Each week, I try to find a U2 or U2-related song to write about that goes along with the type of music that I’ve been listening to that week, even if what I’ve been listening to isn’t U2. Fortunately, my favorite band has a wonderfully diverse catalog, so no matter what I’ve been playing on my iPhone, there’s usually some connection to U2 that I can find. This week, I’ve been listening to a lot of early- to mid-nineties R&B, including several albums by Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter R. Kelly. Now, R. Kelly has recorded several popular collaborations with one rapper in particular, and it just so happens that that same rapper has also joined forces with U2. I’m talking about none other than Jay-Z, and today’s topic is a song penned by himself, Bono and Edge, titled “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)”.
“Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)” was written in 2010 as part of a campaign to procure aid for the Caribbean sovereign state of Haiti, following a devastating earthquake that left thousands dead and many more injured or homeless. The story goes that producer Swizz Beatz got the U2 duo involved in the project by texting them, and that the song was then written via telephone, with Bono coming up with the song’s hook after he began focusing on the word “stranded”. Edge and Bono then collaborated on the rest of the song, while Jay-Z likely wrote his own lyrics for the rap that he recites.
The song is relatively upbeat, especially when one considers the dire circumstances that caused it’s creation, but there is a lilting sadness in the piano and guitar combo that forms the backbone of the verses. There’s also a stirring coupling of hopefulness and melancholy in the ear-worm melody of the chorus, which is sung by Bono and Rihanna. The beat of the song is provided by a keyboard or some other electronic means, which is a switch for Bono and Edge, who are usually backed by the live partnership of Adam and Larry, but the synthetic rhythm certainly doesn’t keep the song from being extremely soulful. The highlight of the song, for me, is the middle eight, which is solely sung by Bono, and which contains the powerful lyric “The people waiting, position vacant, for hands to help, not just to pray”. This compelling lyric urges listeners to get more involved in combating the crisis.
“Stranded” (Haiti Mon Amour)” (the subtitle translates to English as “Haiti My Love”) was premiered in January of 2010 as part of the Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief telethon, and several critics reacted favorably to this performance of the song, calling it the most “newsworthy” and “high-powered” performance of the show. The live performance was then released on the Hope For Haiti Now charity album, which also contained the studio version of the song. A later remix, the Hybrid Mix, which combined elements from the live version and the original studio version, was later released on U2’s fan-club album Duals. So far, “Stranded” (Haiti Mon Amour)” has never been performed live by the whole band, and I have a feeling that the song will never have the privilege. It was intended as a one-time only deal, meant only to draw attention to the plight that Haiti was facing. Further performances would be inappropriate, unless Haiti faces another tragedy.
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