Now that a movie with 90% of its title in parenthesis has been nominated for an Academy Award, this is the perfect time to discuss that unshakable idea about U2 that seems embedded in the public consciousness: that they are the consummate example of what it means to be pretentious. Here’s why that movie and its title are a natural fit for word association with U2. First, it’s a movie that U2 really should have gotten in on; I mean come on, Birdman? The guys just need one more work (movie soundtrack, Broadway play, whatever) to complete the superhero trifecta, and this could have been their chance. Thanks for nothing, Guy Oseary.
Second, the Birdman movie title has something very notable in common with U2: its reputation of pretentiousness due to its lengthiness and aforementioned parenthesis. As I just learned today because I only see Oscar-nominated films if they star Matthew McConaughey (and this one doesn’t), the film is actually called (Birdman) The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance – which, if we’re being honest, sounds like it could be the name of a little-known B-side from the How to Dismantle sessions.
My point: Among a slew of other insults we’re all ridiculously familiar with by now, Songs of Innocence was called pretentious by several nose-in-the-air publications worldwide for U2’s enthusiastic use of parenthesis in the song titles. Critics (by “critics,” I mean those that can’t do, and you know what Bono says about those that can’t do) didn’t like that the first track wasn’t just called The Miracle, the fifth track wasn’t just called Iris and the third track wasn’t just called California. Meanwhile, I didn’t like that the third track begins as a weird experiment Bono and Edge embarked on to imitate the Beach Boys by repeatedly chanting the name of a city the Beach Boys never sang about; I’m from California, so I can say that. For those of you on the East Coast, that’s like them channeling Springsteen’s style while singing about Connecticut. Anyway, the parenthesis are supposedly another indicator that U2 is pretentious and therefore everyone should hate them, so say people who write for magazines that call Meghan Trainor a genius.
So here’s what I think: We should just own it. Bono is a pretentious do-gooder who has helped millions of poverty-stricken people worldwide, Edge is a pretentious musician who has paved the way for generations of guitarists to come, Adam is a pretentiously posh silver fox who only wears white and always looks like he’s holding a nice cup of English breakfast tea, and Larry is pretentiously…handsome and quiet? Whatever. We own it. Pretentiousness is what makes U2 better than everyone else.