U2 Beyond Words

Formed in 1976, formed a Mount Temple Comprehensive School with limited music skills Bono, The Edge, Adam and Larry set out to change the world with their music or did they? The early references to the band pointed to their limited musical skills.

Early on the band was deeply rooted into post punk and eventually grew to include influences from many genres of pop music. Signed to Island Records they released Boy – and broke thru as an international act. Along came 1987 and the breakthrough CD “The Joshua Tree” was released and that was the same year CD’s became the must have musical media.  

U2 integrated dance, industrial, and alternative rock influences into their sound and performances, and embraced a more ironic and self-deprecating image. Similar experimentation continued for the remainder of the 1990s with mixed levels of success.

U2 regained critical and commercial favor after there 2000 record All That You Can’t Leave Behind. On it and the group’s subsequent releases, they adopted a more conventional sound while maintaining influences from their earlier musical explorations.  

Has success changed U2 or have we changed into accepting faith on our sleeves and dipping our toes into the book of faith driven by the musical tunes of U2? Often you hear references of U2’s dabble into faith, love, marriage and hope yet they never labeled a Christian band. Why is that?

What is it that makes music Christian? Does it have to be written specifically for the church, for liturgical or devotional purposes, to fall into that category? Must it refer to Scripture, quoting directly or alluding by imagery? Should its explicit purpose be to evangelize? Will it sound a certain way, stick to certain conventions, or squeeze unlikely paradigms into a Christian shape?

There certainly is “Christian music” that does a few or all of these things. Some of it is deliciously uplifting, and some of it is incomparably dreadful. But perhaps all these questions reflect the wrong approach to Christian music entirely.

Perhaps the better way is to ask the question not so much of the art as of the artist. That would make Christian music the work of Christian composers, regardless of what it sounds like and what, in each particular instance, it says. If we follow that definition, then we will find the most wildly successful creators of Christian music in the past two decades — not hymn writers, and not Amy Grant, but the four Irishmen who are collectively known as U2.

Can you name any other pop contemporary musicians that have been able to introduce so many bible references without a label the book of Psalms is weaved throughout most of U2’s work.

Bono did come out and speak about his faith in an essay “My mother was Protestant, my father Catholic; anywhere other than Ireland that would be unremarkable.” “I had a foot in both camps, so my Goliath became religion itself; I began to see religion as the perversion of faith.”

Curiously enough, the religious brutality was never enough to knock the faith out of him, and Bono’s lyrics remain unalterably Christian in their coloring, even though his religion — the practice of his faith — has since shifted to rock-n-roll.

So what if within the music comes a little faith, hope and love for your fellow man, does the world not need a little love? Share your comment and views.

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