I had a whole thesis on U2, about Bono and relationships, and how everyone’s in a bad relationship because they can’t communicate and Bono’s lyrics in, say, With Or Without You perfectly articulate that inability not only to name your own feelings but also the feelings of your loved one, but when I started looking up videos to use all I could ask was: WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO U2?!
Let’s rewind a second. I am pretty sure that when you picture U2, you imagine them looking something like this:
Or, if you’re a bit younger, perhaps even something like this:
And both of those versions of U2 are fine- I mean, they’re a huge rock band, they’re peaking in 1987 and then peaking AGAIN in 1992, and all of that is how bands are meant to look. But then in 1995 things get weird. They do this terrible song for an even worse Batman movie, and, well, this happens:
Set aside the part where they become cyberpunk The Village People for a minute, because we’ll come back to it. Why does Bono start his performance by fake coughing and then yelling “FUUUUUUCK YESSSS”? And is it just me, or could Robin Williams have dressed as Bono in 1996 and have fooled everyone? Oh wait, Robin Williams already thought of that.
Robin also thought of what you used to think your opinion of Bono was before you saw that almost insane video of U2 performing Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me live, 16 years ago, in their weird persona as cyberpunk The Village People. The Edge is a cowboy! Adam Clayton is a construction worker who pretends to be a beautiful 21 year old girl in chatrooms! Larry Mullen is apparently a bouncer at a club owned by Bill Gates’ great grandson, which is a nearly impossibly specific thing to be, and Bono is the host of a future incarnation of Jeopardy that involves no reading and gratuitous female nudity. Sure, it was the late ’90s and shit was more out of control than at any other point in history, but what is this next picture, even?
Around 12 years ago, when we all decided we needed to chill out before the entire world exploded, U2 did what any band that had basically gone too far but still hadn’t done everything yet would do: they became fake Canadians.
If I said to you “Canadian rock star” you’d think of a hockey jersey, but if I then said “the singer” you’d picture exactly what Bono is wearing in that clip. This is a guy who has meetings with heads of state, and he’s wearing his taller older brother’s leather trenchcoat. But U2 don’t stop there: the rest of the band clearly studied the dress and energy levels of a bar band in Calgary and copied it all. Exactly. Including Bono’s stage presence, which is “drunk enough that I have to lean when I get excited.” Wow! Feel that power. I hear their second set has a Trooper medley.
Bono could literally not seem less excited to be singing a song. Any song. And this is a fairly rocking U2 song, given that it’s the year 2000 and nothing is exciting anymore because the world did not end. Still, Bono manages to muster enough moxy to mess around with the camera at the end, as if to say: “I’m still a regular guy, weirded out by fame, even though I’m at a level of fame where if they had an election to be President of the World, I’d probably win the living crap out of that weird election.”
U2 don’t waste any time getting weird again, though. This time, they kept their favourite parts of cyberpunk The Village People, but also their favourite parts of being Canadian, which if you think about it, is exactly what the future is going to be like. And by that I mean, the CBC producing South American game shows.
Why does Bono say “All of this can be yours, Batman”? What does that mean? Is that some weird inside joke he has with Brian Eno? Obviously, Brian Eno spends all of his time watching U2 videos on YouTube- think of a more Brian Eno thing to be doing at this point besides something incomprehensibly sexless with David Byrne. See? All you can think of is things Brian Eno did 30 years ago. He’s produced a James album since then.
And here’s U2 today: exactly where we picked up with them in 1995. Bono, in front of a huge video screen, singing the worst song you’ve ever heard, and for reasons only Brian Eno knows, Bono’s doing the crane from The Karate Kid.
Unless Bono is Robin Williams at this point, in which case it all makes some sense. At least, the self-parodying line “I’ve got a submarine/You’ve got some gasoline/But I don’t wanna talk about wars between nations” makes some sense. Also, are the verses what Bono thinks rap music sounds like? Well, Bono already thought of that joke.
Horrible. And that wasn’t even during U2’s “We’re A Canadian Band” phase. The hanging out with Wyclef phase was especially excruciating. Check out this deepest pit of hell- specifically, the way Bono manages to ruin wearing hats AND sitting down:
What happened to U2? Here’s the thing: normal people, possibly the normalest people, think they’re all-timers, textbook hall-of-famers- and they have gotten as close to Micheal Jackson-weird as you can go before exotic animals and children get involved. Even the Rolling Stones haven’t gotten that weird, and the Stones are the stick we measure “too much famous for too long” by. I toyed with the idea that it was because people believed in U2, but Springsteen blows that theory to smithereens. Which leaves only one possible explanation, which should be a call-to-arms going forward: BLAME BRIAN ENO.