I don’t usually write about solo tracks from members of U2 or tracks that don’t include contributions by the whole band, but this week, I couldn’t help my self. The long-awaited Bono collaboration with Swizz Beatz and Kanye West, a song titled “Skyscrapers,” finally saw the light of day when it leaked to YouTube late Friday. Way back in 2011, when this track was initially announced, I had a sneaking suspicion that it foreshadowed the next era of output by U2…in other words, I felt that U2 might release a hip-hop influenced or flavored album or series of albums. It’s clear now that I was wrong, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I love Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience and it is hard to imagine a world of 2019 in which they didn’t exist, but I also think that this particular prediction came closer than most of my guesses to coming true. Do you remember those rumors that U2 was in the studio with RedOne? I truly believe that that was going to be the hip-hop influenced record that I expected, and I would still love to hear someday what got recorded during those sessions. There are a few hip-hop albums that incorporate live band instrumentation, like releases from The Roots and some of Atmosphere’s albums, and they are almost uniformly fantastic. I would love to hear a U2 spin on modern hip-hop, although I don’t necessarily want to hear Bono or Edge rapping. A collaboration or two with Jay-Z or some Kendrick Lamar (not another spoken word thing…I want to hear Kendrick actually rapping on a U2 track) wouldn’t go far astray in my opinion.
As you read this, you’re probably thinking “that’s all well and good, but what about this new “Skyscrapers” track?” Well, I’ve gotta tell you, I think it is pretty fantastic. It is a great piece of cross-over pop/hip-hop with a superlative hook as sung by our favorite front-man. I like that this song seems to have a positive message to it. Just as important, it’s catchy as hell. After listening to the song once, I had the hook caught in my head all night. The message seems to be saying not to let anything stand in your way, go out and dream out loud and achieve those dreams no matter what might be holding you back. Of course, that fits right in with U2’s ethos. I have to admit that I feel this track a lot more than I did the “XXX” song of Kendrick Lamar’s that Bono sang on a couple of years ago. That one was not as accessible as this Swizz Beatz track, and the message of the song wasn’t something that I could get behind as much as I can “Skyscrapers.” This track is at least as good as “Stranded,” the last Swizz Beatz song that a member of U2 was involved in. Don’t take my word for it, though, visit YouTube and check out “Skyscrapers” for yourself. Be sure to leave a comment below with your thoughts on the song, and let me know what you would think about U2 experimenting further as a band with some hip-hop.