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it's a beautiful day - somewhere
one small step for u2, one giant leap for mankind
by jeff miller (@jmillerboston)
pop culture

I was happy to see U2 and their producers take home some Grammy love. I really was.

I don't care much about awards shows in general, because to me they're nothing more than an excuse to put musicians on network TV. Funny that we need an excuse, isn't it? A few nights out of the year, the American public gets to pretend that we actually care about and support the arts - all this and more in the comforting glow of our Phillips flatscreens. You gotta admit, it's getting better...

The fact that these shows are a farce, however, doesn't stop me from watching. Let's face it, whether they're rigged or not, whether they make sense or not, it's just great to turn everything into competition. Where else (besides MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch) can you see Christina Aguilera pitted against Oscar De La Frickin Hoya?

The focus here isn't the Grammys, however. (Had you fooled for a second though, didn't I?) What I really want to jaw about is the way Bono and the Boys lit the Rock Torch, ran with it, and shoved it in the face of crappy music everywhere.

During the initial bursts of publicity for All That You Can't Leave Behind, I caught a TV interview in which Bono suggested that the reason U2 finally released a new album was simply this: "We were sick of these boy bands getting all the attention."

Of course that's a calculated marketing speech, but it's one I can get behind. I got a kick out of it, but I didn't really think that U2 could take any wind out of the Cheese Pop sails. If you're talking strictly album sales (after 2000), then I guess they didn't do that much damage to the Teen Machine. They did, however, remind a LOT of people that pop music wasn't always about skintight pleather suits and lame dance moves. They hit the charts with a good song, and one with a poetic message to boot. AND they can actually play their instruments.

Now that I think about it, nothing short of a Police reunion tour and album could have topped what U2 has achieved. And in today's market, they might just be the only band that could have pulled it off.

It's ironic that I, of all people, should be so inspired by U2's second coming. Though I performed countless covers in U2's 80's heyday, I was always more of a Metal Man. It's not that I didn't love the band, it's just that according to the Metal Code of Closed Minds and Bad Hair I wasn't supposed to like them. After years of playing and watching the music industry turn into Wal-Mart, my mind has opened wide to the possibilities, and I realize that my needs have changed.

I watched The Edge playing a Gibson Explorer with fervor. I saw Bono take the stage like an actual frontman, and capture the audience like only a seasoned performer can. I saw a band. And that's the difference. They may not change the world overnight, but they went out on primetime TV and showed everyone the true power of music made from the heart, by people committed to excellence.

In short, in my opinion, they made every other act look like the calculated, lowbrow, industry puppets they are. With the exception of Elton and Eminem, whose union was creative, if not actually controversial.

I've been saying for a long time now that the forces of Rock will lead us into a new Golden Age. [Editor's note: he's even said it here.] U2's left-hook to the pop industry is a start, but we need some other crossover masters to follow through. Imagine the possibilities - a few well-timed hits by Peter Gabriel and The Police could open enough doors and minds to shove the bubblegum acts into the gutter for another twenty years.

When Metal was at its peak, these were the artists balancing the charts. At the time, I viewed it as a competition. That's what high-schoolers do. The music you love sort of defines your individuality, so you fight the good fight for your genres and your image. Now I see that it was a balancing act. To have the heavy thunder, the hairspray and the attitudes, you also had to have the introspective, the political, and the drum machines.

The point is, good music on the charts is good for all genres of entertainment. Our culture is so media-centric now that we can't afford to let the same people that sell us macaroni and cheese dictate our popular art. We need to embrace and support the artists and acts that are still doing it out of love for their craft.

If we don't, we may as well be giving away Grammys for commercial jingles.


Brown eyes, brown hair, bluejeans and a T-shirt. Digs loud guitars and good design. Easily hypnotized by green-eyed blondes, shiny leather, B-movies, and brightly packaged foods. He's got a bustle in his hedgerow - but he is NOT alarmed.

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adam kraemer
3.14.01 @ 9:55a

I was also impressed with how well Bono seemed to play the crowd. I often think of him as a serious guy talking about serious issues, but it's nice to be reminded that playing music, even for a man of his conscience, can sometimes just be fun.

jeffrey walker
3.14.01 @ 10:50a

I admire your overall hope in a "rock revolution", but I gave up sometime ago. The huge non-music forces that have bought out the art side of the music industry and turned it all into a factory of crapp are, sadly, too big to overthrow. I haven't even thought about watching a farce like the grammys in over four years. Using Nabster and its progeny, word of mouth, internet searches and small flyers stapled to telephone polls which direct you to small alleys with small venues and little known bands which, if you like them, you support them in every way you know how, can the "art" survive.

success isn't radio airplay or even grammys; it's touching people with your work, even if its only a small room of people.

jeff miller
3.14.01 @ 6:08p

I live in a major city where the whole music scene consists of small clubs, small local rags, musicians supporting musicians, and no radio support. If I don't try to remain hopeful, i will get too frustrated to participate.
In my experience, one song can make a difference. "Smells Like teen Spirit" did a lot more than make a million for Nirvana - it opened the doors for lots of great music.
Repeat after me: Rock and Roll will Never Die,Rock and Roll will Never Die,Rock and Roll will Never Die...

jack bradley
3.14.01 @ 7:24p

Rock and Roll will Never Die!

What? Too literal?

joe procopio
3.15.01 @ 1:54a

Th rock revolution will not be televised. Nor will be on the radio. Nor will it be freely "traded" on the Internet. It will, however, be one hell of a party.

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