U2101 – Please

Last week, we discussed the lead off single from U2’s Pop album, so I thought that today would be the perfect opportunity to talk about another of my favorite singles from the same album, the fourth single, “Please”. Please” is that song from Pop that even the album’s detractors cite as a positive, and it isn’t hard to see why. With a passionate vocal from Bono, some evocative guitar from Edge and a drum beat that borrows, in places, from one of the biggest hits of U2’s past, “Please” might be the song on Pop that most perfectly delivers on the album’s potential, taking all the things that established U2 as a heavyweight contender in the first place to a sonically interesting location.


“Please” is a great example of U2’s ability to start with a sound that absolutely simmers with intensity and heat and build on that feeling until the song bursts open with a climax that makes the listener weak in the knees. Edge’s simple but smoldering guitar riff really brings the feeling of frustration that is expressed in the lyrics home and makes the listener feel the same sensations as the singer.


I believe that “Please” might be one of U2’s most emotionally complex songs, as there are several layers to the song’s meaning. On one level, the song seems to be an indictment against a person who believes that their position give them a place over and above that of their fellow man. It’s not clear if this position is one of political power, religious authority, or some other high station, but I believe that the song was first conceived of as being against the perpetrators of violence in Ireland. What I find most interesting, though, is the line in the chorus “Please, get up off your knees”. I interpret this line to be directed toward people who believe that God will solve all of humanity’s problems if enough people merely pray. I think that this line is instructing those people to get up off of their knees, the position of prayer, and to stand up and take an active role in helping to eliminate man’s evils. I don’t believe that Bono is saying here that prayer is a bad thing – I’m sure that he feels quite the opposite – but I think that Bono is saying “let’s not rely solely on prayers to accomplish what needs to be done”.


“Please” was first performed, like many of the songs from Pop, at the opening night of the Pop*Mart Tour, in April of 1997, in Las Vegas. “Please” then went on to appear at every show of that tour, again like several other songs from the same album. What sets “Please” apart, though, is the fact that the song appeared at 23 shows, mostly acoustic, of the Elevation Tour’s final leg, all of which came to the world after the events of September 11, 2001. “Please” was given a new lease on life after 9/11 as the perfect statement, speaking out against fanatics in a way that brought the song’s anti-terrorism origins home for fans in a whole new way.

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Ever since I realized as a kid, while poring over the liner notes of the Bob Marley - Songs of Freedom boxed set, that writing about music was a viable career choice, one of my greatest desires has been to write about U2. The band has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to contribute a little something to the fantastic online community that's been built around the band.

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