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I first interviewed Bono in 2005, when we talked for 10 hours over a long weekend in Cancún, Mexico, starting an intimate dialogue about rock & roll, social justice, faith and the purpose of art.
The band's new album, Songs of Experience, topped the charts in early December, meaning U2 now have a Number One album in each decade from the Eighties on.Stepping inside the songs was more of an ordeal than I thought it would be. All that promotion takes a lot more work than I remember, but if you believe in the songs, you have to defend and present them. But if you go back to his early days, David is anointed by Samuel, the prophet Samuel, and, above all, his older brothers, a sheepherder presumably smelling of sheep shite, he is told, "Yeah, you are going to be the king of Israel." And everyone is laughing, like, "You got to be kidding – this kid? The old prophet Samuel was right." And then what happens? Indeed, King Saul comes into the cave where David is hiding to . Oh, Jesus, if I'm still your friend, what the hell, what the hell you got for me? If I can't get an answer in your eyes, I see it, the lights of home." At least in my head, the reference is to one of my favorite Dylan songs, "Señor Señor." In that song, he meets an angel and he, like, goes on this ride with him. The full name of the song is "Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)." Does that help explain? I will share this with you because it is beautiful and because it might make you smile. This is Psalm 18, and it is one of those psalms of David that has been translated into a modern idiom by this man called Eugene Peterson – great writer. God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes." Isn't that beautiful? One of the things I ask myself on this album is, "If you have one thing to say, what is it?They are very demanding in terms of their emotional – what word am I looking for . Songs of Experience just debuted at Number One on the albums chart, which means you've had a chart-topping album in every decade from the Eighties on. I mean, it's not for everybody – and it can't be for us all the time. These last two albums mix up the personal and the political so that you don't know which one you're talking to. " But only a few years later, Saul, the king, is reported as having a demon and the only thing that will quiet the demon is music. In a moment of demonic rage, Saul turns against him, tries to kill him with a spear, and he is, in fact, exiled. And in the darkness of that cave, in the silence and the fear and probably the stink, he writes the first psalm. I wish I didn't know enough about art to know that that is true. "There is a Bob Dylan reference in that song; I'll just tell you 'cause I know you love Bob. It goes: "God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. If this is all we are left with, I am content with it – love."What I wanted to do on this album is to occasionally have a dialectical conversation where younger me assails the older me."I said, "But if you are an artist, you must go there." You and I have had the conversation over the years: What can the artist do? Especially with this kind of celebrity obsession with the minutiae of peoples' lives – I have got out of that. That was the most frightening thing that could happen to me because I am in pain. She said I wouldn't notice if I had a knife sticking out of my back. " But this time last year, I felt very alone and very frightened and not able to speak and not able to even explain my fear because I was kind of . but there's a bully on the bully pulpit and silence is not an option," says the U2 frontman When you felt like you were suffocating? But, you know, people have had so much worse to deal with, so that is another reason not to talk about it. I thought it would be inconvenient 'cause I have a few albums to make and kids to see grow up and this beautiful woman and my friends and all of that. The Edge on U2's ' Songs of Experience,' Bono's ' Brush With Mortality' The guitarist explains how the political climate and a major scare in the singer's life caused the band to rethink their upcoming album Let me ask you about "Summer of Love," which is about Syria and the refugees. There is a guy working with Ryan Tedder, who wrote a beautiful little guitar part. When you move from an ad-based model to a subscription model, a funny thing happens. If you are a teenager and you are listening to whatever the pop act is, you're probably listening to them 100 times a day. I can see what you can't see, and I can see that the audience is younger." I asked him how did he know it was related to the Apple experiment. That's why U2 go after selling our wares the same way we did for our first album. How does the rest of the band feel about the new songs?What is the artist not allowed to do, and are there boundaries? I want to speak about the issue in a way that lets people fill in the blanks of what they have been through, you know? This political apocalypse was going on in Europe and in America, and it found a perfect rhyme with what was going on in my own life. You get warning signs, and then you realize that you are not a tank, as [his wife] Ali says. One of the specialists wanted to biopsy, which would have risked my vocal cords – and it turned out OK. I am looking to somebody like Paul, who was in prison and writing these love letters and thinking, "How does that happen? You demean all the people who, you know, never made it through that or couldn't get health care! And this was Edge going through his little excitement, saying, "Oh, if you want something, you just ask for it. Sample it, or replay it." It was a great freedom for him. It was like, "Let's look in places you don't normally look." And so we got this beautiful mood, and we have this beautiful melodic sort of almost ode to the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas, and then found the twist. And not the west coast of Ireland or California, as a lot of people have reviewed it as. Then, the artist who will make you sign up is actually more valuable. It's a teenage crush, but in a year's time you won't care about that. And having, I hope, the humility to accept that we need to rediscover songwriting, which is one reason Edge and I took on Turn Off the Dark, the Spider-Man musical, to get into musical theater, the Rodgers and Hammerstein aspect of songwriting – a lot of the American Songbook came from musicals. He said, "Well, because they don't know the words of ' Beautiful Day,' but they do know the words of ' Every Breaking Wave.' " And as we go ahead with this album, we are on the radio – it's amazing. How will you measure success for Songs of Experience? I know that "You're the Best Thing About Me" is going to be one of them. I would say that Edge seems like someone who wants to be in the band more than ever. I think the past two albums have reminded him that U2's strengths – above atmospherics and innovation and all that stuff that he loves – are big melodies and clear thoughts. The verse melody in "The Best Thing" was a return to form from him.