U2 VidWorks – Even Better Than the Real Thing, Version 1

Through writing these articles, I have come to realize something about myself: I like videos with meaning that relates to the song that the video is for. Put another way, videos that have a correlation with the lyrics from the song. To that end, I am going to make the declaration that the first video for “Even Better Than the Real Thing” is one of the smartest videos U2 has ever done, because it ties in with the lyric so well, and because it promotes the ideas behind the ZooTV Tour so brilliantly. Edge would probably not think much of my preference for videos the idea for which come from the song’s lyric, as it isn’t a very original concept, but that’s the way I feel. The really neat thing about this video is that it also captures the momentum of the music, making us feel as we think.
Kevin Godley is the man responsible for this video, and while this was his first video for U2, he would go on to direct several other promotional videos for the band. The video starts out with an ingenious graphic, a special effect where Edge’s fingers unfurl to reveal fists at the tips of his fingers, which again unfold to reveal further fists, and so on until we see the hand at the end of the fingers holding a remote control, which is wielded to change the image on the screen to footage of the band in action. The camera in this video at times circles around the band members as they perform, perfectly emulating the music as it rockets us forward. There is also some footage of a band of U2 lookalikes performing behind a window with a neon sign that reads “Zoo.” As we progress through the video, we are hit with some rapid-fire scene changes and a man’s voice asking the question, “Is it art, or is it pornography?” There are also some shots of wax figures representing several celebrities, including Prince and John Lydon, among others. All of these doppelgangers are to further the idea of the “real thing” being replaced by something that looks just as good, which serves to make the audience ask themselves whether or not the stand-ins really are “even better than the real thing.” What makes this such a great video, in my opinion, is that it works on so many levels, with so many great ideas. There’s the concept that follows the lyric of the song, dealing with all of the lookalikes, which engages the viewer’s brain, then there is the more visceral feeling of the speed of the song being captured by the creative camera work. As we watch this video, our guts and our minds are both being used, which is true of all of the best U2 songs. There was also a second video for this song and a video for one of the dance remixes, but I think that we will talk about both of them in the coming weeks. Please feel free to leave a comment below about this or any other U2 video.

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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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