If we wanted to hear Bono’s opinions on recent music, we would have actually listened to the forced U2 album download of 2014 (Songs of Innocence). Try as it might to play in our headphones and cars, we managed to turn it off before Bono began to wail things at us. Songs of Experience followed earlier this month and was actually about Experiencing Privilege—it also helped ensure a chart-topping U2 album for every decade since the ‘80s. Bono shared another one of his experienced opinions in an interview (or “intimate dialogue about rock & roll, social justice, faith and the purpose of art”) with Jann S. Wenner of Rolling Stone.
This is the one where Bono said, among other things, that music has “gotten very girly”:
I think music has gotten very girly. And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment—and that’s not good. When I was 16, I had a lot of anger in me. You need to find a place for it and for guitars, whether it is with a drum machine—I don’t care. The moment something becomes preserved, it is fucking over. You might as well put it in formaldehyde. In the end, what is rock & roll? Rage is at the heart of it. Some great rock & roll tends to have that, which is why the Who were such a great band. Or Pearl Jam. Eddie has that rage.
This was in response to a question about whether Bono believes there will be a “rock n’ roll revolution”—he must have missed it. Or perhaps he fears there will be no outlet for white male anger if women or POC are making music.
Earlier on, Bono cited streaming as a reason for music’s feminized demise. “Right now, streaming is on the ad-based model,” he said. “And that is very, very young, and it’s very, very pop. It’s dominated by frequency of plays, but that is not actually a measure of the weight of an artist … If you are a teenager and you are listening to whatever the pop act is, you’re probably listening to them 100 times a day. It’s a teenage crush, but in a year’s time you won’t care about that.”
Perhaps, in his attempt to bring rage to the forefront, he’d forgotten about the aforementioned forced U2 download of 2014, or the fact that ultimately, he doesn’t get to decide who listens to what. “We’re back to the ‘50s now, where the focus is on songs rather than albums,” Bono said. “U2 make albums, so how do we survive? By making the songs better.”
Bono’s definition of “better,” it appears, may or may not include appropriating international crises. In response to a question about the song “Summer of Love,” which contains no direct references to the Syrian Refugee Crisis, Bono says “the twist is the west coast of Syria. And not the west coast of Ireland or California, as a lot of people have reviewed it as.”
Here are some responses to Bono’s comments from the Twitter community, plus a U2 performance from the Paste Cloud circa 1986, a time when rock was far more masculine.