How U2 tried to claim the blues with Rattle and Hum

Tuesday, November 14, 2023
"Rattle and Hum," U2's sixth studio album, is not just a collection of songs but a journey into the heart of American music. Released in 1988, it served as both a soundtrack and a companion piece to the documentary film of the same name. 

This project represented a pivotal moment for U2, as they ventured into the realms of blues, gospel, and soul, seeking to infuse these traditional American genres into their distinct rock style.

The blues genre, emerging from the African American experience, has been a cornerstone of modern music, particularly rock and roll. Its raw emotional depth and distinctive musical structure have profoundly influenced countless artists. U2's exploration of blues was more than a stylistic shift; it was an acknowledgment of this rich musical legacy.

bb king u2 love comes to town

Before "Rattle and Hum," U2 had primarily been identified with a post-punk, ethereal sound, marked by politically and emotionally charged lyrics. Their earlier albums, especially "The Joshua Tree," had firmly established them as rock icons. The move into blues and related genres marked a significant expansion of their musical repertoire.

Analyzing Key Tracks

"Angel of Harlem"

"Angel of Harlem" stands out as a vibrant tribute to the blues and jazz heritage of Harlem. The song's structure, incorporating brass and a more rhythmic sound, shows U2's ability to adapt blues elements while retaining their unique sonic identity. The references to Miles Davis and Billie Holiday pay homage to these legends.

"When Love Comes to Town" with B.B. King

In "When Love Comes to Town," U2's collaboration with B.B. King, the band reaches a high point in their blues exploration. King's authentic blues guitar and vocals, combined with U2's rock foundation, create a powerful blend that honors both genres. This track is a quintessential example of respectful and successful genre fusion.

Gospel Choir in "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

The reworking of The Joshua Tree's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with a gospel choir is a striking example of genre blending. The song's themes of spiritual searching gain new dimensions with the choir, illustrating the deep emotional and spiritual resonance shared between rock and gospel music.

U2 approached the blues with a sense of reverence and authenticity. Their endeavor was less about imitation and more about integration, seeking to understand and internalize blues elements within their own musical identity.

While some critics viewed "Rattle and Hum" as overambitious, many acknowledged its artistic merits. The album was both a commercial success and a demonstration of U2's ability to transcend their established sound, forging a memorable fusion of rock and blues.

"Rattle and Hum" marked a turning point in U2's career. This exploration had a lasting impact on their music, as elements of blues, gospel, and soul continued to surface in their later works.
Powered by Blogger.

Search This Blog

Blog Archive

Back to Top