated nature of the performance, a fitting tribute to Nelson Mandela. In my book it was easily the best musical performance of the night. I can’t help but imagine how much faster the audience would have stood and cheered if U2 had played it full-stop.

I’m having trouble digesting all the rumors about the new album as well as the supposed demise of the band. On the one hand, I’m like every other U2 fan out there: I want a new album, and I want it NOW. Based on what Bono’s been saying for the past several years, there’s more than enough new material to work with. Pick a production team, hole up in the studio for a couple of months, polish the songs and release the record. On the other hand, that’s not U2’s style. They have always done things on their schedule and it’s hard to argue with a method that has worked really well for the better part of four decades. We should trust that, by now, they know what they’re doing.

Perhaps it’s the eternal optimist in me, or maybe it’s because I cannot imagine U2 not being together, but the rumors of an impending breakup really bother me. I just don’t see this as the end because I don’t think U2 can end in a fizzle. I don’t think they would let it happen that way. They’ve been doing this for too long at too high a level to just dissolve. That’s not this band’s style. However and whenever it does finally end, it will a spectacle. It is U2, after all. How could it not?

That being said, I think these rumors are good for both the band and the material. It shows U2, Guy Oseary and the record label executives that the public still is interested. To use Bono’s word, U2 is still relevant. The public is waiting for this album, so it’s going to sell. It’s also going to put just the right amount of pressure on them to finish and (finally) release the album. After all, pressure makes diamonds.

Finally, for those who like electronic music with hints of rock, I suggest checking out Tycho (the stage name for California-based producer and musician Scott Hansen). I found Tycho’s music about a year and a half ago and can’t get enough. He paints broad soundscapes with a seemingly effortless sound that mixes electronic backbeats with lead and bass guitars. His new album, Awake, was released this past Tuesday, and the sounds on this record remind me a lot of U2. So, if you’re in the mood for some U2-flavored electronic instrumental music, Tycho fits the bill.

(c) @U2/Endrinal, 2014

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