I have a confession to make. I really enjoy a good, catchy, uplifting pop song. Pop music doesn’t have to be disposable, although a lot of it is…artists like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift leave me cold, mainly because their music is pure cotton candy, devoid of any meaning whatsoever, but even that stuff has its place, if it has a good hook. What really gets me excited is when U2 decides to compete in the world of pop music, because that’s when we get songs like “Every Breaking Wave,” “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” and “Window in the Skies,” all of which lift my spirits and irresistibly compel me to sing along. The above mentioned songs demonstrate U2’s diversity…they can write hard-hitting rock and roll (“The Fly, “Vertigo”), experimental oddities (the whole Zooropa album), and hook-laden pop music, all without missing a beat.
“Window in the Skies” is particularly interesting because, as I understand it, the recording sessions for that song were somewhat different from how U2 usually operates. U2 was working with famed producer Rick Rubin (Run DMC, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, etc.) and Rubin expected U2 to enter the studio with complete songs, ready to record. Usually, Edge or Bono will bring an unfinished idea to the rest of the band, and the four guys will jam around that idea until a song begins to take shape. Waiting around for all four of the members of U2 to play around with an idea until it’s ready could take months (I think that’s part of why U2 albums take so long to complete), and I don’t blame Rubin for not being willing to devote that kind of time–he’s a busy guy, after all. The resulting new song (the other song that came out of those sessions was a cover), “Window in the Skies” is a little different for U2, but it still retains all of the hallmarks of their music–chiming guitars, deep, earth-shaking drums and bass, and soaring vocals. I love the lyrics to “Window in the Skies,” too. “Oh, can’t you see what love has done, what it’s doing to me?” is a question I’ve been asking for years now, since I first met my wife. Our love has had a resounding effect on me…it has allowed me to be more myself than I ever was before, and I’m more comfortable in my own skin than I ever thought possible. The concept of the song is that when things get tough, as they invariably will in any relationship, love leaves us a way back to the good stuff, via a window in the sky. It’s s beautiful, poetic thought.
Another thing that interests me about this Rick Rubin story is what didn’t get released. For example, I would sell my big toe to hear a studio version by U 2 of “Boy Falls From the Sky.” I’m sure that such a thing must exist…some day, hopefully in my lifetime, maybe it will be released. Who knows what other goodies U2 has sitting around in the studio vaults…outtakes, remixes, alternate versions…I’d better stop now before I get overly excited. The point is that “Window in the Skies” represents a break from the norm for U2, and they proved that even under conditions that are different from how they usually work, they excel.