Bono: ‘Music has gotten very girly…hip-hop is the only place for young male anger’
Just know that I was prepared to yell at Bono for some of the sh-t he says in his new Rolling Stone cover profile, but after reading most of it… there was a context, and that context softened his message. Bono spoke to Rolling Stone about many things – about the fear of dying, the power of love, the different kinds of love, how to write a good pop-rock hook, his Biblical inspirations and a whole lot more. You can read the full Rolling Stone interview here. What I found most interesting was how Bono sees himself – and U2 – in the changing landscape of the music industry, as a 50-something rocker in an age dominated by streaming and female pop stars. Here are some interesting passages:
[From Rolling Stone]
Where U2 fits into the streaming model: “The table has been gamed a little bit. Right now, streaming is on the ad-based model. And that is very, very young, and it’s very, very pop. It’s dominated by frequency of plays, but that is not actually a measure of the weight of an artist. When you move from an ad-based model to a subscription model, a funny thing happens. Then, the artist who will make you sign up is actually more valuable. The one you pay for. 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. It’s a teenage crush, but in a year’s time you won’t care about that. But artists that have a connection with you and your life, you pay for the subscription service.
The transition period: “This is really a transition period. It has been very unfriendly to a lot of artists. I knew Spotify would come through for people, but a lot of my friends were angry for believing me because they said, “We are just getting micropayments.” I said things were going to change once this gets to scale, and it is going to take a while. It is going to be unpleasant; not a good time to be Cole Porter right now.
How he finds new artists: “The band is always listening to music, and I have got my kids. Jordan is a music snob, an indie snob. Eve is hip-hop. Elijah is in a band, and he has got very strong feelings about music, but he doesn’t make any distinction between, let’s say, the Who and the Killers. Or, you know, Nirvana and Royal Blood. It is not generational for him. It is the sound and what he is experiencing. He believes that a rock & roll revolution is around the corner.
Whether he believes the rock revolution is coming: “I think music has gotten very girly. And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment – and that’s not good. When I was 16, I had a lot of anger in me. You need to find a place for it and for guitars, whether it is with a drum machine – I don’t care. The moment something becomes preserved, it is f–king over. You might as well put it in formaldehyde. In the end, what is rock & roll? Rage is at the heart of it. Some great rock & roll tends to have that, which is why the Who were such a great band. Or Pearl Jam. Eddie has that rage….It will return.
If you read the “music has gotten very girly” quote without context, as I did at first, you might get angry. Like, why is it a bad thing that so many women are dominating pop music these days? Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, Ariana Grande… these women are CARRYING the music industry right now. To dismiss “girly music” is to dismiss the women who are working their asses off and the predominantly female fanbases who adore them.
That being said, Bono isn’t completely wrong – music is cyclical, and at some point, rock bands and male anger channeled through rock will be back in the mainstream. What I’d like to ask Bono is… does he think that rock from enraged, angry white men is the only thing that will cycle back in? Will rock still be badass if it’s an angry young woman fronting the band?
cover courtesy of Rolling Stone, additional photo courtesy of Backgrid.