I grew up in a musical household. My parents sang, played instruments and filled our house with songs. It was primarily Southern Gospel and eventually CCM, but as a pre-teen, my friend, Grant, ask me a question.
“You ever heard U2?”
I had, in fact, heard of the band, but didn’t know anything about them. Grant pulled out a weird sepia-toned CD and put it in. He talked while it played through the first few tracks and then he told me his favorite tune was coming up.
I couldn’t understand it. It didn’t sound like “rock music.” It didn’t sound like anything I’d heard before. My family was taking a vacation a few weeks later and I somehow convinced my mother to let me buy this secular CD.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you I listened to “Pride” (In The Name Of Love) at least ten times every day of that vacation. For the whole trip, I had a pair of cheap headphones plugged into a portable stereo on my lap, drinking this song in over and over and over.
Eventually, I listened to the rest of the album (and many U2 record after that.) They weren’t all as great as “Pride”, but in their best moments, U2 taught me some stuff about music. They became a pillar in my musical mindset.
– LISTENING PAST THE VOCALS. U2 taught me that what’s happening underneath all those lyrics can be melodic and creative and insightful, even when it’s not in the forefront.
– SIMPLICITY. As I got older, U2 baffled me. Why did these almost laughably simple parts impact me the way they did? I started to see that there’s something unpredictable and special in the simple moments.
– EMOTION. Some U2 lyrics don’t make sense. Scratch that. A lot of U2 lyrics don’t make sense. But listening to those records showed me that creating beautiful music can’t just be about “rightness.” It also has to have “realness.”