U2101 – Stateless

Bono is a fan of space travel. He made no secret of that fact during the 360 Tour, even singing “space travel turns me on,” and featuring countless visits via satellite with those amazing men and women who were serving aboard the International Space Station. That I can think of right now (and this might be totally mistaken — I’m just going off the top of my head here) U2 has written and performed exactly one song about space travel; and that song is the focus of this week’s U2101 article – the gorgeous “Stateless,” from 2000’s soundtrack to Bono’s Million Dollar Hotel movie.

Along with “Ground Beneath Her Feet,” this song showcased what U2 had been up to since the end of the Pop*Mart Tour in 1998, and so it represented a sort of preview of the “new” U2 — the type of music the band hoped to be making in the new millennium. As a pop song, it serves as an adequate foretaste of what was to come with that same year’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, but beyond simply being conscribed to the genre of pop, “Stateless” is a strange and wonderful piece of work. The song is ethereal and heavenly and easily conjures up the feeling of weightlessness with which the lyrics are so concerned. I have read in the past that Bono often doesn’t complete his lyrics until he has a good idea of what the musical identity of the song is going to be, so as to retain the emotional integrity of the piece of music. I can totally hear that idea at work in “Stateless.” It’s easy to imagine Bono hearing the backing track to “Stateless” and being put in a state of mind that was dreamy, floaty and weightless. All of those adjectives describe the music to this song, up until the very end, where Larry comes in with some heavy drums and Bono starts singing about a weight pushing down on him, asking someone (presumably his lover) to be the force that keeps him grounded in reality. I believe that we are also treated to a small bit of “Bongolese” during the coda to this song, which makes me think that these lyrics, so influenced by the music that they accompany, were performed “off-the-cuff,” and that little preparation was made before recording this vocal. That’s OK — I think that Bono is a great improviser, with a great understanding of what sounds make a song memorable. Sometimes, it is nice to be swept away on the train of thought of this great artist.

“Stateless” has never been performed live, and my first thought is that this isn’t surprising at all. As a slow-paced song that isn’t a hit for the band, I can see why they might forgo performing this song live in concert. Still, the same band performed “Your Blue Room” live in concert, and although I understand that that song qualifies a personal favorite of the band’s lead singer, if they can play that, anything else is fair game. I’d love for U2 to break out some real rarities and unexpected tracks on this upcoming tour — songs like “Stateless.” It is probably a pipe dream, but it sure would be exciting.

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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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