New U2 single Ordinary Love is more swing than swagger for the Dublin boys
22 Nov 2013
So here it is. U2’s first new offering in 4 years. It’s called Ordinary Love, written for the forthcoming Mandela biopic Long Walk To Freedom and produced by Danger Mouse.
Rumours have been circulating over the past months with speculations about a new musical direction for U2 and Bono has added to the gossip columns with expected outbursts of unfaltering determination to remain relevant and hit the zeitgeist. Talk is cheap, so what’s the verdict?
More swing than swagger
The song has an agility rarely heard from the Dublin quartet and thankfully the new single has more swing than U2’s usual swagger. Dare I even whisper that it is quite poppy. U2 must have come to the conclusion that pop is longer a dirty word. And we approve!
The song gently fades in with comfortable familiarity, evocative of previous singles such as Electrical Storm or The Hands That Built America, the anthemic theme tune for Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York blockbuster.
Their single The Sweetest Thing aside, Ordinary Love is one of the very few U2 songs that favours keyboards over guitars. But for a fleeting moment U2 guitarist The Edge, a master of understatement, steps into the foreground to let his soaring, sweeping slide guitar solo cut hauntingly through the song.
Sentences are being kicked awkwardly into the song structure
Habitually Bono-rism is at work from the get-go and words and sentences are being kicked awkwardly into the song structure. Just when you feel the whole thing is about to fall apart his band mates kick in and we’re in previously unchartered territory for U2.
Larry Mullen Jr.'s drumming is reminiscent of the band’s earliest work on their debut Boy while The Edge thumbs happily away on an echoey piano (it seems The Edge loves to put echo effects on everything). There is a certain 80’s indie-pop vibe about it, but where the indie gloom & doom brigade used to stare at concrete pavements, U2 look up to reach for the stars.
Ordinary Love is U2 licking a candy cane
Of course, The song bears many of the U2 hallmarks. It is ecstatic and bursts with positivity. Ordinary Love is U2 licking a candy cane. In classic U2 fashion there is obviously more behind the affable lyrics than meets the eye at first sight but it’s for the listener to decide whether he or she wants to dig and explore further.
Bono has come up with quite a feminine top-line melody that is so catchy it creeps into your head and you will end up hearing the melody in your head long after. You have to give it to the B-Man: Now in his 50’s and a rock loudmouth who has been in the business for over 35 years his voice is in excellent shape and he’s reaching those high notes with bravura.
It’s a melody that would suit the likes of left-field indie pop icons Marina and The Diamonds or Lana Del Rey and Chris Martin's Coldplay might as well file a lawsuit. In fact, I’d love to hear Marina Diamonds or Lana Del Rey do a cover of Ordinary Love.
A refreshing alternative
An arty lyric video by Dublin-based filmmakers Oliver Jeffers and Mac Premo accompanies the release. With its stop-motion and Instagram-style tinted footage, the video makes a refreshing alternative to the barrage of overly sexualised videos of late (Miley Cyrus, please take note). With the exception of Bono’s cheeky cameo appearance, the band doesn’t feature in the video. U2 quietly lead the way, once again.
Did I say quietly? Certainly not a verb too often associated with these gentlemen and certainly not with Bono. But with all its vigour and burst of positivity, Ordinary Love is quiet, it has a fragility about it, it’s simple, it’s humble and that’s exactly what makes it beautiful. It’s U2 not using bold strokes on canvas this time round. If this is a teaser of what is to come, I for one can’t wait to hear the new album.
Ordinary Love by U2 is released on 29 November 2013 through Interscope Records as part of Record Store Day. Check the video out below. No release date has been revealed for the album.