So I did some reading about this song before starting this review, and it depressed me much more than the song ever did. I always thought of it as a cool, not quite love but at least somewhat relaxed, song. I mean, musically it is slow, somewhat calming, a very enjoyable song. But to read some of the point of it, and think back to all the stories of the times that were going on when Achtung Baby was being recorded, really makes me feel a little sad about it, but also happy that the band was able to work through it and go on to the enormous success they have had since then.
Now reading through the Wikipedia article on So Cruel, I was struck by the level of academic interest in the song. I know that’s been out there, I know there’s a lot of religious study based around U2, but it’s interesting to run into such detail on a song like So Cruel, which is relatively unknown compared to other songs on the album, or in U2’s history. I remember reading about some U2 conferences that were held in the last few years as well where they were doing academic work on the band (wish I’d been able to be there). But in the more than one hundred reviews I’ve written so far this year, I haven’t had as much interest in anything as I had in this song. Odd, right? You’d think people would pick on the famous songs.
Take a look at the bibliography in the So Cruel article on Wikipedia, and the first thing that you’ll say is “bibliography?” because it is hard to imagine that the article would need a bibliography. More than that, I have a library of U2 books (okay, a shelf or two), and even I haven’t heard of some of those. Additions to the Amazon list, I guess. But then go back up and read the section where they’re talking about theme, and they get into dualism, then Pascal, and differences on what viewpoint the song was coming from. Wow. It’s almost a culture shock, the idea that you can go and look at the band in this way, and that so much of what I’ve always listened to and thought about has been almost on the surface of what might be there.
On the other hand, I also read something the other day from an author, who said that reviewers and academics find way more themes and references in a book than the author ever knew about.
As to the song itself, the music is really good, dominated I think by the drums and maybe the keyboard, along with the strings (which are probably the reason it never played live much, although rumor has it that they’ll have strings with them for the Innocence and Experience tour, so maybe…). Ultimately though in this case it’s all about the lyrics. And I don’t think there’s a lyric in there that doesn’t work for me. Even the repeated part is minimal - two lines, repeated three times, and they don’t even match each time. That’s what I like, those little twists in the lyrics that make them unique.
My rating for So Cruel: 7 / 10