At the intersection of all the annoying things a rock star can be—messianic, pretentious, vapid, dumb, old, creatively bankrupt, grandiose, utterly bereft of self-awareness, calcified into a grotesque oily wire-rack-in-the-grocery-store knockoff of himself, part of U2, et cetera—there sits Bono in his stupid housefly glasses, playing with his dick. He is, in the words of Deadspin’s own Tim Marchman, “the worst music man of all time.” He is puke, and I want to punch him in the ear.
Here is a sentence: This past Wednesday, Bono spoke at an Amnesty International ceremony at Ellis Island, celebrating the 40th anniversary of John Lennon receiving his green card. Here is another sentence: John Lennon did not immigrate to the United States through Ellis Island, Amnesty International had nothing to do with his immigration to the United States, and Bono never knew him. Nevertheless, a tapestry was unfurled, depicting, with metaphoric incoherence, Manhattan as a Lennon-piloted yellow submarine shining its light on Liberty Island, which is not Ellis Island. Bono spoke, and claimed Lennon and the Beatles as Irishmen—because Lennon’s derelict father may or may not have been descended from the Irish, and for the more important reason that nothing in American culture is better public relations than making a too-big deal of flimsy, possibly spurious Irish heritage.
(To be honest, I don’t much care about which part of the British Isles rightly may claim John Lennon’s ancestry. He mostly was a self-promoting misogynist checkbook activist who imagined no possessions from one of the most exclusive addresses in the history of planet earth, so whichever country wants him can have him. This is beside the point, which is that Bono sucks.)
Probably this is the first time Bono has ever publicly baptized a long-dead wife-beater into postmortem Irishness at Ellis Island, but honestly I wouldn’t know, because I mostly ignore his activities in his role as The Living Incarnation Of Thirst. Mostly this is just the convenient, and conveniently ridiculous, news peg I am using as an excuse to point out that he is an annoying doofus who has been peddling emptily profoundish, nauseatingly wholesome, sexless Disney World theme music to milquetoast nice bros for longer than I have been alive, and I wish he would quit it.
There are three U2 songs. The first one is the Upworthy Anthem. It begins on some peppy mid-tempo bullshit, rendered with tremendous precision and enthusiasm, in which Bono intones at you—it’s always you, because the Adult ContemPope needs not his own benedictions, you see—in his solemn verse-voice about how you just don’t know how you’re gonna make it, you just can’t give any more, and man, I been there too, buddy, sometimes you just don’t know how you’re gonna make it, man. And then shit kicks up a notch and a chord, and oh shit, man, What Happened Next Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity, and suddenly Bono’s wailin’ at you about how but then you give it all you got, and you break through, ah, yeah, you break throuuuuuuuuugh, and the Edge is also doing the wailing with his guitar and everything is very stirring and cathartic and you’re wailin’ along in your Camry, yeah man, this guy gets it, how a man’s heart aches until he breaks throuuuuuugh. Dorks in full-body leotards dunk off trampolines to this song during timeouts of NBA games:
The second U2 song is the one where Bono busts out the incongruous and skin-crawling sex-whisper to tell you that he’s more upset about the Johnstown Flood than you are:
The third one is the one where he’s sad that he got friendzoned despite being sensitive and caring about Africa:
Repetitiveness generally isn’t all that grave a crime in pop music. For example, literally every song the Red Hot Chili Peppers have ever recorded is just Anthony Kiedis saying “Llama gamma busy hella fizzy California” over the opening credits music from The Cosby Show, and they’ve been doing it for over 30 years and nobody cares. This is because the Red Hot Chili Peppers are just some goofballs turning the crank and hoping it’ll spit out another “Under the Bridge,” and they know it as well as we do, and hey, the world is full of people turning cranks. Much of life is crank-turning. Nobody can get mad at the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It would be like getting mad at a fry cook because his quarter-pounders always taste the same.
The problem with U2—with Bono, really, I mean c’mon, who the fuck are the rest of them anyway?—is not that their shit is repetitive, but what they are repeating (neutered khaki wussbag crap designed to make you proud of yourself for being capable of feelings) and how they are repeating it (with the pomp, grandiosity, and embarrassing self-seriousness of a 14-year-old Redditor telling you he doesn’t see race, man), and to whom they are repeating it (shitdick Red Sox stans). U2 is the world’s foremost creator of Oh Man, So Deep faces—furrowed brow, closed eyes, overbite—on dudes who tuck in their T-shirts. My theory is, Bono starts with the face and works backward. Imagine how he was grooving—imagine the Oh Man, So Deep face he was working—when he wrote this heap of generic feeling-y nonsense, which has been playing on a loop in every Books-A-Million on earth for 15 straight years:
What is this song about? What specific emotion does it evoke? What life circumstance does it explore? The answer to all of these is: wet bread. The answer to every U2 question is wet bread. They are stuck in the wet-bread moment, and they can’t get out of it.
No one thing encapsulates The Bono Experience better than the fact that U2’s last album, Songs of Innocence (barf), was released in the form of malware forcibly uploaded to every goddamn iTunes account in the world. The megalomania and cluelessness and howling bottomless smarm: Here, jaded inhabitants of the post-industrial world, I, the Bono, bestow upon you the gift of free U2 music you didn’t even know you wanted. The blinkered certainty that the world wants what he wants to give it. The simultaneously earnest (Songs of Innocence) and hilariously passive-aggressive (Songs of Innocence!) defense of a Biggest Rock Band in the World title belt that nobody else even wants to take from them, that those young iTunes subscribers regard with indifference bordering on outright suspicion, that has been worthless since the moment a group of cornball Ned Flanders motherfuckers like U2 claimed it in the first place. In 35-plus years, it’s the most honest and revealing thing they’ve done, and it’s hilarious.
You know who else is an embarrassing dingus egomaniacal and stupid enough to presume messianic importance in the lives of millions of strangers? Who pops up uninvited, costumed like a revolting winged disease vector, to impose his bad takes on regular people who did not ask for them? Batman. Bono is Pop Music Batman. He even made the theme song for the worst of the Batman movies. Superman would whip the daylights out of him, too.
Photo via AP