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Old 07-02-2002, 09:54 PM   #1
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Questions about Bono's voice

Hi everyone!

There's been a lot of talking about Bono's voice around here and now, a question comes to my head. Now, I'm asking that to people who are actual singers.
I was listening to with or without you played during the Joshua tree tour and then on the Zoo tv tour. Did Bono really lost power or did he just changed volontarely his way to sing. I mean, a voice cannot change that much in 3-4 years. Did he had some kind of lessons to learn how to control it? Do you understand what I'm trying to say here? I know he has been smoking etc...but could Bono sing with or without you the way he was singing it during the joshua tree on the Zoo tv tour? Is it a personal choice or a physical reason?

Thanx for your comments!
Tony
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Old 07-02-2002, 11:42 PM   #2
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I know what you're talking about. I don't know if Bono has ever had voice lessons (personally, I doubt he has, but that's just me) but I think his voice changed during the ZooTV tour because..

1: age
2: smoking/drinking
3: singing it for so many years (I mean, come on, it's got to take it's toll on you SOMEtime.. and he was/is singing very often from 1980-present!)

I don't know if he just lost his ability to sing that way, or if it WAS a choice.. you can tell that on Popmart and Elevation that his voice wasn't nearly as strong as it used to be. On ZooTV, his voice just sounded a lot lighter, strong but not heavy like on the Joshua Tree tour, and he still sang very well. But on the other tours after ZooTV, you could tell his voice was still lighter and he was straining in many songs.

I don't know. I think it's possible he lost his ability to sing that way.
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Old 07-02-2002, 11:54 PM   #3
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During Zoo TV, I think it really was a choice to sing the way he did. If you listen to Zoo TV versions of, say, Bad, Bono's range was still very much intact for that tour. I read an article saying that U2 took time between the Rattle and Hum and Zoo years to more closely analyze and polish themselves as musicians, and I think the new, more melodic, tuneful voice of that era was a result.

Now, as for PopMart, Bono's voice was obviously very weakened. The smoking and allergy problems took their toll, and his high register was virtually gone, as evident on songs like Pride and New Year's Day, as well as that painful version of With or Without You from the Mexico City video.

Nowadays (Elevation), Bono seems to have the ability to find that higher register again, but he rarely uses it. Again I see this as a choice and not a constraint, as his performances varied night to night of the really tough songs. Bono has grown tremendously as a technical singer and can use his voice in ways he never could in the 80's, even if he lacks some of that youthful power.
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Old 07-03-2002, 12:29 AM   #4
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His voice is much more crystal clear in the JT days.

But hey, that's what smoking'll do to ya!

I can really notice it in WOWY
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Old 07-03-2002, 03:09 AM   #5
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I remember reading an interview around the early days of ATYCLB's release (or perhaps prior to) where Bono mentions a voice coach he has (or had at the time), so at some point he had some kind of coaching, probably on how to use his voice more effectively given the changes it's undergone since the 80s.
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Old 07-03-2002, 07:12 AM   #6
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He went to a voice trainer or something along that lines, I believe it was AB era and brought him the soundcheck tapes of a show, and the guy listened to them and told Bono no wonder his voice was sore/overextended: he was hitting notes that Opera singers hit once or twice in one show- except Bono was hitting them sometimes three times in one song!

I'm currently reading that Concert Documentary books and it's amazing the man hasn't completely worn out his vocal chords- every few shows his voice is raspy b/c of overextenuating it on certain nights, in order to convey his earnst or whatever.

I've a couple articles by Khoa Tran of @u2 on this, but I'll post the most recent:



March 31, 2002
The State of Bono's Vox, Revisited

A little over two years ago, I wrote a column for this website analysing the vocal
problems that Bono has had over the course of U2's career. That, of course, was
before the release of All That You Can't Leave Behind, and before the band
embarked upon the Elevation tour. With those two major events behind us, let's
take a look at how Bono's voice has held up over the past year or so.

In my previous article, I said that the band ought to start writing songs that
minimised the use of Bono's troubled upper registers. Unfortunately, this doesn't
seem to have been the case with All That You Can't Leave Behind. The album is
filled with difficult and challenging vocal lines. While he handled them fairly well
on the record, and while this does showcase Bono's dedication and determination
as a singer, I was immediately worried about how he would fare on the inevitably
extensive world tour. We are talking about U2 after all. Bono's range is more or
less that of a tenor's (though it can be argued that he's slipped down to a baritone
in the past few years), but in order to reach his higher, full-voiced notes (anything
above the G above middle C or so), he has to force it out, and this can be damaging
over time. We ought to remember that he's been doing this for well over two
decades now. Trained singers learn how to open up and sing in the more difficult
ranges without putting too much strain on their voices. The years of tobacco
smoking and Irish Ceremonial Guinness Intake probably haven't helped much
either. In a recent Hot Press interview, Bono has alluded to the damage that
smoking has done to his singing. It's also been hinted that he still hasn't been able
to completely quit smoking as of yet (it is a tough habit to kick, I understand).

Another factor to keep in mind is that the "break range," the transitional area
between full-voiced singing and falsetto, sells. Daniel Lanois has said that there's
something very special and very compelling about someone giving it his all and
singing at the top of his range. Seeing U2 live confirms this; onstage, Bono gives it
his all and holds nothing back. It must be a physically exhausting experience, not
even considering how tiring it must be mentally and emotionally.

Bono's singing on All That You Can't Leave Behind had its share of truly inspired
and great moments, but the quality of the voice tended to be somewhat erratic. We
find him singing a beautifully impassioned middle-eight vocal during "Walk On,"
but we also hear his voice crack, as he sings "...and if your glass heart should
crack..." Though wonderfully coincidental, I very much doubt it was an intended
effect. The top note in this song is an A above middle C, something I didn't think
he'd try again. Even more surprising, was that he was able to sing and hold the note
during the chorus to "New York" on one of the early pre-Elevation shows in 2000
(the band then went back to its usual routine of transposing all of their music down
by a semitone in a live setting). But even with the flaws, Bono gives a moving
performance in a way that only he could.

Another amazing song on the album with an even more painful-sounding vocal
delivery is "When I Look At The World." The Rolling Stone review of the album
talks about Bono tapping into the "silver" at the top of his range in this song. I have
no idea what the reviewer really meant, but it really is difficult to hear Bono
struggle so much on a studio take. When the song was played live (once, I think),
the band omitted the part with the highest note, the B above Middle C, in addition
to its standard practice of tuning down a semitone. For comparison's sake, B above
Middle C is that wonderful sustained note on the album version of "Pride (In the
Name of Love)." Bono has also hit the C above that in the past ("Who's Gonna
Ride Your Wild Horses" -- "...come on now love, don't you look back...").

Also of note is Bono's difficulty on this past tour with his falsetto ("New York,"
"Stuck in a Moment"). I find this interesting and rather unfortunate because Bono
has tended to, in the past, use his falsetto to make up for the shortcomings of his
regular upper vocal range.

So, with the news and rumours about U2 being "on tour forever," or at least for a
ridiculously extended period of time (thankfully, they've been proven wrong -- the
band deserves a rest!), I couldn't help but worry just a little bit. Bono, hands down,
is my favourite singer. Selfishly, perhaps, I want him to preserve his voice as much
as possible. This means not only transposing the band's music to manageable keys
for Bono, reserving his break-range for one or two "show-stoppers," but also
perhaps taking some time off for a bit of rest and relaxation. Bono, being a
seasoned vocalist, does have strong low and middle registers. Perhaps the songs on
subsequent albums would be better off written in less difficult keys for him and do a
better job of showcasing these. This is something that I really thought that the
band would have and should have done on the last album. The heavy touring
schedule has only made things worse. Listen to the opening night show in Miami
on this last tour and then contrast it with the most recent shows. Does anyone else
think rest and vocal therapy would be a good idea?

I sat down one night and tried listening to different takes of the runaway favourite
live song of many a U2 fan, "Where the Streets Have No Name." The Rattle and
Hum movie version is spectacular, but that was a particularly rough time vocally
for Bono, and in a tough geographical location for singers in general, or so I've
heard. It's hoarse in spots, but the sheer energy and power behind his voice is
undeniable. Next, have a listen to the song from the Zoo Europa show in Dublin.
While the raw power isn't as strong (he doesn't force it as much), it's still there,
and is complimented by a refined polish both in vocal quality and delivery. To this
day, that version remains my favourite. By the mid-to-late PopMart shows, that
vocal power, in my opinion, was waning to gone, and it just hasn't gotten any better
since. For a case in point that I feel requires very little or no qualification, listen to
the Zoo Dublin version (August 28, not the 27th) of "Streets" and then listen to
the Superbowl version. Keep in mind that the Zoo take was in the middle of a
lengthy tour, whereas the Superbowl performance was with plenty of time for vocal
rest. There is quite simply no comparison. Yes, a man's voice changes in eight and
a half years, but this is really quite a change, and is definitely not simply due to age
-- the Edge still sounds fine past the age of 40, and Pavoratti is still kicking well
into his 60s. Finally, while vocal performances varied greatly within tours, the
general trend has undeniably been a loss of power in Bono's upper register. To his
credit, Bono sounded much better on the more recent Grammy Awards
performance of "Walk On."

I have been accused in the past of being a Bono-basher. How one could come to
this conclusion is beyond me (well, actually, it isn't, but I do try to be nice). The
point is that I'm concerned, as a fan, that my favourite singer has had voice
problems while continuing to tour and perform material that he might be better off
not singing unaltered. What he can really do about it, I do not know. From what
I've seen and been able to understand, U2 is a band that will continue to tour and
perform for as long as it feels the need to do so. If the band does write its music to
make it easier on Bono, then the distinctive "Bono sound" will be lost. And I can't
imagine someone of Bono's stature as a singer not having sought vocal therapy by
now, so I am really at a loss as to what further can be done. Maybe that's why
they've carried on the way they have. And maybe that's why I'll have to leave the
rest up to faith...But I still think a break isn't such a bad idea...
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Old 07-03-2002, 08:10 AM   #7
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Khao and I have disagreed before (I think on the old WIRE) about Bono's voice.

I will openly admit that Khao has far more musical training than I. I will also acquiesce that Bono's range is not the same as it was years ago. However, it seems that Khao often is selective in the examples he chooses (i.e., selecting the obvious best and worst case scenarios). Also, I disagree with some of his comments about the studio versions.

Due to time constraints, I must elaborate upon this later, however, in brief, I feel that Bono's vocals over the years have been as much a choice and maturation as a singer as they have been a factor of age.
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Old 07-03-2002, 11:28 PM   #8
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I thought Bono's vocals on the Elevation tour and the album were great so I stopped worrying about his voice. Dr. Who I remember those discussions on the old Wire......he did have more belting power in the '80's but now he's a much better singer than he was then, on the whole. He's still as expressive as he ever was, with any kind of emotion, and that's the important thing to me.
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Old 07-04-2002, 10:01 AM   #9
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I really noticed it on the version of all I want is you from the omagh tribute; edge had to sing the high "yyyooooouuuuu"'s at the climax.
that's when I thought it was over; thank god I was wrong.
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Old 07-04-2002, 10:30 AM   #10
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I miss the JT/R&H vox......it was so pretty..... not that Bono can't sing now but I remember during Elevation wondering if they still could do "Bad" live.......
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Old 07-04-2002, 10:43 AM   #11
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I miss the JT/RH era Bono voice because of the intensity of it, not saying that Bono voice is bad now. It just sounded different!
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Old 07-04-2002, 10:44 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by MonaVox
I miss the JT/R&H vox......it was so pretty..... not that Bono can't sing now but I remember during Elevation wondering if they still could do "Bad" live.......
The "issue" I have with JT/R&H Bono is that he often resorted to this "opera" voice. Don't understand what I mean? Then download some versions of "One Tree Hill" from the JT/R&H years. You'll hear these operatic wails - it's almost like an opera- falsetto.

Now, could he still hit the notes? You bet. But his voice didn't seem real.

In contrast, now, Bono's voice seems pure and fresh. More importantly, he CAN hit the notes in "Bad" without resorting to a falsetto or opera voice. This is why I think he's really at a good stride now.
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Old 07-04-2002, 10:51 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by doctorwho


The "issue" I have with JT/R&H Bono is that he often resorted to this "opera" voice. Don't understand what I mean? Then download some versions of "One Tree Hill" from the JT/R&H years. You'll hear these operatic wails - it's almost like an opera- falsetto.

Now, could he still hit the notes? You bet. But his voice didn't seem real.

In contrast, now, Bono's voice seems pure and fresh. More importantly, he CAN hit the notes in "Bad" without resorting to a falsetto or opera voice. This is why I think he's really at a good stride now.
[color=royal blue]Hhhhhmmmmmmm interesting...................now I have to do a study of his vox. I'll let you know of my findings.

I just spilled a cup of water on my keyboard. Is that bad?
[/color]
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Old 07-04-2002, 12:32 PM   #14
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Gosh, I sure am glad to be reading positive things about the developments in Bono's voice....for awhile there it was all negative. Maybe that's because it wasn't in great shape during the PopMart tour. He sounded fantastic in Atlanta last year.
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Old 07-04-2002, 02:47 PM   #15
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Thanks everyone for your comments but I think we are getting off track here. I know that Bono's voice during Popmart was not at his best and I know that his voice on ATYCLB is different. What I wanted to know is if the difference is ON PURPOSE or PHYSICAL between the Lovetown tour and Zoo tv tour or even between the Rattle and Hum and Achtung baby. Listen to the last show of Lovetown and then the first show of Zoo tv. How can a voice change that much is 3 years!!!

My call is that it was a personal choice and that he found a new way to sing that he liked better. After Zoo, it's obvious that it was physical.

Tony
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Old 07-04-2002, 03:59 PM   #16
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Oh, OK.......I read somewhere where he had a terrible problem with his throat during the Lovetown tour...was that busting a blood vessel? Something like that. Does anyone else know anything about this? It's certainly not unknown for singers to get busted blood vessels in their throats. It's happened to others.
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Old 07-04-2002, 10:36 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally posted by Tony
Thanks everyone for your comments but I think we are getting off track here. I know that Bono's voice during Popmart was not at his best and I know that his voice on ATYCLB is different. What I wanted to know is if the difference is ON PURPOSE or PHYSICAL between the Lovetown tour and Zoo tv tour or even between the Rattle and Hum and Achtung baby. Listen to the last show of Lovetown and then the first show of Zoo tv. How can a voice change that much is 3 years!!!

My call is that it was a personal choice and that he found a new way to sing that he liked better. After Zoo, it's obvious that it was physical.

Tony
It was definitely a personal choice. Now, though, it's anything but. Just listen to the numerous times his voice cracks on "ATYCLB." To say that that was a matter of personal choice and maturation seems way off base. As the Elevation Tour progressed, his voice became more hoarse, more raspy, and more strained. It's going downhill, no question about it. He needs some vocal therapy.
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Old 07-04-2002, 11:29 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mulholland Drive


It was definitely a personal choice. Now, though, it's anything but. Just listen to the numerous times his voice cracks on "ATYCLB." To say that that was a matter of personal choice and maturation seems way off base. As the Elevation Tour progressed, his voice became more hoarse, more raspy, and more strained. It's going downhill, no question about it. He needs some vocal therapy.
I hear no cracking in his voice on ATYCLB. Furthermore, his vocal performance at the Grammy's proves he still has it, "no question about it." You can argue that the Super Bowl performance was raspy and I agree. But I've heard him off during the JT tour.

The fact remains - Bono is just a good singer, not a great one. If he sang like Scott Stapp, perhaps we'd never notice any changes in his vocals. But since he actually sings instead of screamings in some baritone, we notice everything.
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Old 07-04-2002, 11:39 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by doctorwho


I hear no cracking in his voice on ATYCLB. Furthermore, his vocal performance at the Grammy's proves he still has it, "no question about it." You can argue that the Super Bowl performance was raspy and I agree. But I've heard him off during the JT tour.

The fact remains - Bono is just a good singer, not a great one. If he sang like Scott Stapp, perhaps we'd never notice any changes in his vocals. But since he actually sings instead of screamings in some baritone, we notice everything.

I don't hear any cracks on ATYCLB, either. The Grammies performance was a killer. No problems there! The Super Bowl?Well, aren't some days better than others? Just the occasional off-night.
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Old 07-05-2002, 12:29 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by doctorwho


I hear no cracking in his voice on ATYCLB. Furthermore, his vocal performance at the Grammy's proves he still has it, "no question about it." You can argue that the Super Bowl performance was raspy and I agree. But I've heard him off during the JT tour.

The fact remains - Bono is just a good singer, not a great one. If he sang like Scott Stapp, perhaps we'd never notice any changes in his vocals. But since he actually sings instead of screamings in some baritone, we notice everything.
"Stuck In A Moment" - "If your way SHOULD falter"
"Elevation" - "Going down, EXCAVATION"
"Walk On" - "A place that has to be BELIEVED"
"Wild Honey" - "And if you go THERE"

I could go on and on about how many times his voice cracks on that album.
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