Don't believe the hype
Critics have taken two sharply different tacks when it comes to reviewing the new U2 album, Pop. While most of the larger, mainstream publications are hailing it as an innovative breakthrough, many of the smaller, more savvy mags are decrying it as the voice of a drowning band.
Opinions among the Dallas Observer staff are also divided on this one, but, hey, even Siskel and Ebert disagree at times. So since we gave the album a positive review, it's time to let the prosecution take the stand.
To appreciate the two different perspectives, it's essential to go back to Achtung, Baby!, when U2 made the bold and undoubtedly smart move of reinventing themselves. The band's humble choirboy image had become a joke juxtaposed against their superstar status, so they decided to kiss the serpent's head and embrace everything they had previously stood against. It worked like a charm; suddenly U2 was cool again, and all they had sacrificed was the evangelical Christian seal of approval.
But the joke's over now, and watching the Edge dance to "Discotheque" just isn't funny anymore. Not to say U2 aren't talented--Bono could sing names from the phone book and make it sound good--but Pop is hardly an innovative album. It's a borrowed--if not purchased--work that owes more to producer Howie B than to the tired, worn-out and self-deprecating songs Bono and the Edge have tucked under some fancy new electronic beats.
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Though there are some passable songs on Pop such as "Playboy Mansion," nothing reaches out and grabs you like "The Fly" or "Mysterious Ways."
Of course, you don't get to be in U2's position for the amount of time they've been there without a serious dose of megalomania. This is a very image-conscious band with a nearly insatiable desire to stay on top--and if that sounds like a good description of Michael Jackson, the comparison is by no means an accident. After all, Jackson is the King of U2's new world. And for both acts, it's a kingdom on the verge of collapse.
If you feel like going to a big supermarket blow-out of a show with a great sound system and lots of pretty lights, and you're the kind of person who thinks there's nothing wrong with K-mart or Disneyland, then you'll probably have a great time. If, however, you resent being made a clown in somebody's media circus, then the Pop tour just might burst your big, pink bubble.