One of my favorite guitar parts on the new album is the recurring riff that appears in “Summer of Love.” It’s chill and beautiful and melodic and serves as a great counterpoint to Bono’s vocal on the chorus, peaking in a high note just as the singer’s voice drops. It is a deceptively sophisticated piece of song-writing in a song that seemed very simple the first time I heard it. Other than that piece of magic, which is used sparingly — mostly just in the choruses and at the very beginning and ending of the song — “Summer of Love” is built on Adam’s solid, funky bass with some slight percussion and Bono’s strong, melodic vocals. It is a song that rests mainly on the strong song-writing, as opposed to a lot of flashy instrumentals (not that U2 is ever flashy) or big solos. This song is a perfect example of Edge’s preference to let Adam lead the way, only adding touches of guitar when it serves the song, not his ego. It is one of the elements of U2’s song-writing that makes their music so unique.
Some of you may have heard that that the song was originally a OneRepublic song, but I’m not so sure about that. I know that audio and video exist of Ryan Tedder’s band performing the song, but I’ve also read interviews wherein Bono talked about the origins of the song and U2’s part in writing the song, so I personally believe that it was co-written by members of the two bands. Additionally, in one video that I found on YouTube that focuses on OneRepublic’s version of the song, their cut seemed to be much denser and less stripped down than U2’s recording. Ryan Tedder is credited as a producer on the track, so it shouldn’t come as a shocker to anyone that he had some role in the song’s genesis, but I think it is a mistake to claim that U2 stole the song or that they had no part in crafting a piece of art that is distinctly theirs with some outside influences. There’s nothing wrong with that — all artists do it. As Bono sang a while back, “every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief,” and Edge is not shy about stating that they will use any good idea that is presented to them, no matter where it comes from.
The lyrics to the song refer to the city of Aleppo, in Syria, a country that has been decimated by wars. Abu Ward was a resident of Aleppo who grew and sold flowers to bring a splash of color and beauty to that war-wracked city. Sadly, Ward was killed and his garden was closed, but his story lives on, as an example of humanity creating something worthwhile in the face of desperate circumstances. In that way, it is not dissimilar to the story behind “Miss Sarajevo,” or even to the band itself, which might be viewed as an act of defiant life springing up in the violence of the troubles in Ireland that plagued our four heroes in their youth.
“Summer of Love” has not yet been performed live, and I’m not sure that it will ever be a song that U2 play on a regular basis. it fits into that mid-tempo class of song that the band believe don’t translate live as well as some others. It seems that the middle part of Songs of Experience contains a couple of simpler songs that the band might choose to not play. Still, it might be a good piece to play in an acoustic set that I expect to appear in the middle of the shows of Experience + Innocence. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the band decides to do on the new tour — it should be interesting to see what new songs they decide to play. Besides, debating about possible setlists before the tour opens is half the fun, isn’t it? Let me know in the comments below whether you think U2 ought to play “Summer of Love” live.