U2 VidWorks – One, Version 3

When last we met, I promised to write today about Phil Joanou’s video for U2’s song “One.” You might recognize the name Phil Joanou from U2’s past, as he was the director of the film Rattle and Hum, as well as a few of the videos that came off of that album. Despite the fact that there were three different directors involved with U2’s “One” who each made their own video for the song, the waters surrounding that song are relatively clear. That is to say that people don’t seem to have difficulty with confusing the different videos. The reason for that is likely that this version surpassed all of the others pretty dramatically in both airplay and popularity. I think that there might be something to that because it is really a pretty special video.
It is also a fairly simple video. We have Bono sitting in a bar, shot in a couple of different lighting effects. We have the female model, and we have some spare shots of the band in action on stage. That’s really all there is to it. What makes this video work is the interaction between Bono and the camera. I swear the man could have been an actor because he knows instinctively how to work the camera. I’m sure that Mr. Joanou had some input here also, but, based on other videos that I have seen and the copious amount of reading that I have done on the band, I really believe that it’s mostly Bono’s natural charisma that carries the day here.
If you have read my articles in the past, you know that I often complain when a video focuses too much on Bono and not enough on the other members of the band. Well, this is another one of those videos that contains very little footage of Larry, Edge, or Adam. Despite that, it has managed to win me over through the years because it somehow serves to personalize the song to have the focus on Bono. It feels like we are listening in on a very private conversation, and having the focus of the video be on Bono and the model only serves to heighten that feeling. I still dislike videos that make it seem like U2 is Bono’s backing band, but this one works in spite of, or even because of that.
Phil Joanou’s vision for “One” was successful in getting the song in front of MTV viewers, and I believe that that went a long way toward making the song as well known as it is. For some reason that I will never understand, U2 has a dearth of hit singles in the United States, but their songs are still recognized by the casual music listener, and I think that MTV has a lot to do with that. Next week, we will finally be moving past “One,” and moving even deeper into the well of material that is Achtung Baby. If you have any thoughts on “One” or anything related, please feel free to leave them below. Thanks for reading.

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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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