Songs of Surrender

Songs of Surrender

“People say your songs are like your children,” Bono tells Apple Music. “Wrong: Your songs are like your parents. They tell you what to do, how to dress. But after a while, if you're successful, songs become big. They're owned by other people, not you. And with this collection, we were sort of trying to listen to them again and trying to think, well, first of all, will they hold up? Will they stand up to being broken down outside of the firepower of a rock ’n’ roll band like U2?” In their 45 years as a band, U2 has done little in the way of looking backwards. Bono’s 2022 memoir Surrender changed that—a story of his life and career told through the prism of 40 songs. Thanks to a global pandemic shelving whatever grander plans the band had, this compilation is an extrapolation of that, with 40 songs from across their vast catalog—10 selected by each band member—completely reworked, largely acoustically. “Suddenly we had the space and time to just make music without there being any kind of pressure or any expectation,” says The Edge. “This idea I'd been knocking around for a while was to try some more of our songs in a stripped-down way that we had done over the years. But also the joy of it was there was no necessity to put it out if we didn't like it.” For Bono, revisiting the past in such depth would not have been an option had the band not been doing so much work on new music; the project was as much a taking stock of where they’ve been as a map of where they can still go in their fifth decade. “Songs of Surrender is only possible because of so much amazing momentum for the future,” he says. “And to be fair, we have a drummer who is injured and can't be playing rock ’n’ roll. And so if we take this interest in acoustic music and intimacy being the new punk rock—which it is—I really believe in the force of intimacy and these earbuds and the way we listen to music now.” This intimate end result is not just a chance to revamp (or, in some cases, make corrections to) arrangements, but also to revisit lyrics that have changed meaning over time. Songs like “Out of Control” and “Stories for Boys,” loose punk rave-ups written when they were teenagers, have a different gravity here. “Bad,” from 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire, was rewritten in the first person, as Bono relates differently to the notion of being an addict than he did 40 years ago. As U2 gets set to revisit their larger-than-life Achtung Baby era during a Las Vegas residency later in 2023, Bono’s acceptance of his rock-star ego is very much intact as he weighs what Songs of Surrender means. “It’s both a vanity project,” he says, “and a grudge match.” Below, read some insight into some of the album’s reimaginings from Bono and The Edge. “Stories for Boys” Bono: “I guess it's a teenage fantasy, kind of, but it's not sketched out. And then for this collection, not only did we sketch it out, Edge sang it, and it's quite unsettled. And it has a whole other resonance.” The Edge: “We were writing it now about ourselves as we were—boys, back in 1979 when we first started that song. From the safety of this amount of distance of time and experience, you can actually look at who we were and finish out that lyric, which we could never have written at the time.” “Bad” Bono: “Some songs, I almost trembled to sing them. And making this song, which is about my friend who nearly lost his life a couple of ways—as a child in a bombing, in a terrorist bomb attack in our city, and then later to heroin. And then to ask the question, ‘Can I sing that?’ Because I must be an addict too. I'm not quite sure of what is my drug of choice, but I have things clearly I need to let go of. I rewrote it in the first person, and it was really hard and really easy to sing at the same time.” “All I Want Is You” Bono: “I reveal this trick that I did on ‘All I Want Is You’ where I was singing from the point of view of the muse: ‘So you say you want a diamond on a ring of gold.’ As you hear it as a U2 fan, you think that's Bono singing to his wife. And when you realize, no, that's his wife singing to him saying, ‘I don't need this.’ And so it was nice to be able to really declare that and to go to the text and the melody and treat it with some respect.” “If God Will Send His Angels” The Edge: “You know, the thing is, I realized that we'd not really fully underscored the melody right. We'd left it very abstract and the melody was much better than the song would suggest. So I changed the chords, changed a lot of the stuff. Same melody, same lyrics, but it's a better song now.” Bono: “Not the same lyrics.” The Edge: “Oh, that’s right. We changed the lyrics.” “City of Blinding Lights” The Edge: “What's fun is to hear things like 'City of Blinding Lights,' which sounds like a completely different song lyric to me, because Bono's interpreting it in a way that he couldn't possibly have done with the rock version. The same is true for a lot of them, where you're hearing it in a different way. And that's, I think, why [Bono] went for new lyrics in a lot of songs is because there was a kind of opportunity there, there was a platform to deliver lyrics that wasn't there before.”

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