Music Review: No Line on the Horizon by U2 (or actually about Bono)

Bono live in 09

Well, there are many things to be said about this album, but if I don’t end up saying anything else, I will say this:

There are some great songs, some good songs, and then there’s “Get On Your Boots,” but above all else, Bono seems to have rediscovered his voice.

There’s been something missing from Bono’s vocals for quite some time.   From Boy through Rattle and Hum there was a quality that seemed to disappear in the 90s.  A certain weight, depth, or gravity, existed in his vocals prior to Achtung Baby.  I don’t know, maybe the move from “American immigrants” to “European citizens” had an effect on him.  Maybe it was all the electronics and dancefloor experimentation.  Perhaps his vocal weight became lost behind the heavy handed messages he’s been preaching (which is not to say that I am decrying his activist work or his message).

Or, perhaps this…gravitas…didn’t actually disappear, but was lost admist the characters and personas he began to adopt with Achtung Baby which added their own voice to the songs.   MacPhisto or The Fly became the vocalist, not necessarily Bono.  Perhaps the frivolity, the POP, the “poking a hole in superstardom by embracing it,” quelled the substance in Bono’s voice.

It’s sounded over the past two albums like he was seeking to reclaim his own voice, struggling against the other voices that he’s sung with over the past decade, but was at times at a loss because there was still that certain something missing.  It’s as if he has been rediscovering himself as a singer, frontman, and rockstar after posing as a rockstar and a popstar, among the many other personas he’s worn or embraced, including missionary, activist, and savior.     On All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb there were moments were he found that heaviness:  “Kite,” “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own,” “Original of the Species.”

In “Elevation” he claimed “I can’t sing, but I’ve got soul,” but there’s been a lacking in his vocals that has made that statement backwards.  It’s not that Bono can’t sing, because he can, but instead he hasn’t seemed to have the soul, which might be the perfect term for that certain something he once had, in his voice.  He’s been known to say that the “goal is soul” and with No Line on the Horizon Bono has ended his long scoring drought.

Check me out on Twitter for upcoming individual track reviews.


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