Bono’s contrite? What for? That time he got caught up in the Paradise Papers tax-avoidance leaks? No, not that.
For fostering the impression that Africa would wither and die without help from rich white celebrities? No, not that.
For that time a U2 album was downloaded on to everyone’s phones without them asking for it. No, not that, either.
Then what? Bono is sorry about U2.
What, in general? Pretty much. In a recent podcast interview, Bono stated that he hated the band’s name, and most of their songs, and also the way his voice sounds.
Well, that all seems fairly comprehensive. It does, doesn’t it? On the podcast, he even repeated something that Robert Palmer told his bandmate Adam Clayton in the 1980s: “God, would you ever tell your singer to just take down the keys a little bit? He’d do himself a favour and he’d do us all a favour who have to listen to him.”
What has brought this apparent self-hatred on? I’m glad you asked. I have two working theories. The first is that this is part of a deliberate tonal about-face, similar to the one he performed when he introduced irony into U2’s vocabulary with Achtung Baby, as a way to distance himself from the ultra-earnest mindset of their earlier work.
So, self-deprecation is part of his new image. Maybe. You could suggest that, now U2 are less relevant than in previous years, he is adopting a James Blunt-style self-awareness to remain in the public eye.
Interesting. What’s your second theory? That he’s finally listened to a U2 album.
That’s not very nice. Perhaps there’s a third reason, actually.
What’s that? Well, on the podcast Bono suggested that embarrassment isn’t always a bad thing. He said: “I do think U2 pushes out the boat on embarrassment quite a lot and maybe that’s the place to be, as an artist – you know, right at the edge of your level of embarrassment.”
Interesting. Isn’t it? He seems to be suggesting that part of the artistic mindset involves making yourself totally vulnerable to criticism by taking giant leaps of faith wherever possible.
So, U2 wouldn’t be U2 if Bono didn’t push himself further than he was comfortable with? That’s right. If U2 had played it safe all these years, hedging their bets against the court of popular opinion, they almost certainly wouldn’t have become one of the biggest bands in history.
And they’d never have put their albums on everyone’s phone without asking. Right.
I sort of wish they’d played it safe now. Yeah, me too.
Do say: “With Or Without You.”
Don’t say: “Without you, please.”