U2 VidWorks – The Hands That Built America

I know that I usually rave about videos that showcase the band performing their song, but this one, U2’s video for “The Hands That Built America,” might be the exception to that trend for me, as I am simply not crazy about this video. More specifically, it is the audio here that I am not crazy about. The version of the song itself that is included here is an early, obviously unfinished, cut of the song, and there are some elements of that that bother me. Normally, I get excited over a unique edit of a track, but that is not the case here. My main complaint with this edit of the song is that in the first verse, one can distinctly here an earlier vocal track with a different melody that the more final vocal is laid on top of. I suppose that to some, it might feel like a rare insight into the recording process that the band undergoes, but if the band was going to do that, I wish that the earlier vocal would be the sole audible vocal on the song. As it is, with two separate vocal tracks running one under the other, it just sounds sloppy and unfinished. The instrumental here is also different, with some elements, such as the drum track, taken from the soundtrack version of the song, and other elements completely unique to this video, such as the opening keys. Another complaint that I have with this video is with that opera-like part in the middle. I really, really wish that the video showed Bono singing this segment of the song. As it is, it makes this unique element of the song feel more like studio trickery and less like something that Bono really did. This might be especially true for me since in the handful of times that the complete song has been performed live, Bono sang this part with the studio track running in the background. One of my exes used to say that this part of the song wasn’t really Bono singing, and I would have loved to have had something, some proof, to demonstrate to her that she did not know what she was talking about. Finally, contrary to most videos that show the band performing a song, this one isn’t all that exciting or interesting. I suppose that that fact is due to the song being a slow ballad and not a more upbeat piece. The band members don’t even rise to their feet for this one. Maybe what this song called for was something with more of a story, but it occurs to me that it might have been felt that making a video with a story would have taken the focus away from the movie that the song was supposed to be promoting. Incidentally, there is another edit of this video that incorporates footage from the “Gangs of New York” film that the song was written for. That version of the video is slightly more interesting and enjoyable, mostly because it feels like there is more going on than with it. There might be some of you reading this who think that I am crazy and that this is a fantastic video. Well, I’d love to hear from you! Please leave your comments below and let me know what think about this video, and this cut of the song. 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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