Extreme narrator voice: Read the following tongue firmly planted in cheek.
I hate the band U2.
I can’t really explain why.
I know they are very talented. I know they are innovative. I know they have played a huge part in rock ‘n’ roll history. I know many of the bands I love were inspired by their music. I’ve actively tried to make myself like them. I once spent two weeks forcing myself to listen to The Joshua Tree but hated every second of it.
It’s weird because I can see how absolutely unoffensive their music is, but it creates so much hatred deep in my bone marrow that my jaw clinches and I grind my teeth whenever I hear any of their songs. I love music. I have always spent way too much money on records, yet I was one of those assholes who was mad that Apple put a free U2 record on my phone. That’s how much I hate them — even now in my most diverse era of musical enjoyment.
Can’t do it and this stance is particularly weird because I typically love when people use their platforms to effect change in the world.
I was metamorphosing from a curly haired blonde child full of wonder and imagination into an awkward introverted angry and inquisitive to a fault cynical teen in the early ‘90s, as a new era of angry distorted guitar and politically charged wave of punk, indie rock, hardcore and grunge was also bubbling up above the surface. As a result of that timing, the band Fugazi was the most important band to exist in my fuzzed out mind. Not only did they give me everything I wanted aurally, but their politics, their protest and their way of doing business — every show was all ages, every show cost $5, they sold no merch other than records, they ran (and still do run) their own record label, they only played for free or for charity in their hometown, they booked their own tours, they played prisons to provide entertainment to the incarcerated, they championed political causes I held dear, they protested wars on the white house lawn — and they did all of this while outselling many major label acts despite never making a music video or engaging in any kind of marketing.
I’ve never gravitated toward religion, but I often joke that I live by the WWFD (What Would Fugazi Do?) mantra. So it would only seem logical that I would gravitate towards the political and social action of U2’s front man, Bono. Nope. In fact, here’s one of my favorite jokes:
Q: What’s the difference between God and Bono?
A: God doesn’t think he’s Bono.
Perhaps all of this stems from my general distrust of corporations, and U2, despite being an alternative rock band, is pretty much a corporation at this point. Maybe it’s as trivial as Bono always wearing sunglasses indoors, but I’ve never believed his political activeness to be completely genuine. It lead me to do an investigative project exploring the Product (RED) movement Bono became the poster boy for in my second stint in college. The whole idea of caring through capitalism is hard for me to navigate around. On one hand, I see how influencing people to donate to charity through purchases they are likely to make — though likely don’t actually need — can be a useful thing. However, the cynic in me also sees the corporate profiteering off of catastrophe that is also happening.
The main focus of my project was a particular Motorola (RED) campaign that was running in Singapore at the time I was studying there. Motorola offered a red version of its Razr phones whose sale would lead to a donation of $15 per unit to a charity that promised to help fight the spread of HIV and AIDS in Africa. Before I did any of my research, I was expecting to find that this phone would be identical to a preexisting phone, but would cost $15 more. All of which would be easy to shrug off as, “Whatever, it isn’t really a charitable move on their part, but the money is going to help in some capacity. So what if it is really just about building fake humanity for a corporation and giving a bunch of consumers a red trophy to flash around to make themselves feel like they did something good for the world. It’s all pretty harmless.” However, I was right about there being two phones with seemingly identical features — except one was blue and the other red — but the red phone wasn’t marked up $15 as I expected, it was marked up a significant amount higher, increasing the profit margin while masquerading as a social conscious movement.
Then I dug into the marketing campaign. There were posters on every bus stop in Singapore. A celebrity photographer was hired to shoot the who’s who of Singapore celebrities to promote the phones. I was never able to get confirmation on if the photographer was paid for his work or if he did it as an act of charity, but I was able to confirm that two of the actresses — who did respond to my email queries —in these ads had donated their time and image to the campaign because they believed in the cause. These were two of the top actresses in the country, and their rate for endorsing a product would have been substantial. This kind of support was like getting a Bentley for the price of BMX in terms of marketing costs. Also, there’s the whole narrative that being asked to support something that was seen as being part of the fight to end the HIV epidemic was almost like being blackmailed. How can you say no to donating your time to that? What would that do to your image? Then you get into tax write offs and all of the free press a marketing strategy like this gets a company and it starts to feel a little icky. Though I also acknowledge that those consumers likely wouldn’t have just given $15 to charity on their own so it did do some good, but I can’t not feel weird about it — especially considering that brands like The Gap who were notorious for their sweatshop labor practices at that time were being praised for their “progressive capitalism” because of their involvement with Product (RED).
Sorry to get so sidetracked, but I just wanted to paint a picture of all of the backstory that has led me to want to believe this next situation actually occurred. So yeah, I don’t like Bono and don’t trust his philanthropy because it is so connected to capitalism; I’m also fine with knowing I’m wrong about him and this line of thinking. I’m not trying to turn you against him, or even the aforementioned project...back to the analogy that this bout of insomnia has led me to...
There’s a tale of a U2 concert were the band goes into a long muted bass and drum interlude, the lights dim except for a giant spotlight raining down upon Bono. He begins to snap his fingers rhythmically. He gazes markedly at the crowd though they can’t really tell because he is wearing sunglasses indoors. He raises the mic to his lips and proclaims with blunt intensity, “Every time I snap my fingers a child dies in Africa.” Then, as the tale is so classically told, a hero of a genius of a person in the front row stands up, cups their hands around their mouth and shouts, “THEN STOP SNAPPING YOUR FINGERS!!!!” — delivering what would be the greatest heckle ever heckled if it were only true.
I have discovered that it isn’t.
I’ve searched the internet looking for video of it. None exist. There are numerous articles online refuting such an event — including this one that tracks its origin. Still, I want it to be true so bad that I refuse to fully accept that it isn’t. It’s just too perfect.
Like Elfrid Payton being the answer for the Pelicans at point guard.
I have long irrationally believed in Payton and his porous game despite him never earning the trust of his previous coaches and GMs — here’s one of many instances I championed Dell making a move for him. I’m surrounded by plenty of doubters, and evidence that he may not be a good basketball player. I’ve seen your snot-nosed tweets poking fun at my dismay that we could have acquired him last season for nothing more than the pick that would became Tony Carr.
Daily I fend off evidence hurled my way in DMs from the host of my podcast and fellow Bird writer — Preston Ellis — whom I should listen to considering he also covers the Orlando Magic and has seen Payton play way more than I have. I don’t care how many Philip Rossman Reich(s) or other brilliant Magic media types Preston lines up for the podcast on days I have to work that further support his doubt — your facty McOpinions bounce off of me like bullets off of Colossus.
Elfrid has a fleur de bee tattoo — what have you ever done?
I doubt it.
Payton’s from Gretna, after briefly suffering as I did at Brother Martin. He went to John Ehret High School in Marrero and then to ULL. I don’t care that he shoots the three with storm trooper accuracy. I don’t care that he has been a minus defender for his NBA career because I know has the physical tools and build to be a defensive force paired next to Jrue. I mean, he did win the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year Award in college since you like tangible evidence so much.
I know there’s a ton of other evidence you can throw in my face that says he’s a marginal NBA player or perhaps worse. However, I’ll keep looking at how last season before being traded to Phoenix 41% of his shots came within 3’ of the basket and he converted an outstanding 70% of them. I’ll project how much better that can be with the space provided by the attention devoted to Nikola Mirotic, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore — as well as the space provided by attacking off of screens set by the comic book character chiseled chest of Julius Randle. I’ll look to how he has affected all phases of the game despite being on bad teams — averaging over 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 1 steal for his career. I’ll reminisce over how Darren Erman was able to teach Steph Curry to fight through screens and to become an adequate defender. I’ll believe that the culture that was developed in that Pelicans’ locker room to close the season, sweep Portland and take a game from the Warriors, will eliminate that alleged tendency to drift mentally on the defensive end.
Save your truthiness — I will warm myself in the comfortable blanket of my irrational fandom, and belief in Dell Demps’ evaluation process and the coaching staff’s ability to mold Payton into a long term solution next to Jrue Holiday. I only have blind faith in one thing and that thing is Elfrid Payton being the answer.
Bono, stop snapping those fingers.