Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own: U2's "Window In The Sky"

This video's about a year old, and has probably been written about extensively (I think Dennis had a post awhile back, if I recall correctly). But when I was doing video searches a moment ago, I suddenly thought of it, and found a copy on YouTube which manages to transcend the annoying MTVEurope banners and program announcements that occasionally run across it.

I'm not sure what it is about this video that fills me with joy. It's a nice, Beatlesesque song, particularly with that very Paul-and-Ringo rhythm section Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr. establish, and Bono's lyrics are appropriately utopic (it also has that great Revolver-style cut-off at the end). On its own, though, the song wouldn't make U2's top ten. The video, however, might be the best expression of their aesthetic I've ever seen.

The cutting is fantastic, of course (I especially like the moments with Bjork and Nat King Cole), and the attention to detail in not only the "lip-synching" but also the movements of the musicians (cutting to a wild Keith Moon when the drums kick in, finding just the right image of Elvis shaking his head or Jimi Hendrix bent into his guitar as the guitar or vocal line stretches out) really shines. Having the other musicians "sing" the song is a much cooler way to evoke U2's music as being part of a continuum than the heavy-handed, roots rock potpourri of Rattle and Hum, and I like the way they slip the U2ers into various crowd shots, suggesting that everyone's a fan.

And maybe that's it-- more than anything else, this is a song and a video about generosity. For me, what makes the intertextuality work is its breadth: not just The Clash, but also Billie Holiday; not just The White Stripes, but also Britney Spears; not just Frank Sinatra, but also Public Enemy. U2's tastes, and the community they create around them, are wide, and everyone is invited to the party. On their "Vertigo" concert DVD, there's an extraordinary moment when Bono announces to the crowd that a) it's his birthday; and b) he's not in good voice due to a head cold (which they could probably already guess from his raspy, occasionally gasping phrasing). He asks for the crowd's help, and keeps singing, and they sing with him, and the rest of the band is incredibly tight in accompaniment, as if to cover for Bono's voice. You can hear and almost see the energy from the crowd going through Bono, carrying him until he can get back in a groove. It's the most ragged U2 performance I've ever seen-- and also the best, because it seems to embody all the notions of togetherness and change and family that their music so often explores. The "love" in this song could be heard as God, or sex, or romance with a person, but I prefer to think it's a love of the music itself, and its power to transcend narrow categorizations, hipster tastes, and boundaries of space and time. U2 have often been mocked-- and sometimes rightly so-- for their earnestness, but the payoff for all that openness and emotional stage diving into their passions is a video like this one: a world crafted around the beat, harmony as knowledge, melody as bliss.


Popular Posts