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What your favorite U2 song says about you February 25, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Music.

I thought I was just entering a contest. I enter contests all the time, and I sometimes even win. This was an entry to fly to NY next week to see U2 perform on Letterman. Cool prize, I thought, as I hit the website to enter.

Then the entry form gave me pause. In the spirit of Letterman’s Top Ten lists, the form asked for my Top Ten U2 songs. Now, I knew the list was essentially meaningless since it did not affect my chances of winning, and might not even be looked at by anyone ever. Why, then, did I spend the next several minutes agonizing over my list? Because lists are the windows to the soul, that’s why!

If you’re not a U2 fan, you may stop reading now. If you are, perhaps you’ll share some of my consternation. The spaces on the entry form started with #1, presumably my favorite U2 song of all. Of course, this response basically defines me as a person, so I take it very seriously. I see a few different categories of people, based on their response to just this first blank:

The “Vertigo” person. Casual fan, knows the song from the iPod commercial, probably rather young. Would enjoy the trip to NYC more than the U2 performance. Might even skip out on Letterman to do more shopping or sightseeing.

The “With or Without You” person. Thinks, rightly, that Joshua Tree was one of the greatest albums ever. Maybe even saw a concert on that tour. A rather spiritual person who can’t let go of 80’s music, and let’s face it, who can’t? Thought, at some point, that U2 was the greatest band ever. Maybe still thinks that. This person is freaking out about how old he’s getting.

The “Sunday Bloody Sunday” person. Thinks “new” U2 is lame compared to “old” U2. Denies that Zooropa even exists. Listens to lots of classic rock on the radio. Also likes Rush, and Pink Floyd, and The Who.  Once owned a guitar, but might not have ever learned to play it.

The “One” person. Idealist. Activist. Admires Bono’s efforts at poverty relief and social justice. Democrat, or possibly Canadian. Thought the exuberant Mary J. Blige cover of this song was stellar. Likes coffee.

The “Numb” person. Thinks everyone else is a poseur and wants to use this selection to show that he is fully aware of the more obscure songs in a band’s repertoire. Knows the exact date when each of his favorite bands became a sell-out. Owns a bootleg of the Passengers fake movie soundtrack and thinks it’s better than any U2 studio album.

The “Get On Your Boots” person. Knows what’s current. Will buy the new album as soon as it’s released, and might have even pre-ordered it, but will then only listen to it for a couple of weeks before moving on to the next big thing. Has read about the connection of Eno, Lanois, and Lillywhite to the new album, but couldn’t tell you who Eno, Lanois, or Lillywhite are.

The “40” person. A U2 connoisseur. Remembers, vividly, walking out of an arena singing “How long, to sing this song?” with thousands of others in a surreal moment of harmonic convergence. Likes new U2 as much as old U2, and owns every album, except for maybe Pop. Has a copy of the video for New Year’s Day on VHS. Knows why the song is called “40”.


At least, that’s what I was thinking as I settled on the last choice, “40”, as my #1 U2 song. I know I’ve just described myself as pretty much awesome, but that’s what I want that choice to say about me. Now pity me as you realize I had NINE other selections to make! I picked a few of the above, added “Bad”, “Beautiful Day”, and even “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”, which takes forever to type. Now I’m hoping the contest organizers actually look at everyone’s entry, and choose based on awesomeness. I’d win for sure.




1. Steve Sloan - February 26, 2009

Enjoyed your thoughts today Mark. “Bad” is my personal favorite.

“We’re an Irish band from Dublin city Ireland. Like all cities it has its good and it has its bad. This is a song called Bad.”

I think I would fall somwhere between “40” and “With or Without You” with your categories. Despite my lukewarm response to the first single, I’m looking forward to the new album. Let me know what you think next week when it comes out.

2. markgeil - February 27, 2009

Here’s my latest struggle: the new album is streaming on U2’s myspace page. The whole album. I listened to the stream once, all the way through, and then decided not to do so again. I’m still too much of a CD guy. I can’t stand the streaming audio sound quality. I want to read the liner notes while I listen.

I thought about putting up a “Bad” person, but I still can’t figure out what that person is quite like. Ideas?

3. Dave Sloan - February 27, 2009

Ok, so I’m totally the “With or Without You” person, but my favorite song is “Where the Streets Have No Name”. What does that say about me?

4. Dave Sloan - February 27, 2009

You could make a fortune with this. You should start a website giving personality analysis via song choices. Think of the possibilities, the Beetles, Billy Joel, Boxcar Willy.

5. Scott Sloan - February 27, 2009

My favorite U2 song is “A Sort of Homecoming.” There is an ethereal quality to “The Unforgettable Fire” that speaks to me. I love the driving drums of “Homecoming” combined with the melancholy tone of the lyrics. The live version on “Wide Awake in America” is also awesome. The start is somber, the drums kick in, and, finally, the audience participation brings the song alive. Mark, I think you definitely need a “Pride” person. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on that profile.

6. Steve Geil - February 27, 2009

Where would a “New Year’s Day” person fit in on all this? Would they be grouped with a “Sunday Bloody Sunday” person who is stuck in the past (and no, Pink Floyd is not one of my favorite bands although I did go see Laser Floyd)? Or would they be associated with a “40” person who is an awesome individual (and yes, I do know why it is called “40”and I still have Live at Red Rocks on VHS)?

I agree with Scott, you need a “Pride” category.

7. Scott Sloan - February 27, 2009

As to “Bad,” that person is a tortured soul. A loner. Probably creative, emotional, and wears his heart on his sleeve. He appreciates great bands, loves iconic songs, but doesn’t necessarily go for the “deep cuts.” He is definitely a child of the 80’s and needs to be “won over” by newer U2 material.

8. markgeil - February 27, 2009

Well played, Scott. The “Pride” category is difficult. There was a time when that would be the only song a lot of people knew by U2, so it might label the shallowest of fans. Now, though, since it’s been eclipsed by Joshua Tree and so many other well-known songs, I think the person choosing that song is not so shallow. On the other hand, the bigger fan who chooses something off Unforgettable Fire does not choose Pride. (Homecoming made my list, by the way.) So, I think the person who chooses Pride connects that specific song (and others) with a particular memory. Hearing the song evokes vivid sensations: a particular scene, with a particular person. This is a nostalgic person, probably into Facebook. Also a verbal learner, who remembers things by hearing them out loud. Still a U2 fan, in a fairly casual sort of way, but he does know the song’s parenthetical title.

9. markgeil - February 27, 2009

Dave, the “With or Without You” person who prefers “Where the Streets Have No Name” is more spiritual than your average fan. He is fairly literary and therefore pays attention to song lyrics. “Streets” meshes better with his beliefs about God and Heaven than does its more popular cousin.

I had a debate with a friend once about the chorus of With or Without You. For such an overtly spiritual song, it’s tough to figure. At face value, the songwriter simply cannot live, and it doesn’t really matter if he’s with God or not. Depressing, eh? My friend rationalized the title, thinking he means that he cannot live if he’s “riding the fence”, if he’s lukewarm about God. To me, that would make the chorus, “I can’t live with AND without you”.

10. markgeil - February 27, 2009

I just noticed that all the other commenters have the last name Sloan, but only two are related. Interesting.

I wonder what having the last name Sloan says about a person.

11. markgeil - February 27, 2009

Steve G., I think the New Years Day person is a little cooler than the Sunday Bloody Sunday person. Do you make a point to play that song every January 1st?

12. Scott Sloan - February 27, 2009

I like your “Pride” assessment. I think the “Pride” person and the “One” person could easily be cousins. As to the two related Sloans, I will bow to the “tortured soul” to comment on what that says.

13. Dave Sloan - February 27, 2009

…wonder what having the last name Sloan says about a person…

It says your Father was named Sloan. That and people tend to associate you with bathrooms.

14. Jim "Sloan" Cooper - March 8, 2009

This makes me cringe. I fall into several categories, depending on the day and the mood, as I suspect do each of you. If I haven’t heard it in a long time, my favorite would be “Beautiful Day.” Often I’d choose “Bad” or “A Sort of Homecoming.” Today, I’d go with “All I Want Is You.” This thread inspired me to shuffle through my entire U2 collection today while working around the house (minus the new CD, no song on it is eligible). Their early stuff, like “Boy” gave my youthful energy a direction more toward passion that destruction. By the time of “The Unforgettable Fire” and “The Joshua Tree,” I was thinking enough to find meaning that lent depth to the energy. Now, I appreciate the occasional passionate anthem, and am moved by the brooding explorations of love and spirituality. And if stuff like “Vertigo” can lure new listeners like my daughter to tune in, I’m all for it.

15. Jim "Sloan" Cooper - March 8, 2009

This left me in a conundrum and inspired me to shuffle my entire U2 collection on the iPod today. It was a good day for such an exercise. I started listening to U2 back in the day, because they helped redirect my youthful energy from something destructive to a constructive passion. I followed that energetic passion through “Boy” and “War.” As I matured, I grew to appreciate the depth of “The Unforgettable Fire” and “The Joshua Tree.” Exploring love and spirituality with the leftover passion of my youth. As for favorite songs, it depends on teh day or the mood. If I haven’t heard it in awhile, I’d choose “Beautiful day.” Often, I’d go with “Bad” or “A Sort of Homecoming.” Today, I might choose “All I Want Is You.” But, if songs like “Vertigo” lure listeners like my daughter to tune in, I’m all for them. The thing is, as a U2 fan, you can’t be pigeon-holed as one kind or another. They have lasted this long as the most important band in the world by doing one thing.

I’d have chosen “One,” but I don’t want to be accused of being a Canadian.

16. Top 9 of 2009 « A Window in the World - January 8, 2010

[…] 7. What your favorite U2 song says about you […]

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