U2 VidWorks – Numb

Whenever I get involved in a conversation about U2 with anyone who is of a certain age, I cam predict, almost verbatim, how the conversation is going to go. The gist is that the other person will say that they like U2’s older stuff, but that the band got too weird in the 1990s. I attribute this popular consensus to two songs: “Lemon” and “Numb.” Now, it just so happens that “Numb” is one of my favorite U2 songs. I am also a big fan of the music video for the latter of those two songs, which admittedly is a little on the strange side. The video features Edge prominently, staring into the camera as though he were watching TV. All kinds of things come along to distract him, from the attention of beautiful women to autograph seekers and so on, and they might succeed in breaking his concentration momentarily, but the idea of the video is that nothing comes between us and our television viewing. Edge represents the average man here, while all of the things that happen to him in the video represent real life, outside of the video screen, attempting to tear him away from what he is watching. This connects quite nicely with the themes of the ZooTV Tour, which was going on at the time. That tour was all about how modern life is shaped by the contents of a TV screen, and how the contents of that screen can become more important to us than what is actually going on around us. If anything, that is even more true today than it was twenty-seven years ago. Those days saw the beginning of the twenty-four-hour news cycle, and video games were becoming more and more realistic and pervasive, but since then, of course, the internet has become a common part of our lives, as have smartphones, which I find capture people’s attention in a way that even TV never did.
As I have written before, I find that I really like music videos that are about something, particularly if that meaning comes from the idea(s) which are being communicated in the song that the video is promoting. I also like videos that focus on the band as a whole, or at least on someone other than Bono. It isn’t that I don’t like Bono, I just find that too many people think of U2 as “his” band, when in reality it is a collaboration between him and, at least, the three other guys in the band. That said, I like that all of the members of the band play a role in this video, and that, as I expressed above, it further expounds upon the ideas behind the song itself.
“Numb” is one of my top ten favorite U2 songs, and one of my four or five favorite U2 videos. I think that the video has a brilliant concept and that it was executed flawlessly. Kudos go to Kevin Godley for another winning music 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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