Ridiculed by John Cooper Clarke through verse. Dissed by Henry Rollins in a spoken word engagement, in Ireland of all places. The butt of the joke of South Park‘s and Robin Williams’ comedy routines. How did Bono, the incredibly famous singer of U2, one of alternative rock’s most successful bands, become such an object of ridicule.
Today we look at the prime reasons, we think, Bono (real name Paul David Hewson) has become anathematized by many of rock’s listeners.
Perceived as pompous
You don’t sell millions of records without acquiring some enemies along the way. With U2 having sold in the region of 170 million albums, it’s easy to assume that some casual listeners may be rubbed the wrong way by the band from Ireland.
It is odd though how a group that built its reputation on creating an innovative post-punk sound and infusing it with socially relevant lyrical topics, would come to be so fiercely disliked by some. And when we say some we mean many. And, when we say disliked, we mean hated.
The reason most often given for this hatred is the bombastic presence of their lead singer Bono. He’s loud, he’s brash and he want to save the world. It may have all started during the 1980s with U2 performing at the Live Aid concert. While the group endeared itself too many across the world, others perceived them as preachy.
With Bono’s commitment to becoming an advocate against world hunger and international debt, certainly weighty issues, some felt the singer was taking himself a little too seriously. Frequent meetings with political and industrial leaders like George W. Bush and Steve Jobs helped little in this matter.
Comparing themselves to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones
While U2 have frequently attempted to associate themselves with the punk movement of the late 1970s, many feel they may have missed some important points when scheming through the punk leaflet.
While U2’s simple three-chord, choppy guitar song of their early albums could be categorized as punk, Bono has always manifested a tendency towards emoting his lyrics. Apart from that, the band are known to boast about their songwriting prowess, even going so far as to compare themselves to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. There are some, of course, that would compare them unfavorably to Echo and the Bunnymen, not least of all Ian McCulloch.
U2’s desire to remain relevant and top of the pop charts has furthered the perception that the group may have used the punk and alternative rock movements as a platform for reaching their own commercial gain.
While Bono and U2’s other 3 members may seem obsessed with being perceived as cool, it is hard to deny their long lasting appeal, an achievement that few rock bands can boast having.
Bono’s fashion sense and business involvement
You don’t get to be one of the world’s richest musicians without nurturing a good image of yourself. While Bono has always resembled confident singers of old, a la a drunken Jim Morrison, this self-belief has only increased as years have gone on.
Bono’s sunglasses, the U2 singer’s hat and his special Machphisto wardrobe, became part of the singer’s image. It’s these images of himself that Bono takes rather seriously judging by reports. One such news item claimed that the singer once flew his hat in first class accommodation to a charity concert. Clearly a prop he could not do without.
Live costume aside, U2’s most starch critics will also point towards Bono and the Edge’s (U2 guitarist) business involvement. The two apparently own a hotel in Dublin and other businesses. While it is certainly not fair to begrudge someone making a living, others feel that Bono‘s frequent posturing into a defender of the rights of the lower class and his status as a multi-millionaire, do not exactly coincide.
To his credit, Bono’s charity work is known to have helped millions of people and help draw awareness towards serious issues that benefited from the media exposure that U2 could offer them.
The young U2 had albums like Boy and the Unforgettable Fire, and Bono was perceived as an underground rock superstar. They resembled a kind of Rage Against the Machine of their time, loudly political, yet accepted by many in the mainstream.
The soundscapes crafted on 1987’s Joshua Tree made them a worldwide success. U2 were especially embraced in America. And, they spoke of the rights of those in Africa and South America, a nice gesture.
While, unlike REM, U2 have maintained their mainstream appeal to the present day, there are many who feel that their recent albums have suffered. All that you can’t leave behind was a commercial juggernaut with Beautiful day dominating the charts. Yet Black Flag’s Henry Rollins famously described it as middle of the road crap.
Their more recent albums haven’t fared much better with some believing U2 has attempted to guess what their audience most desires and have failed to deliver it. Songs of Experience and Songs of Innocence, their most recent albums, were even part of a news scandal involving Apple, when the company decided to include the latter in all of its subscribers’ Itunes library, something the audience had not been consulted on previously.
U2 remain one of the most successful bands to have ever been associated with alternative music. Bono remains a world renowned figure and someone who, indifferent of his past or future achievements, will remain fiercely disliked by a large contingent of rock fans and passionately loved by many others.
Eduard is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications including FootballCoin, Extra Time Talk, Fanatik, Sportskeeda, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc.
He runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com
Eduard is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.