[Ed. note: This is the 26th in a "U2 Lists" series, where @U2 staffers pick a topic and share their personal rankings on something U2-related.]
Some of you may remember that back in February, we gave our recommendations as to which U2 songs would fit well into a wedding in a list of Top 9 U2 Wedding Songs. It was right around Valentine's Day and love was in the air. Like many, we fell under the spell. C'est l'amour.
We've now hit wedding season in the Northern Hemisphere. I was a bit (OK, a lot) shocked, dismayed and angered to find that I was not on Kate and Wills' wedding invitation list, but rather than stew over that obvious oversight, I thought I'd turn some of that energy in another direction.
In addition to not inviting the proper guests to a wedding, another way to spoil the day is by choosing the wrong music. I'm not saying that any of the songs below are bad songs, as they aren't, nor am I saying that marriage is necessarily a dangerous proposition. I am saying that context means everything. When you consider the lyrics of each of these songs within the context of a wedding, the reception and the future married couple's life together, suddenly the day becomes not quite as joyful as it could have been and things seem a little more ominous. And strangely enough, as you listen to the lyrics, you hear Bono talking to you.
First off, let's be honest: the title of this song strongly suggests a shotgun wedding. I know ammunition, weapons and weddings are expensive, and that backing out of one at the last moment is not likely to make you a popular person in some social circles, but if you are feeling stuck in a moment that you want to get out of, odds are you probably should pay attention to that feeling. Wearing a bulletproof vest is not a bad idea either.
Bono says in the song, "there is nothing you can throw at me that I haven't already heard." You've had limited conversations that tend to come back to the same topics: Pick up your clothes, eat with your mouth closed, be nice to your in-laws, quit changing the channel all the time, etc. Is that what you want the next 40 years of your life to be? And when Bono says, "I was unconscious, half asleep, the water is warm till you discover how deep," do you really want to marry someone who is looking to drown you under cover of darkness? The clues are there. I suggest you run now if you have a water bed.
Again, it starts with the title. It suggests, in this context, that at least one of the people getting married is not getting their first choice. Perhaps your significant other is still pining for their first partner or has read too much into the extra fries that are offered at your favorite romantic restaurant by that one waitress. Or maybe he is still looking for his dream partner that he custom designed all those years ago, wrote down those characteristics on a piece of paper and still carries with him. You know, the partner who cooks and cleans, supports the correct football team, understands that Van Halen died when David Lee Roth left the band, and knows that the only acceptable flavor for ice cream is chocolate. Seriously, how long are you going to listen to your partner talk about Sammy Hagar with that amount of vitriol when you know the band really died the day Eddie Van Halen started playing synthesizer?
In the lyrics of this song, Bono talks about having gone through all kinds of trials and tribulations. He uses beautiful metaphors to describe what he's gone through, but we know he's really talking about Christmas dinner with your partner's family and that DIY project to replace the kitchen cupboards that the two of you nearly killed each other over. Life is not a metaphor and you know that the garage is next on the project list. Do you really want to go through that?
Having a song about another time and another place does not suggest to me that the person who selected that song is really all that keen on being here. You've always suspected that the wedding date was set on this day, the same day that the match of the century is being played, just to test the limits of your love. By choosing this song, it's clear that your partner is here against their better judgment. You can't even find your spouse to dance with him because he is constantly sneaking off to the bar to watch the match on the television there. Feel free to dance with him any time his team scores.
In the lyrics, when Bono looks away from the wall after waking up, he sees nothing there. Granted, some people look better with makeup than without, but that's rich coming from your partner who is no prize in the morning with bed head and before the morning's first coffee either. It goes on to say that in sleep, "the one" was discovered but was lost in the morning. It's hard to compete with a dream, and if your partner would rather be with their imaginary friend, so be it. Maybe his imaginary friend will also clean the cat litter.
As you enter a new life with your partner, is it appropriate that they are immediately looking for the exit? There is a saying that one should never enter a war without an exit strategy, but if that is the thought process about a marriage, then how committed can one be? Should you now be paranoid anytime you see your partner looking out a window or staring at the door? Extra locks and alarms on all the doors and windows will be expensive, but clearly it is an investment that needs to be made. Make sure you get him an iPhone so you can follow his every step.
As for the lyrics of the song, let's just say it doesn't get you in the mood to sit by the fire for a relaxing evening. Bono talks about insomnia being a good thing to drive the bad dreams away. Of course, he doesn't have to live with that person. This also suggests that a good mattress is worth almost any cost. If it will keep a marriage together, go ahead and make the investment. Wow ... this song is going to set you back financially. Maybe you should look for the exit instead.
5. "So Cruel"
You've seen your partner laugh when that supermodel fell on the runway and when someone else's makeup ran in the heat of the day, but the other shoe never fell until this song came on at the reception. Could it be that under that veneer of elegance, under that layer of goodness, there resides the heart of someone who is truly cruel? Could your partner be the type of person to short sheet the bed, shave your cat or loosen the top on the salt shaker? For your sake, and your cat's, I certainly hope not.
In the lyrics we discover that the men who love you are the ones you hate the most. Guys have a hard enough time figuring out women as it is and now you want to mess with our heads like this? That is cruel. You may not know if it's fear or desire, but I'm pretty sure your guy doesn't want to stick around to find out. Then again, at least he has fair warning with this song. It may be too late for those hearing "Happiness is a Warm Gun."
(c) @U2/Hebert, 2011.