”When U2 songs are written, I don’t write them in English. I write them in what the band call ‘Bongelese’, I just sing the melodies and the words form in my mouth, later to be deciphered.”
“As he turns 50 next week Bono has much to celebrate, not least achieving world domination as the frontman of U2. But are his lyrics worthy of celebration and will they be relevant in another 50 years, asks Tony Clayton-Lea
Consumers of pop music are fussy about lyrics; the examples of good and bad are far too numerous to list (this writer’s favourite clunkers include “there were plants and birds and rocks and things” from America’s Horse With No Name, and the geographically unsound “Coast to coast, LA to Chicago” from Sade’s Smooth Operator), but you can guarantee that one person’s rounded gem of a lyric is another person’s dog-eared phrase.
For more than 30 years now, Bono’s lyrics have been on the receiving end of brickbats and bouquets; his detractors might point you to the likes of: “Some days are slippy, other days are sloppy; some days you can’t stand the sight of a puppy” (Some Days Are Better Than Others), while his fans might direct you towards this example from So Cruel:
“You don’t know if it’s fear or desire/Danger the drug that takes you higher/Head of heaven, fingers in the mire/Her heart is racing you can’t keep up/The night is bleeding like a cut/Between the horses of love and lust we are trampled underfoot.”
The Vatican, meanwhile, extols the spiritual quality of Bono’s lyrics.