“Discotheque” is kind of a weird song in U2’s catalog. On one hand, a lot of fans have negative memories of the song as the first single from Pop, U2’s much-maligned techno-music influenced ninth album. On the other hand it was U2’s last top ten hit in the United States, so I have a feeling that many casual fans, at least in my part of the world, might remember the song pretty fondly. I know from prowling the forums that lots of younger U2 fans think that Pop is unfairly reviled and many (including Bono’s own daughter Eve) even call “Discotheque” their favorite U2 song ever. I personally feel that “Discotheque” is a great song, mixing a smart message with some fun, contemporary sounding music for a real winner of a single.
I say that “Discotheque” is smart because it calls to attention the flaws with the culture behind dance music at the same time as it embraces the same lifestyle. The song is all about looking for lasting love in the disposable, plastic modern world (and I think that this remains as true in 2016 as it was in 1997, when the song came out) where easy highs are all the rage but anything of real substance or depth is discarded and looked down upon, viewed as boring or not worth the effort that meaningful things often require. The great thing about “Discotheque” is that it brings this weighty topic to the table while couched in an attitude and music that reach out to the same people who might normally not listen to U2’s music because it is chock-full of substance and depth.
“Discotheque” also holds the distinction of being the subject of my favorite remix in U2’s entire catalog. I’m talking about the “Howie B Hairy B” remix of the song that appeared on some versions of the single in 1997. This great remix sounds almost nothing like the original but features a hypnotic dance beat and a quirky but alluring rap from Bono toward the end that calls attention to the big black hole of nothingness that is what some people end up with if they choose to only consume “bubble gum”, whether musically, politically, culturally or otherwise.
Because of the negative reaction that Pop and it’s associated tour were greeted with U2 seem to have a policy these days of pretending that the album never happened. Unfortunately, “Discotheque” has only been played live twice since 2001, and those two performances came within a week of each other in September of 2005. It is one of my deepest wishes that U2 start playing some material from Pop again, and if they did so “Discotheque” would almost certainly be on their short list of playable songs from that album. At this stage of the game, it seems unlikely that “Discotheque” will ever be played again, but there was a time that I would have said that they’d never play “Your Blue Room” at all, or that “Two Hearts Beat As One” would never grace the stage again, so I guess anything is possible.
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