I was originally going to lock it solely to those who I thought would understand, but I've now decided that's a really stupid idea. If you already think I'm a moron, this isn't going to change your opinion, and if this makes you think I'm a moron, that's just too bad, huh? So on with the story of why I'm such a fan of U2 and why I am so dedicated and devoted to them and their music.
I grew up on U2's music, or at least it was a prominent band in the music I grew up on. Other bands included Dire Straits, Queen, Crowded House, and REM, and U2 permeated my musical conscience basically from day one. For someone with my perspective, U2 is a critical element of life. There just is not life without U2. They sustain life, create life, and clearly, U2 are God. That last sentence was a joke. But in seriousness, U2 always have been a powerful force in my life, and even when they weren't my favourite band, I still acknowledged their greatness and superiority in the music industry and pretty much expected everyone else to because That's The Way Things Are. What's more, basically everyone did.
My family were certainly no exception. My uncle is a U2 fanatic of a similar calibre to me, but unlike me, he was one right from the start - he had just entered the teenage years when Boy was released. My father will buy any new album by U2. Everyone likes them. My mother to this day cannot figure out why she was not at U2's 1984 and 1989 concerts in Wellington. We are the kind of family that, when travelling and U2 comes on the radio, will turn up the volume and sing along. A new U2 album was big news, and attending a U2 concert was the holy grail long, long before I was a fanatic - indeed, even before ATYCLB was released. I still don't know how we missed Popmart Brisbane. I was only eleven, but that's the age at which I unequivocally stated "I MUST go to a U2 concert the first chance I get." It might be wise to note here that when I was eleven, Matchbox Twenty and Metallica were my two favourite bands, and yet I had no interest in seeing them live but I had to see U2 or my life just would not be complete.
The first time I really felt the power of U2's music was around 2000 or 2001. Well, that's not totally true, because I bought Best Of 1980-1990 in 1998 and I absolutely adored Pride and Bad, but they didn't affect me (then) in quite the same way as this example from a couple of years on did. My mother bought All That You Can't Leave Behind when it was released and gave it to me for Christmas (I can remember that before I got it, I'd sing along to Beautiful Day in the car and say "I so need this album! I so need this album!" or the 2000 thirteen-year-old-speak equivalent thereof), and one of my favourite tracks from the outset was Walk On. Those of you who are familiar with the song will probably agree with me that it is a beautiful, encouraging, and powerful song, and I realised that very personally for myself. I was once a very depressed individual - I don't know why, it's not as if anything was really wrong - and this song ... it did so much for me. It's one of those songs you can put on repeat and drown yourself in; I have depended on it in the past and it's never failed me. Back then was when I really started to realise there was something more to U2 than just music.
All the signs from 2000 to 2002 pointed to me becoming a U2 fanatic, though I didn't realise it at the time. When Time whacked Bono on the cover on 4 March 2002, I read and re-read the article (I still do), and when I found out that the Best Of 1990-2000 had been released, I had to have it. I heard Electrical Storm, I thought it was pretty good, and my mother was clever enough to buy the Best Of in the first week of sale so that when she gave it to me for Christmas, I also got all the awesome bonuses that came with it.
Basically, from then I was doomed, so to speak. Initially, it was just the music. I really enjoyed the music and I wanted to hear more, so I bought all the U2 I could get my hands on. Then this musical appreciation began to evolve into something so much more, something that I have never felt before. The more I listened, the more I began to realise that U2's music signified something, that it conveyed more than just sound, and that it had the power to do ... more than music's supposed to, really.
It took me a long time to realise, but U2 don't make music, at least not for me personally. They make something of a much higher level that rings with truth and reality. Furthermore, live, they just leave me speechless. I was first introduced to the live brilliance of U2 through the Under A Blood Red Sky and Rattle And Hum videos (both of which are significantly better than their CD counterparts). There were days when I would repeat Bad from RAH over and over and over again. That song got to me. It struck something deep inside of me, deeper than I realised at the time, and it was staying there for good. It resonated within my mind and spoke monumental volumes to me; it was emotion in the most real form I had ever felt and it wasn't going away. If nothing else doomed me, the RAH performance of Bad did.
I really don't know quite what happened then. It all happened in a bit of an emotional whirlwind for me. Before I knew it, this music was part of my daily existence, part of the blood flowing through my veins, and a major part of my thought. I could relate to it, and it spoke to me on just about every level. It was more than raw emotion, more than spirituality in the form it belongs in, more than music with a message ... I don't know how to put it. These four men from Dublin wouldn't have a clue of my existence, but does that really matter? One day, I am going to have to thank them for all they've done for me.
There is something about U2's music that no other band or artist could ever possibly dream of having, and I dare not speculate what that certain something is. But it resonates with the essence of life, reality, and truth. In the midst of all this trashy consumerism, and as waves of materialistic, bubblegum, sensually satisfying pop music splashes down, and with all kinds of shocking music being made in studios, there is U2, standing firm and tall. Unlike the piss-poor blandness of contemporary Christian music, U2 emit a spirituality and faith that is real and actually has the guts to acknowledge the dark and uncomfortable sides too. Gloria is balanced out by Wake Up Dead Man, Wake Up Dead Man by Beautiful Day, Beautiful Day by Exit, Exit by Rejoice, and so on.
Other bands create songs with messages, deep meanings that I feel, but with U2 ... I cannot explain what it is. Words completely fail me. They have created and caused an entire change deep down inside me that has given me a broader worldview with greater perspective, allowed me to grow in my faith and understand its realities, acknowledged the difficulties of life and provided the cure. I feel the hopelessness of Wake Up Dead Man and I can latch onto it, clinging on for dear life, and the faint glimmer of hope keeps me holding on. U2 do not make music that leaves you without hope, and they do not make music that denies reality or tries to make everything seem better than it is. Songs such as So Cruel are nothing short of agony, and the emotion can be so strong that it is torture to listen to sometimes. But while it can be agonising and depressing, it's something to hold on to, often all that's left to hold on to. And with the glimmer of hope it provides, it is healing. When there is nothing else, I know I can play Wake Up Dead Man, and sometime, maybe not soon but at least sometime, everything will be alright.
What's more, U2 make music with brains. That of course appeals to me. There's a clear reason why someone as intellectual as me would be drawn towards such a smart and clever band as U2. Their unique perspective and their willingness to stand up for what they believe in and for those without a voice (think One) combined with the politics and intellect makes them nothing short of perfect for me. I like it when my musicians actually use their brains and create songs filled with material you simply cannot ignore. Bullet The Blue Sky smacks you in the face and tells you "WAKE UP AND PAY ATTENTION!" while Sunday Bloody Sunday thumps with the marching beat of "FUCK THE REVOLUTION!" They have more than earned my respect for the way they formulate views and are then willing to put themselves on the lines for what they think is right. Their passion and determination has driven me to look into other views, to contemplate different perspectives, and given me a fervour to learn about my world, rebel against my own indifference, and fight injustice and inequality in the world. U2 gave me a passion and a reason to exist. It probably sounds stupid, but it's true. A band named after a spyplane, a band that have experimented and "continue[d] to abuse their position and fuck[ed] up the mainstream," a band that dare to use their heads have given me reason to exist and to keep walking on. I guess I always had it, but they had to tell me, their music had to take me to another place, and it made everything true.
People find their meaning in all sorts of things. There's something that drives everyone. I owe U2 an undying debt of gratitude, because they have done more for me than will ever make sense. Their music makes me feel emotions that don't have names, and like the streets, I hope they are never named. It's special and unique, it's something I need, and to say I am fanatical abount U2 is to use a term open to gross misinterpretation that does not adequately sum up what I feel towards the band or what their sheer existence has done for me.
Stifle the laughter, thank you. I know that was written really badly, but too much has been distracting me and that got written over the course of about six hours. And you know, I was meant to do a lot of assignment work today. Oh dear, too bad, what a tragic shame. Goodbye and go New Zealand!