By Andre Withoutalastname
A review of the Pop CD by U2 done by Focus on the Family has many flaws, and, as a U2 fan, I feel it is my duty to provide a rebuttal, and from a Christian perspective, too (seeing the original review claims to be from a Christian perspective). In the following, it will be shown that the condemnation of Pop is completely unwarranted, that the reviewer, Steven Isaac, made many misinterpretations, and that Pop is not the blasphemous CD it is made out to be.
Pop was released in 1997 and went straight to number one. Singles from the CD included Last Night On Earth, Please, and If God Will Send His Angels, and is a very good CD. It has received negative publicity by critics who believed it wasn’t very good, but even a cursory listen to it will prove that claim to be false. The review by Isaac gives Pop a bashing by painting it as an anti-Christian, blasphemous release, and finds fault all over the show. Many of his allegations are simply outrageous and to even take the review into account when considering purchasing the Pop CD would be a daft move.
“I’d like to give a message to the young people of America. That is, we shall continue to abuse our position and fuck up the mainstream.” – Bono, at the 1994 Grammy Awards
This quote opens the review, and of course that’s going to stir up dislike on the part of Christians who hold the position that swearing is wrong (even though no explicit statement on the issue can be found in the Bible). I personally applaud Bono for this statement. U2 is one of the biggest bands in the world today, and I hope they abuse their position and “fuck up the mainstream”, because mainstream music today is utter rubbish and needs a quality band like U2 to do something to it.
“With the March 4 release of Pop (which debuted as the number-1 album in the country), and the spring kick-off of the Popmart stadium tour, an evolving U2 embraces pseudo-religious decadence and postmodern decay.”
The reviewer has blatantly missed the point of virtually everything U2 is doing. U2, through their music, often criticises modern society – this can be blatantly seen in the ZooTV tour and songs such as Zooropa. To make such an outlandish claim that they are embracing pseudo-religious decadence and postmodern decay has no basis of fact at all.
“These four Irishmen, once considered by some fans to be a "Christian" band, dance to a darker score than they did during their Joshua Tree days.”
What I find highly insulting and very arrogant of the reviewer is that he dares to doubt the faith of the members of U2. It is something that too many Christians do, and no wonder people are turned off the religion – all they see is judgement being passed here, there, and everywhere! The reviewer needs to get off his high holier-than-thou horse for a second and come back to reality, because he’s painting a picture of U2 that is nothing short of wrong.
I simply cannot believe that he even dares to say U2 was dark during their Joshua Tree days. The Joshua Tree happens to include I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, which The Edge describes as “a Gospel song” (1988, on the Rattle And Hum video), and One Tree Hill, a moving tribute to a friend who was killed by a drunk driver. The only dark song on the CD is Exit, a song commonly accepted to be about a man taking religion too far, to the point of murder, and a criticism of religious extremism.
U2’s Joshua Tree days were not dark, and neither were their Pop days. Throughout the entire CD, Bono seems to be pleading for redemption, for salvation, but Isaac completely misses this. He is blind to the messages of the song and the overall message of the CD. Pop is not a dark, anti-Christian, blasphemous CD, but a wonderful work of music by a band that promotes Christian themes and ideas.
“Bono recently told Spin magazine, "I used to think that my image was something to live up to. Now I feel it's almost a duty to let people down." He succeeds.”
Firstly, Bono doesn’t let down anyone, or at least anyone who truly understood the Pop CD. Secondly, the reviewer obviously misunderstands the quote. Bono is struggling with his fame. People expect him to be something he’s not, and he did think he had to live up to it, but now he’s starting to realise that, hang on, why should he try to be someone he’s not, why should he live up to an image that isn’t who he really is? That’s what the quote is about.
“The man who once penned "Oh Lord, if I had anything at all I'd give it to You" ("Gloria"), "Open up to the lamb of God . . . He's coming back" ("Tomorrow") and passionately sang the words of Psalm 40 is now writing, "God has got His phone off the hook, babe/ would He even pick up if He could?" ("If God Will Send His Angels").”
The alarming thing is that the quote from If God Will Send His Angels has been ripped totally out of context. There are disputes over exactly what the situation being discussed in IGWSHA is – some suggestions are an abusive relationship, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and war in general – but basically the above line is talking about the fact that, to some people, it SEEMS that God has just left the problem and isn’t around any more, but then the song goes on to talk about that EVEN IF He were to send a sign, would the people actually notice, and would it make much of a difference to them anyway?
“And while contextually ambiguous, his despondent cry on "Wake Up, Dead Man" seems to be a blasphemous address to an impotent Christ.”
The last thing Wake Up Dead Man is, is a blasphemous address to an impotent Christ. Throughout the song, Bono is basically crying out for salvation, and for Jesus to return sooner rather than later. It discusses the doubts that everyone has from time to time about faith, that when one becomes a believer, he is born anew (i.e. the man dead to sin wakes up and becomes alive), and acknowledges God’s authority and power in such lines as “Your Father made the world in seven” and “He’s in charge of Heaven”. Wake Up Dead Man is not a blasphemous address to an impotent Christ but a plea for salvation, for Him to return, a recognition of God’s authority, and also an understanding that there are doubts and can be confusions with faith, and these questions sometimes cannot be answered easily.
“However, Pop calls into question the lordship of Christ by demanding a sign of God's control and power--a challenge answered nearly 2,000 years ago by Jesus Himself (Matthew 12:39).”
Pop never once questions the lordship of Christ; I have no clue where Isaac even got that idea from. And there’s something wrong with asking for a sign? Pop discusses important issues in relation to faith, like doubt, struggle, and other similar issues that all people go through from time to time, but, throughout it all, there’s this recurring theme that God is in control.
“Even as the members of U2 maintain their tortured search for God, they persist in placing more and more obstacles between themselves and Truth--sex, drugs and ego among them.”
Quite frankly, it is amusing that the author even makes this statement, because there is no evidence to back it up whatsoever. It’s known that one problem Bono struggles with is being an egomaniac, but that doesn’t stop him from being a believer. The reviewer again has questioned U2’s faith, which is something that simply should not be done, and has then made baseless allegations against them. The fact that he is prepared to do this is a sign of his credibility, or lack thereof.
“Their quest has mutated into self-pity and pointless anguish, which they will preach to sold-out crowds in more than 70 cities over the next eight months.”
This is nothing short of nonsense. Self-pity and pointless anguish? Where? Isaac is simply talking rubbish here, and that’s being polite.
“Bono still professes to be a "believer," but usually amid flurries of profanity.”
Yet again, Isaac questions Bono’s faith – doing it once is bad enough, but continuing to repeat it is simply deplorable. Furthermore, on the issue of profanity, there is no Biblical statement that swearing is wrong, and I see no examples of Bono being profane in any other manner. He is a marvellous role model, and he’s made some very profound statements. If you ask me, Bono was dead right when he said “And a fucked up world it is too” (Wake Up Dead Man), and Isaac is contributing to it being that way.
“Sadly, millions of young fans see no danger in his spiritual inconsistencies.”
Bono may be deliberately contradictory over song meanings – for example, stating one meaning to a radio station in January and giving another to a newspaper in March – but he would be inconsistent or contradictory over such a serious matter as faith. He writes about struggles with it, the desire for Christ to return soon, et cetera, but never is he inconsistent. The allegation Isaac has made is completely wrong.
“Teens fascinated with the band's soul-searching should be directed to 1 Timothy 6:3-5 and Ephesians 4:10-16. Imitating U2 will only lead to confusion, temptation and compromise.”
Here is a perfect example of Christian arrogance: due to liking a certain band, someone is suddenly judged as having a problem and is pointed in the direction of Scripture. I read those particular passages, and I do not see how they are relevant to the matter at hand. Here is 1 Timothy 6:3-5 (New International Version) (Ephesians 4:10-16 is too long to reproduce here);
‘If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instructions of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.’
I do not see how this relates to the matter at hand. Is the author referring to Bono, implying that he teaches false doctrines, is conceited, has been robbed of the truth, and uses godliness as a means to financial gain, amongst other things? Well, I don’t see Bono teaching false doctrines, admittedly he has a problem with egotism, he’s quite truthful if you ask me, and he happens to be a very vocal campaigner against materialism (that’s what the ZooTV tour was all about).
Unlike the author, I encourage people to take an interest in U2. They are people with morals, who tackle important issues, and who aren’t afraid to speak out about what they believe in and to say what they think. Their songs teach many good lessons, almost all of which Isaac seems to be completely oblivious to.
Also, Isaac mentions ‘compromise’ as if it’s something bad. Well, to quote Bono during a performance of Sunday Bloody Sunday live at Slane Castle: “Compromise – it’s not a dirty word.” Of course, we should not compromise our faith or anything like that, but listening to U2 in no way compromises faith. If anything, it builds faith up due to the important lessons that can be found in their songs.
To conclude, the review of Pop by Isaac is nothing short of ludicrous and should not be taken seriously. I would expect to see it in the archives of satirical websites such as The Onion, not being published by an organisation many people take advice from. Isaac has completely missed the meaning and messages found in Pop, misinterpreted lyrics, taken passages of songs out of context, made baseless allegations against the band, and been highly disrespectful and arrogant in doubting the sincerity of the faith of the members of U2. Taking this review into consideration when contemplating the purchase of Pop would be foolhardy and silly.
By Andre Withoutalastname
This review by Focus on the Family thankfully is not nearly as bad as the review of the Pop CD, but is nonetheless extremely flawed. As a U2 fan, I feel it is my duty to offer a rebuttal to this review. The flaws of Waliszewski’s review shall be examined in this article and it will be shown that, again, FotF has released a poor musical review and that, when reading their reviews, people should be hesitant to trust their statements and recommendations.
“Chart Action: Studio album number 13 bowed at 3.”
Before the article really even begins, two basic mistakes are made. Firstly, this was U2’s tenth studio album, not thirteenth. Under A Blood Red Sky and Wide Awake In America were EPs, and Original Soundtracks 1 was not by U2 but by U2 plus Brian Eno, who were known as The Passengers (so it was technically by a different band). Maybe the reviewer knows this and was referring to Best Of 1980-1990 instead of Original Soundtracks 1, but surely not, because it was a compilation and doesn’t count. Furthermore, All That You Can’t Leave Behind (ATYCLB) did not stop at number three – it was a worldwide number one hit. One has to wonder that if the reviewer cannot get basic facts right, can he be trusted to make accurate assessments in the main body of the article?
“Drinking in a "Beautiful Day," lead singer Bono urges others to do the same”
This statement is not too tremendously terrible, but it plays down the message of Beautiful Day: Bono is singing about someone who has lost it all, or who is having many problems, but is still happy. Basically, it is portraying the message that happiness is not dependent on material things. The promotional material advertised it as a song about a man who has lost it all and couldn’t be happier, which brings to mind references to the Biblical figure Job.
“He assuages his partner’s fears, reminds her of his love and promises to stand by her through difficult times ("Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of").”
The reviewer has got the meaning of Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of (Stuck) completely wrong. It is not a love song, it is not from Bono to his wife Ali, but it is instead a song Bono wrote about the suicide of Michael Hutchence, and, upon reading the lyrics, can also be seen as a song of encouragement to someone who is depressed and/or contemplating suicide: this is just a moment and it will pass, so be strong. The fact that Waliszewski got the interpretation of Stuck so alarmingly wrong blows his credibility out the window.
“Mourning the loss of strangers to war ("They’re reading names out over the radio/All the folks the rest of us won’t get to know"), Bono wonders why sorrow and pain always seem to interrupt the Christmas ideal of "Peace on Earth."”
This interpretation also is flawed. Any U2 fan would know how passionately U2 feel about the violence in Northern Ireland, and many of their songs, such as Please and Sunday Bloody Sunday, are about this situation. Peace On Earth is also about that situation, and is specifically about the 1998 Omagh bombing, which resulted in 29 deaths and was a blow to the recent Good Friday peace accords. The lines quoted above were taken from Bono’s personal experience of listening to the radio as they read out the names of the victims, five of whom – Sean, Julia, Gareth, Ann and Breda – are mentioned later on in the song. The song discusses how Bono struggles to understand why God is allowing all this to happen, that he wants this violence to stop, and the line “Their lives are bigger than any big idea” shows just how he feels about human life – it shouldn’t be sacrificed just for some idea. However, U2’s lyrics can be interpreted in multiple ways, and I guess the reviewer’s interpretation could be a legitimate or at least semi-legitimate view.
“"Walk On" is a song of encouragement dedicated to Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi”
This is more accurate – it is a song of support to Aung San Suu Kyi, and, later on, Bono dedicated it to his recently deceased father, Bob Hewson, and used it as a celebration of his life.
“Objectionable Content: That same song [Wild Honey] also gives a nod to Darwinian evolution ("In the days when we were swinging from the trees/I was a monkey").”
This is nonsense. I simply cannot believe the author found this to be objectionable content. Firstly, belief in Darwinian evolution does not mean that someone isn’t a Christian, and to suggest it does is simply wrong, and that isn’t the only interpretation of that line: when I first heard it, I thought of childhood. It seems that the author was simply looking for something to object to, and, in his desperation, chose something utterly ridiculous.
“Summary/Advisory: Fortunately, the band doesn’t float down the dubious streams of consciousness that ran through its last disc, Pop.”
It is frustrating to see that the flawed review of Pop by Steven Isaac is given support in its findings by this article. Pop was not the objectionable CD Focus on the Family made it out to be, and this issue is discussed more in depth in my previous article.
“This project is a throwback to earlier U2.”
Finally, an accurate statement – it was widely acknowledged that ATYCLB was very much similar in some regards to earlier music that U2 had produced. It is good to know that not everything in this review is inaccurate.
“Families should be able to navigate the lone caveat and make it a welcome guest in their homes.”
This statement honestly made me laugh. This ‘lone caveat’ was refuted before and simply isn’t an issue, and, even though Waliszewski gives the CD his seal of approval, I sure hope no-one purchased ATYCLB on his recommendation alone. Again, Focus on the Family has shown that they are inept at musical reviews, often making mistaken interpretations and getting facts wrong. Their advice should be taken with a grain of salt and a more accurate review consulted. Or, to save wasting time, people should get out there, listen to a copy of the CD, and then make a decision for themselves.