In a musical world plagued with fleeting one-hit wonder pop songs and explicit rap, U2 delivers music crafted with meaning that speaks beyond the artistic realm to also influence the political and social worlds.
The famous Irish rock band U2 released “Songs of Experience” on Dec. 1. This album is a companion piece to the band’s 2014 album “Songs of Innocence”— the album many of us remember as the compulsory free gift that we still can’t delete from our iTunes. While “Songs of Innocence” follows a theme of innocent youth, “Songs of Experience” steps further into deeper emotions of living and loving in a broken world. Although passion reins through its new album, U2 falls short of living up to some of its most classic collections.
Lead singer Bono told Rolling Stone that joy is one of the hardest emotions for an artist to create. The ability to contrive this emotion through music is what separates U2 from many other artists. While the concept of joy is successfully captured in “Songs of Experience,” there is a countering sense of U2 nostalgia that hinders the album’s ability to stand on its own. In this sense, veteran albums like “The Joshua Tree,” “How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” and “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” outshine “Songs of Experience.”
U2 finished the album nearly one year prior to the recent release, but, at the time, the band felt it was out of place when Donald Trump was elected president.
“80 percent of it was started before 2016, but most of it was written in the early part of 2016, and now, as I think you’d agree, the world is a different place,” lead guitarist The Edge told Rolling Stone in January, referring to Trump.
After a year of editing and perfecting the album, U2 focused on the theme “defiant joy” to counter a world of political fear.
The first song on the album, “Love Is All We Have Left,” follows a somber, electronic tone that differs from the historic rock style of the band. Nevertheless, this tone mirrors the nostalgic feeling of the 2014 album.
“Songs of Experience” develops from a youthful feeling in the first few songs, to a sudden edgy jump at the end of “Get Out of Your Own Way” and beginning of “American Soul.” This jump is an exciting juxtaposition to the melancholic beginning.
As the songs become more upbeat and rock-focused, the lyrics get darker, talking about a fearful political climate.
The album ends just as it is begins, by connecting “Songs of Experience” and “Songs of Innocence.” The last track on the new album, “13 (There Is Light),” is a direct spin from the song, “Song For Someone” in “Songs of Innocence.” Reusing the lyrics, “There is a light you can’t always see, there is a world we can’t always be,” U2 wraps the two albums into one collection, just in time for the holidays.
After an additional year of waiting, the hype for “Songs of Experience” may have been overstated. The album is crafted in a thoughtful way, and “defiant joy” is expressed, but U2 fell short of outdoing itself. However, despite many fans who claim a slump in U2’s musical genius, the band has not yet stopped creating music that conveys its idealist opinions and challenges the human psyche.