Analysis: Images in U2: What You Leave Behind* - U2 Feedback

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Old 11-22-2004, 06:49 AM   #1
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Analysis: Images in U2: What You Leave Behind*

By Kimberly "hippy" Egolf

U2 has always been a band focused on the future. At the end of the 1980s, a decade that saw the public birth of the band as well as its rise to international fame, Bono declared that the band had "to go away and dream it all up again." And the band did, entering the ‘90s with a new sound and a new attitude. The rest of the decade saw U2 make incredible musical changes, easily skipping around genres and bending sounds—from the heavy guitar rock predominant on "Achtung Baby," to the more ambient sounds of "Zooropa" and "Passengers," to the processed, techno feel of "Pop."

Change is a constant for U2, the band members see possibility before them and they run toward it at full speed. They constantly pursue the latest musical sounds and have shown a remarkable eagerness to experiment with any and all music technology. But during the rush forward, inevitably, some things get left behind. The band's last two studio albums, "Pop" and "All That You Can't Leave Behind," reflected on what the band members have had to leave behind during the course of their career—a "normal" life, privacy and, sometimes, faith. These albums showed the band coming to terms with those sacrifices and whatever benefits may have resulted.

"Last Night on Earth" from "Pop" is, in my interpretation, a song bout the band itself, disguised as a woman. The song describes the no-holds-barred life of a woman eternally awake and determined to live "like it's the last night on earth." Throughout the whirlwind of the early ‘90s, which witnessed "Achtung Baby," "Zooropa" and the international ZooTV tour, the band lived a life filled with people, parties and music. The actions of the woman in "Last Night on Earth" echo this frenzied lifestyle:

She's living, living next week now
You know she's gonna pay it back somehow
She hasn't been to bed in a week
She'll be dead soon, then she'll sleep
She's living like it's the last night on earth

But the key part of the song is the chorus, repeating the phrase:

You've got to give it away

The song suggests that this frenzied life is livable as long as you give away what you have—fortune, creative energy, love, everything.

"Gone," also on "Pop," indicts the ideas of "Last Night on Earth," taking a look at the darker side of the no-holds-barred life glorified in the previous song. The life of never-ending sleeplessness is revealed to be soul denying, a "suit of lights."

You wanted to get somewhere so badly
You had to lose yourself along the way
You change your name, well that's okay, it's necessary
And what you leave behind you don't miss anyway

Those things that were willingly given away by the woman in "Last Night on Earth" are now seen as sacrifices. Even the name, a mark of one's humanity, has been given away. But the crux of it is that the singer has willingly given it all, the sacrifice is made acceptable by the singer declaring that those things left behind aren't missed anyway.

On "All That You Can't Leave Behind," the negative sacrifice of "Gone" turns into a joyful relinquishment of all those things you don't need anyway. "Walk On" celebrates this difficult, but necessary, step in life:

Love is not the easy thing
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind

In "Last Night on Earth" and "Gone" the soul was the thing that was left behind. In "Walk On," the soul is the necessary item you must pack. And with soul in your suitcase (memorably symbolized in the album's artwork) you can always "walk on," no matter what comes your way.

As fans, we can only guess what U2 will leave behind in search of new creative highs on “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,”—I'm sure that the band members will always find room for a heart in their suitcases.

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Old 12-20-2004, 01:23 PM   #2
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I enjoyed was interesting.

I've always been intrigued by the song 'Last Night on Earth'....about what exactly it is they were talking about. I like your perspective. It is a "rock and roll" song about "rock and roll"....
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