Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sing it like you mean it

According to the Brits website, "U2 will be performing their brand new single Get On Your Boots for the very first time" at tonight's ceremony. Clearly, they missed the Grammys last week... or maybe they're hoping that, this time, the performance won't be such a s crushingly bad, dad-at-the-disco fiasco.

Somehow, I doubt it.

Get On Your Boots is a fascinating song. Bits of it - particularly the supple harmonies in the chorus - are sublime. But all the great writing never combines into a coherent, uplifting pop song. I think the main reason is this: Bono sounds insincere.

I know lots of people will be saying "Mark, what did you expect? That massive Irish gasbag is genetically incapable of sincerity". But they are wrong. Bono can sell a song like One with the raw, emotional conviction of a gospel singer. Which is pretty awesome if you consider that Mary J Blige - a real gospel singer - completely trashed it.

No, the reason Get On Your Boots doesn't work is because Bono wants to be something he's not - cool. It's a craving that's derailed the U2 train in the past (cf Discotheque) and it's happening again - Get On Your Boots is only at number 10 in the midweek charts.

Of course, some artists make a career out of play-acting in song. David Bowie is the obvious example, but you could also mention Anthony Hegarty or David Byrne.

Funnily enough, I have real trouble engaging with their music, too.

When Bowie puts on that silly nasal voice in Space Oddity, or sings "Sound and Vision" like he's Goofy, it completely spoils the atmosphere. You know when you ask, "Is it Wednesday today?" and some guy in the office replies: "Yes it is - all day!"? That guy is David Bowie.

As someone once said: "Music is what feelings sound like". You can't fake a feeling. People around you know when you're forcing a smile, paying a false compliment or acting confident.

So why does Bono think he can get away with it in music? I suspect he genuinely believes he can be cool at the age of 49. To me, that's a worse crime than all the other nonsense that's levelled at him. He can squirrel away his money into a offshore tax havens, gladhand war criminals and wear those stupid fucking fly shades until he goes blind. But, please, please don't put your midlife crisis on record.

U2 - Get On Your Boots

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