Sunday, March 01, 2009

The 11 Best (And Worst) U2 Videos

With the new U2 album set to be released on Tuesday, this is the first of three U2-related posts you'll see this week. Why two lists of 11? Well, 11 + 11 equals 22, and if you replace the first '2' with a U, you get U2. (If you replace the second '2', I think you get a list of Prince songs.) There are also two videos that I wasn't sure where to put on either list, so I left it up to 'you to' decide. YOU TO. GET IT. JOKES ARE FUNNY! None of the videos are in any particular order, so it's just a general list of the best or worst. Click the title to take you to the YouTube link and you can judge for yourself. The good ones are in blue, the stinkers are in red and the undecideds are in black.

Get On Your Boots
Say what you will about the song (and given its lack of movement on the charts, you likely aren't saying much), the video is one of U2's better efforts. The glass-breaking effect during the 'let me in the sound' portion? Mint. It was so mint that I'm going to make up a new term for 'mint' and just say it was julep. Over/under on the amount of time it will take for this to watch on: 45 years. The unfortunate thing about GOYB is that it's not a bad song by any stretch, but I'm not just sure why it was the lead single when it was maybe the 6th or 7th best song on the album.

Pride (In The Name Of Love)
U2 made three videos for 'Pride,' none of them very good, but this unreleased video directed by Anton Corbijn takes the cake. Total production value: $6.58. Who had the bright idea to take arguably U2's most exuberant song and promote it with a video of...the four guys standing there? Bono does try to bring the energy between about 2:40 and 3:15, when he gets, um, a little too into the song. It looks less like singing and more like he's having something removed from or shoved into his urethra.

If God Will Send His Angels
The fourth single from the Pop album and sort of an afterthought as a single release (the song was barely ever played live on the Popmart tour), it's nevertheless both a great song and a visually inventive and unique video. It was shot in, of all places, a diner in Detroit. I'm half-tempted to find the name of the place and head over for a bite to eat. Odds of this restaurant currently being out of business and/or a burned-out shell downtown: 3-to-1.

The Saints Are Coming
Ouch! What just hit me on the head? Oh wait, it was the point of the TSAC video. It's a perfectly serviceable performance video intercut with New Orleans footage until about the halfway point, when it gets into eye-rolling moralizing territory.

Even Better Than The Real Thing
Given how visually impressive the Zoo TV Tour was, it only stands to reason that those visuals be adapted into a video. I went with EBTTRT over the video for 'The Fly' just because that around-the-world camera effect is really trippy. Also, I think I caught a clip of WCW wrestling amidst the channel-surfing. Talk about a tie-breaker.

One (Berlin cross-dressing version)
Not to throw Anton Corbijn under the bus or anything, but this is his second U2 video on the 'worst' list. Stick to photography, Anton. The old guy is Bono's dad Bob, and his stone-faced reaction shots are probably taken from his actual reaction to seeing his son and bandmates inexplicably dressed as women. Edge in drag looks like Christine Baranski. What a drab and uninteresting video for such a good song.

One (buffaloes version)
The second attempt at a 'One' video, after the drag version was criticized in some quarters for spreading the stereotype of AIDS as a gay disease, since the most common interpretation of 'One' is that it's about a child telling his parents that he's HIV-positive.  U2 made a third video for the song, but I like this one the best. And you can make one yourself just by using modern-day video software on your PC!

The Unforgettable Fire
Holy 1980's video cliches, Batman! The band in suits, images of the band reflected on TVs, sped-up carnival/highway footage, 'moody' acting....the only thing missing was a Max Headroom cameo. This is some high-tech visualization from the director. Bono sings about a carnival and they show an image of a carnival. He sings to 'walk on by, walk on through' and they cut to....Edge walking. How original. Also of note is that Adam Clayton looks less like himself here than in any video ever. He looks like he came from the set of a Duran Duran video.

Electrical Storm
This one makes about as much sense as Homer's Mr. Plow commercial. She's a mermaid who lives in the ocean yet has a nicer living room set than I had in my first apartment? But hey, incoherence aside, it's wonderfully shot (Corbijn!), it gives Larry Mullen more screentime than I believe he's had in any five other U2 videos and it features the wonderful Samantha Morton. All signs were pointing to yes on this video....but then came the electric stag. W. T. F. That pushed it into the Robert Ritchie Memorial "Boy, I dunno..." category for me. Poor Corbijn was so close, yet so far. And, on that note....

Stay (Faraway, So Close)
Consider this the uber-version of the All I Want Is You video, or, alternatively, the only good thing to come out of Wim Wenders' ill-fated sequel to 'Wings Of Desire.' Lovely black-and-white photography, a good story involving U2 (like the angels in the movie) observing/influencing the mortal members of the other band and the Edge wearing a particularly awesome toque. I really need to start patterning my entire fashion style on my fellow baldie, the Edge. Apparently there's a clothing store on Queen Street that U2 frequent when they're in Toronto, but since this information was given to me by a tour guide who was proven to be full of bullshit on more than one occasion, I'm skeptical. If one can't trust the operators of the Floating Hippo Tour, who can you trust?

I Will Follow
I probably shouldn't be too hard on these early 80's videos. I mean, music videos themselves were in their infancy at the time, and this was actually U2's very first attempt at a video clip. So really, I should cut them some slack...but then again, when Bono starts dancing at 2:40, that's just too absurd to ignore. If Seth Rogen overdid the 'rolling the dice' move in Knocked Up, then Bono definitely does the same with the 'throw a heavy sack over your shoulder with both hands' move.

MAN TYPING BLOG POST. Yet another cool video from the Zooropa album's singles. You pretty much either love Lemon or you hate it, and that extends to the video as well. Though if you hate this video, you're dumb....not to be judgmental or anything. (It's a good thing I added that part about not being judgmental at the end, or else that would've sounded quite judgmental.) The only way this video gets any better is if the vocal track is over-dubbed by my legendary rendition of this song at the Oakridge bus stop in the spring of 2000. Without fear of hyperbole, I can say it was the greatest musical performance of all that bus stop.

All Because Of You
U2 rent a truck and perform while driving through the streets of New York, inciting a parade of excited and surprised fans trailing behind them...and the video makes this look as drab and uninteresting as possible. This is worse than the time Homer inadvertently started a block party while speaking through the Rapmaster 3000 ("It's Hammer!").

Window In The Skies
This can't possibly be the first video that's ever used this concept before (using clips of people singing/talking synced up with the music), but still, it's very cool. The shots of Nat King Cole singing 'removed,' Elvis singing 'out of my head' and the image of an impossibly young and non-human corpse Keith Richards are my personal favourites of the compilation. If you search YouTube, you'll find a number of other montages (sport, entertainment, etc.) set to this song, so the video's idea has spawned a grassroots movement. It's like how the 'Da Funk' video spawned that trend of artists wearing dog masks during their performances. Fergie has been wearing such a mask for years now.....wait, what? Really? Yikes.

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Along the same lines as the 'All Because Of You' video, U2 are once again in one of the most vibrant cities in the world (this time Las Vegas) and they're...just walking around. It's almost like they're looking for something they still haven't found. *rim shot* You know the video is going south when Adam just says fuck it and strolls off into traffic with about a minute left.

Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of (van version)
Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of (football version)
Both versions are equally good in my books, so they get a joint entry on the list. The concept of the 'van version' is nothing too special, but I enjoy the swirling camera work. For those of you who hate Bono, the video is him getting thrown out of a van for basically four minutes, so enjoy. The football version is more well-known in North America and it has a ton of little in-jokes for U2 fans --- the team coaches are named after U2's longtime manager Paul McGuinness and Edge's real name, the game score is 41-39 (so, everything but '40') and the kicker has Bono's actual name. There's also the added comedy of Adam sitting in the crowd reading the soccer pages, not giving a shit about American football. Between this video about a kicker missing a crucial field goal and the buffaloes falling off the ridge in the 'One' video, the evidence is piling up that U2 really hates the Bills. The football version loses points for Edge wearing a Yankees shirt, which we'll just pretend never existed.

Red Hill Mining Town
This one was never actually released because a) U2 decided not to make 'Red Hill Mining Town' a single and b) because they all belatedly realized, "Holy shit, this video is awful." If they had released this in 1987, it might've single-handedly brought their popularity to a screeching halt. Larry stands there pounding away at the wall for the whole bloody song. And the birds being released at the end? Comic gold. "Gentlemen, this canary died of natural causes." "Back in the hole!"

Hey, speaking of videos that hurt U2's career! The world, already lukewarm to the idea of a 'U2 dance record' didn't need to see the band dressed up as the Village People and Bono thrusting his crotch at the camera. This video pretty much soured America on 'Pop' from the start. It may have also been the last time that Edge was seen on camera without a hat, probably since he realized that his receding hairline (now since totally receded) made him look 20 years older than he is.

The Sweetest Thing
I'm a sucker for one-take videos, though this was quite obviously spliced together like mad. The woman at the beginning of the video is Bono's wife Ali, as the song was originally written as an apology from Bono to his wife for forgetting her birthday. In case you're wondering, Bono finished fifth in the Elvis Costello lookalike competition.

Just all-around terrible. A funny or at least amusing video could've been made from the 'evil U2' concept (Edge burning a toque, Larry joining the IRA, Bono punching Nelson Mandela in the face, etc.), but roughly five percent of the video is devoted to this and 80 percent is devoted to slo-mo shots of Bono amidst an exploding car and poor splicings of Edge into Tomb Raider footage. If you're going to do a soundtrack video for Tomb Raider, at least include more footage of an in-her-prime Angelina Jolie. Come on!

Back in high school, I mentioned to someone that U2 was my favourite band. Their response was, "Oh, I've heard of them. They do that video with the guy in the chair." It's a good video and all, but that's the equivalent of saying 'Harrison Ford! He's the guy in Regarding Henry!' As you might have noticed, this is the third of the three videos made from Zooropa singles to make the list. The Zooropa album may draw some mixed reactions from U2 fans but it was undeniably their visual peak. Fun fact: the white and black feet pressing up against Edge's face belonged to Helena Christensen and Naomi Campbell. Also notable is the fact that I believe this is the only U2 song or video that has ever been spoofed by Weird Al. That version can be found here.

A Celebration
This is a tough inclusion because 'A Celebration' is one of my favourite U2 songs, and almost certainly the best one that nobody's ever heard of. But then again, it's not a tough inclusion because this video is a pile of crap. The electric teleportation door, the sudden switch to stock footage halfway through, the guards chanting 'Shake,' and most of all, Bono's red pants, which are as crimson than the devil's tongue.

All I Want Is You
It's a source of heated debate amongst U2 fans if this is one of the band's best videos or one of its worst. It's certainly a wee bit overwrought, to say the least, but you can't say the story isn't interesting to follow. And really, any video that involves a flying trapeze artist midget riding motorcycle shotgun with what looks like Jon Polito playing the Iron Sheik can't be all bad. I think I ultimately fall on the pro-side of the argument, but if you want to just mock this video relentlessly, I can't say I blame you.


The Renegade Librarian said...


You really put time into this stuff--I'm impressed. A bit sad that "Hold Me, Thrill Me..." didn't make the cut, but it's all good!

Geordie Guenther said...

Hey, Weird Al spoofed Hold Me, Thrill Me...

Anonymous said...

I see that West Wing reference.