Last week the Irish band U2 did a terrible thing. They released a previously unannounced album and Apple automatically put it into everyone’s iTunes accounts–for free.
I know, right? Those jerks.
I’m mostly joking; I did find the situation creepy. Let me decide if I want your music. If I don’t, let me delete it. And at least as serious as the presumption and privacy violation, as I started listening to the new album, all I heard was over-produced, generic pop. Like most of their recent efforts, this album lacked verve and originality. The band’s fingerprints, even. After a few spins, I think I’m out.
Songs of Innocence did, however, spark an intense discussion about the group and their place in popular culture, including a fascinating New Yorker article by Joshua Rothman on “The Church of U2.” (Aside: I was discussing the piece with my friend Kimberly Truesdale, she pointed toward some pieces she’d written about the same themes a decade ago, including this one. Very smart stuff.)
In the process of reading these essays I started listening to the U2 music I actually like including their masterpiece “One.” In the chorus, the speaker sings, “We get to carry each other.” And today, the emphasis in the line sounds to me as if it’s on the word “get.” As in we have the opportunity to carry each other. The responsibility. The reward. The expectation. All of these things, good and bad at once, come from being subject to one another.
I have inconsistent work habits to put it mildly. I’ve written 7,000 words in a day, but most days I write none. I cannot defend this. It is not good process. I know it, and yet I persist in doing it. I think about my projects all the time, but they occupy my fingers less. I don’t think of it as the muse leaving the building. It’s more like a tide. At periods, it will be in and my brain is fecund. Then it rolls out and I’m like a shell baking on an arid shore.
Or like a vessel. I pour myself out, trusting that it will refill. And right now, I’m waiting.