Embarrassment

Wherever I go I am “the U2 guy”, in my house, family, anywhere I have worked. People know I can - and will - talk about U2 at any opportunity. So one of the ways that folks can get my goat is to bring up something embarrassing about the band, or just something that will make me defend them. Because for some reason I always feel compelled to defend U2 against any complaints.

The obvious and least effective are the online complaints. Every single story about U2 you will read online that has comments will have any number of people on there commenting that U2 are not cool any more, or that they’re lame, or, well, you know what online comments say. These are easy to ignore, because I try not to read comments online since I know what they will degenerate to. Doesn’t matter if it is U2 or anything else, eventually the comments will suck. And then you’ll see the responses from U2 fans saying things like “you cared enough to read and comment” which isn’t much of a defense. Reality is there is a large portion of the population who will be anti anything just for the fun value. Not worth bothering about.

Bono has his own special level of embarrassment. The other guys have at times - Adam in the 1990s was particularly skilled at finding ways to get attention - but Bono rules the roost. He has done things like MacPhisto, which are cringeworthy now we look back. He has made public comments on so many different topics, not all useful. He does a lot of great work but seems to attract bad attention at the same time. And while I think of it there’s another version of the online comments: people who say if Bono cares so much about topic X, why doesn’t he give all his money to it instead of bothering the rest of the world? People who are too obtuse to realize that it’s not about the money, it’s about the eyeballs. One Bono giving a ton of money is worth less than him getting a million people to care about something and push their politicians to do something about it.

Of course the whole band was complicit in the Pop fiasco, with the lemon that once jammed with them inside, bringing its own level of mirth, with Discotheque and the lamentable video of them dressed as the Village People, and with the whole story around the album and the way it was promoted. Note to U2: it really doesn’t matter if you’re doing it in an ironic way, if everyone only sees the surface and laughs at you for it.

Paul McGuinness has managed to put himself into embarrassing situations too. From moving the band’s HQ to the Netherlands so they could avoid Irish taxes, which although a sound financial move is a terrible PR move, to talking about copyright and restrictions on music, despite the obvious failure that has been. He lives in the old model of music, and doesn’t get the reality of today.

And a final nod to the embarrassing songs that U2 have released. There was the simplicity of New Year’s Day, where I had an argument with my brother once because he said that of course something changes on New Year’s Day, the calendar does. There is the title line for Raised By Wolves, where my wife asked “are they really singing raised by wolves?” and I had to argue that yeah, they were kind of making a point there, despite what it sounds like. And many songs in between, and I have or will mention those problems as I go through their reviews.