Song of the Day #653: ‘So Cruel’ – U2

One of these days I might get around to a theme week on U2. I feel about U2 the way I feel about Bruce Springsteen… appreciative of their status as legends, and a big fan of much of their work, but not a big enough fan to number them among my favorites.

It seems to me that U2 fans (and Bruce Springsteen fans) are generally crazy about them the way I’m crazy about Elvis Costello. I find it hard to believe there are many casual Elvis Costello fans, but I’m sure they exist. And I’m living proof that casual U2 fans exist.

Now, this casual U2 fan owns at least eight of their albums, which is why I feel I could probably do them justice in a theme week one day. I’m reminded of a Nick Hornby essay about Bob Dylan in which Hornby writes that he’s not a big Dylan fan and yet owns more albums by Dylan than by any other artist.

1991’s Achtung Baby was the first U2 album since ’87’s The Joshua Tree, which remains one of my favorite albums. So my U2 fandom was at its peak by the time this album came out. And it didn’t disappoint. It was harder than Joshua, and more influenced by electronica, but contained the same kind of expansive, brainy art pop.

One song that struck me right away was ‘So Cruel,’ a bitter breakup song that’s as meticulously produced and performed as anything the band’s ever done. Over their next couple of albums, U2’s music would become a little too insular and synthetic, something they would finally remedy during their fine output in the 00’s. But I feel they got this one just right.

We crossed the line
Who pushed who over?
It doesn’t matter to you
It matters to me
We’re cut adrift
But still floating
I’m only hanging on
To watch you go down
My love

I disappeared in you
You disappeared from me
I gave you everything you ever wanted
It wasn’t what you wanted

The men who love you, you hate the most
They pass RIGHT through you like a ghost
They look for you, but your spirit is in the air
Baby, you’re nowhere

You say in love there are no rules
You’re so cruel

Desperation is a tender trap
It gets you every time
You put your lips to her lips
To stop the lie

Her skin is pale like God’s only dove
Screams like an angel for your love
Then she makes you watch her from above
And you need her like a drug

You say in love there are no rules
You’re so cruel

She wears my love like a see-through dress
Her lips say one thing
Her movements something else
Oh love, like a screaming flower
Love…dying every hour…love

You don’t know if it’s fear or desire
Danger the drug that takes you higher
Head in heaven, fingers in the mire

Her heart is racing, you can’t keep up
The night is bleeding like a cut
Between the horses of love and lust
We are trampled underfoot

Oh…love… You say in love there are no rules
You’re so cruel

To stay with you I’d be a fool
You’re so cruel

11 thoughts on “Song of the Day #653: ‘So Cruel’ – U2

  1. Amy says:

    I’ve always very much liked Bono – as a person, cool guy who does great introductions at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, that sort of thing – but have never had any use for U2’s music at all. Even now, I’m writing this without playing the song. I rarely go out of my way NOT to listen to music (especially when it’s just a push of a button away), but I find myself actively avoiding U2 songs.

    Not sure what that’s all about, but I thought it was worth sharing πŸ™‚

  2. Clay says:

    That’s a very strange confession. I wonder what’s behind such a thing. Can you not think of one U2 song you’ve liked (or even listened to)? ‘Pride,’ ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday,’ ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’?

  3. Clay says:

    Just hit me that this is the flip side of the the Counting Crows reaction of your recent houseguests…. discuss!

  4. Dana says:

    I certainly don’t actively avoid U2 in the way Amy does (I hit the button today and am listening as I write this), but I do share her lack of enthusiasm about them.

    I find Bono to be the epitome of pretension. I just find him off putting. And, yes, I know the same criticism could be applied (and is applied) to artists I like such as Costello, Sting, Joe Jackson, to name a few. Yet somehow Bono takes his brand of pretentiousness to a different level–maybe it’s the constant wearing of shades–maybe it’s his conspicuous efforts to muscle into the rock and roll hall of fame years before U2 was even eligible. Maybe it’s the anthem quality of their music…but, for whatever reason, I just don’t like them.

    And even if I were to discard everything I feel about Bono and just focus on the music–it still just doesn’t do it for me. For one, I just don’t like his voice. And I also don’t care for the style of guitar the Edge plays–that sort of constant redundant cacophony of sound that doesn’t really let the rest of the music breathe. Generally, the songs I like better from U2 are those where Edge’s guitar is far less dominant–like in “Angel of Harlem” for example.

    So, anyway, on behalf of your most loyal commentators, please don’t feel any need to act upon that U2 theme week anytime soon:)

  5. pegclifton says:

    I happen to like a lot of U2’s songs, and I’m liking this one now. It’s a sort of “sexy” sound, so I wouldn’t mind a U2 theme week at some point (sorry Dana πŸ™‚

  6. Amy says:

    Peg saying this song was “sexy” got me to push the button πŸ™‚

    Funny that my disregard for the band has no connection to his, as I like Bono very much. He doesn’t strike me as pretentious at all. I find him talented, earnest, passionate…

    okay, I’m 1:34 in (and counting), and this just doesn’t do anything for me at all. Maybe it’s Bono’s voice? It’s reminding me a bit of Rufus Wainwright at the moment; is that crazy? Obviously, he has a good voice, but it’s not the kind of voice to which I gravitate.

    I do agree with Dana that the subject matter of their music (anthems?) also turns me off to them. I prefer intimate songs about the tiny moments in people’s lives. It seems everything I’ve ever heard by them (such as the three you named above, Clay) intends to be a STATEMENT SONG. I prefer my songs in lower case….

    Not sure if that addresses the silly sentiment expressed by our house guests, but it does get to the heart of how subjective music appreciation is.

  7. Clay says:

    I don’t think U2 writes anthem songs primarily, though they’ve certainly written (and been celebrated for) their fair share.

    One thing I find interesting about U2 (and Bono) is that they write about religion and spirituality more than just about any popular act, and that can be some of the most intimate subject matter of all.

  8. Amy says:

    eh – maybe that explains it. While I don’t disagree that religion/spirituality is an intimate subject matter for a song, it’s certainly not a subject I’m particularly moved by, so maybe that’s why I don’t “get” them.

  9. Clay says:

    But I don’t think it’s the content of their songs that keeps you from listening to them, because by your own admission you don’t listen to their music.

    I’m not a big fan of spiritual songs, either, and I don’t mean to imply that U2 is a gospel band or something. Just saying that they write more than anthem songs.

    I think there’s something to your U2 aversion that we haven’t hit on yet, and I’d like to get to the bottom of it. πŸ™‚

    • Spooky says:

      You’ve both completely missed the point. U2 does intimate and innovative better than anyone, maybe except Bowie or Morrissey. Do your fucking research, guys!!

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