Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The endings of U2’s Pop: Benediction, lullaby or lament? U2conference2018

The U2 conference, exploring the work, music and influence of U2, is planned for 13-15 June 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is in partnership with the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s University, Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, and the Ulster Museum of the National Museums of Northern Ireland. Given I’ve loved the first two U2 conferences, in Raleigh and Cleveland; given that Belfast and Steve Stockman are as cool as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; given than I now have seven publications in relation to U2 (for the list see below), it made sense to ask my employer for some time in lieu and put a paper forward.

popvisionlogo The 2018 conference theme is U2: POPVision and sets out to investigate, articulate and critique the guiding visions specific to U2’s Pop era of 1997-98. The call for presentations closes 31 December, 2017. So join me.

Here’s my paper proposal:

The endings of U2’s Pop: Benediction, lullaby or lament?

Pop, the album, beckons hearers to a dance floor, all mirror ball and Miami. Popmart, the tour, offered audiences a golden arch, giant olive and the world’s largest video screen. Despite the glitzy mix of electronica and technology, Pop ends in a dark place. The profanity-laced lyrics of “Wake up Dead Man” (WUDM) evoke Divine absence in a lonely world. How does the lyrical weight of WUDM sit alongside POPVision’s ecstatic embrace of the dance floor? This paper examines Pop’s endings alongside U2’s catalogue.

First, in conversation with U2’s other studio albums. How do themes of lullaby, evoked in “MLK,” illuminate WUDM? Are there inter-album references, as occurs with “13 (There is a light)”? How might the genre of lament, referenced in “40,” help us understand WUDM?

Second, against U2’s narratives regarding other album endings. The band have cultivated a narrative that Pop was unfinished. Yet U2’s narrative regarding the ending of War reference a similar pressured deadline. What to make of these contrasts, in which the rush of War becomes an artistic triumph, yet Pop a premature travesty?

Third, U2’s choice of ending songs in live performance. WUDM was played in twenty-two of the ninety-three Popmart concerts, every time as an encore. This points toward a performative role of benediction, a final prayer invoking divine blessing. Yet midway through the Elevation Tour, WUDM shifts to be played mid-performance, between “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “One.” This suggests a different performative role, of lament rather than benediction. How might the interplay between songs as album-ending and concert-ending illuminate the endings of Pop?

I argue that for U2, endings, whether album or concert, deconstruct the dance floor glitter embedded in the now of every performance.

And in case you’re interested, here are my 7 publications in relation to U2:

“Divine Moves: Pneumatology as Passionate Participation in U2’s “Mysterious Ways”” U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher (Bloomsbury Studies in Religion and Popular Music), edited by Scott Calhoun, Bloomsbury Press, (forthcoming).

“U2 Praying the Pattern of the Psalms in Paris.” Equip 30, 2017, 20-21.

“Let “us” in the sound: the transformative elements in U2′s live concert experience,” U2 Above, Across, and Beyond: Interdisciplinary Assessments (For the Record: Lexington Studies in Rock and Popular Music), edited by S Calhoun, Lexington Books, 2014, 105-121

“Public Lament,” Spiritual Complaint: The Theology and Practice of Lament, edited by MJ Bier & T Bulkeley, Pickwick Publishers, 2013, 205-227, (co-authored with E. C Boase).

“Baptist Worship and Contemporary Culture: A New Zealand Case Study,” Interfaces. Baptists and Others: International Baptist Studies (Studies in Baptist History and Thought), edited by David Bebbington and Martin Sutherland, Paternoster, 2013, 292-307.

“U2,” Don’t Stop Believin’. Don’t Stop Believin’: Pop Culture and Religion from Ben-Hur to Zombies, edited by Craig Detweiler, Robert K. Johnston and Barry Taylor, Westminster John Knox Press, 2012, 125-127.

““Bullet the Blue Sky”: the evolving live concert performances,” Exploring U2: Is This Rock ‘n’ Roll?: Essays on the Music, Work, and Influence of U2 edited by Scott Calhoun, Scarecrow Press, 2011, 84-97.

Posted by steve at 09:39 PM

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