U2 Vidworks: In God’s Country

I have mixed feelings about the video for “In God’s Country.” I’m not even sure that we should be counting it as a promotional video because it was only ever released as part of an MTV documentary titled “Outside it’s America,” which was filmed and shown in 1987. The video for “In God’s Country” is contained within the documentary as a kind of bonus for MTV viewers. There is also a video included in the same documentary for the B-side “Spanish Eyes,” which I am planning to write about next week. The biggest and most glaring problem with the video for “In God’s Country” is that Bono is the only member of U2 to appear in the video. That really irks me, to be honest. U2 is a partnership, formed between four men who each make their own unique contributions to the band’s music. It has been that way since the band formed in 1976 and will, hopefully, remain that way until there is no longer a band called U2. There seems to be a misconception that the other members of the band, Larry, Adam, and Edge, are all expendable and that the singer is the only important part of U2. If you are laboring under that delusion, let me correct it right here and now. All of U2’s music is written as a collaboration. Some of it is pretty well fleshed out by Edge and/or Bono before it is brought before the other members of the band, but there is no one member of U2 who writes all of the band’s songs. It would even be false to claim that Bono is U2’s sole lyricist. Although Bono writes the majority of the lyrics, Edge makes contributions there as well. U2 is a band, in the most collaborative, collective sense of the word. I saw someone earlier this week on a U2 Facebook group ask if “he,” meaning Bono, was still giving concerts, and it really got under my skin. I am grateful to have this opportunity to make it known that when it comes to U2, there is no “he,” there is only “they.”
Other than that irritating problem with the video, there are some lovely moments that show up during “In God’s Country.” One shot in particular that I really think is fantastic comes about when Bono sings the line “we’ll punch a hole right through the night.” At that moment, on the screen, we see a series of spotlights shooting up through the night sky, doing exactly what the lyric describes. There are also some nice shots of the early days of America, of people working hard to fulfill the American dream. In some ways, this could be considered a precursor to “The Hands That Built America,” because much of the footage shown here is of people doing just that–building the United States.
This video was directed by Barry Devlin, who is also responsible for the video of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Because I like that other, earlier, video so much, I am willing to give Devlin a bit of the benefit of the doubt here. I don’t like that this video focuses solely on the singer, but other than that misstep, this video is neither wonderful nor terrible.

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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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