All That You Can’t Leave Behind – U2
By the end of the 1990s, U2 were seeking change once again. Back in 1984, they released The Unforgettable Fire to differ themselves from the political music on their previous album, Boy. Then, in 1991, the band received backlash from Rattle and Hum. They were labeled as “over the top” and “pretentious.” They decided to reinvent themselves with Achtung Baby. There were tensions making the album; however, after writing the song “One,” the band knew the direction they wanted to go to. The album had electronic and alternative influences and brought the band back to prominence. It was a sign of reinvention for the band. They furthered their experimenting with Zooropa, “Passengers” with Brian Eno as a contributor, and Pop. Pop was more experimental with dance music. However, it wasn’t as successful as previous efforts. A change was bound to occur once again.
This change is evident in their 2000 album All That You Can’t Leave Behind. The sound was a return to more of a rock sound still with experimentation. People and critics both generally embraced the album and once again put the band on the top of the music world. The album was also seen as a return to a more traditional U2 sound as well.
In my opinion, the album is very inspirational and one that gives the feeling of faith that things will go well even during the darkest of times. Most of the album, I feel, consists of tracks that are motivational and help people deal and cope with whatever situation they’re going through. Bono’s voice carries the songs to great heights. The songs aren’t as hard rocking as War or as experiemetntal as Pop; it;s more of a balance between the two, musically. Though I feel that not every track isn’t great, most of the album is a great listen for any music fan.
The lead single, “Beautiful Day” was massively successful and one of the band’s best singles. The song is about a man who has lost everything and yet still finds happiness in his life. It’s an upbeat, uplifting song that feels inspirational and optimistic. It’s one of those songs that make you feel good every time you hear it.
The next single from the album, “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” is a gospel-influenced song. Bono has stated that the song is about a friend who had recently committed suicide. “Elevation,” the third single, is a harder rock song with Bono yelling in a sort of call and return fashion in the chorus.
The fourth and final single, “Walk On,” was written for Ang San Suu Kyi, a Burmese Democratic activist who was placed on house arrest from 1989 to 2010. The song is an uplifting anthem that deals with struggle and the strength to move forward though it may be rough. The song took on greater meaning after 9/11 where the band performed it at a benefit concert for relief after the attacks.
Two of my personal favorites from the album are “Kite” and “In a Little While.” “Kite,” according to Bono was about a kite-outing with his daughters that went bad. However, The Edge has said that the song is actually about Bono’s father who was dying from cancer at the time. This song is very sad but somewhat hopeful with the last line of the chorus, “I know that this is not goodbye.” The lyrics, combined with Bono’s voice, make for a extremely moving song. It is full of emotion and you can definitely hear it in Bono’s voice. “In a Little While” is about Bono’s wife who was a year younger than him at school. However, like many songs on this album, it took on another meaning when Bono heard that Joey Ramone had listened to the song on his deathbed. The track is also another powerful song from the album.
Overall, I feel that the album is a great listen that is full of emotional depth and optimism. The songs mostly deal with hardships and tough situations but also giving you the feeling of overcoming any of those problems that may arise at anytime. Musically, it is approachable and not an album that is tough to listen. I personally feel that you don’t have to be a U2 fan to enjoy this album.