As I sit and ponder what I want to say about this week’s featured video, it occurs to me that U2’s promo video for “The Sweetest Thing” seems to be one of their most well-known and popular videos, even with very casual fans, those who hardly know the band at all. A lot of U2’s music transcends in this way. Their songs defy genre and era and have a feel that makes them difficult to classify but easy to enjoy. That is not necessarily always the case with their music videos, so it is a credit to Kevin Godley, who directed this piece, and to everyone else involved that this video is so enjoyable and fun.
The premise is made fairly obvious in the video itself, but as it is essential to one’s enjoyment of the video, I shall relate the story as I know it. It seems that during the sessions for the Joshua Tree album, Bono was in the studio working and he missed Ali, his wife’s, birthday. The song “The Sweetest Thing” was written as an apology at the time and, some years later, the band revisited the song for their “Best of 1980-1990” compilation. The video, then, is all about Bono’s attempts to reconcile with his wife as he apologizes in various ways with some of Ali’s favorite things. This includes the popular Irish boy group BoyZone who appear in the video but did not contribute to the song itself. The video also includes the rest of U2, a very patient elephant, some male strippers flexing their muscles, members of the Riverdance troupe, a jet which leaves a heart in its wake in the sky, and various other things that Bono’s wife is purported to enjoy. The video is also notable for appearances by some members of U2’s extended family, such as Bono’s brother Norman, who appears as the chef in the video, and Ali herself.
Despite the fact that the video is ostensibly an apology, there is a good-time atmosphere that pervades the work, like a street festival or a fair. It truly is fun to watch, and I think that one of the things that makes it especially appealing, particularly to long-time U2 fans, is the fact that it shows what good senses of humor the band members have. For a group that is often criticized for being too serious or for lacking humor, and who are often photographed in somber black and white, this video shows a colorful, fun and funny side to the band. There is also a whole lot to see.
One could watch this video several times and still not see everything that is featured here, from the boxer who rubs Bono’s shoulders to the circus performers who make brief appearances. Altogether, “The Sweetest Thing” is one of U2’s most successful forays into the world of music videos, and I believe that it did a good job of setting the stage for the band’s return to the top of the heap after the less-than-favorable reception that the “Pop” album received.