Apologies for the hashtags in the headline, but two of my favourite bands have erred in recent times with their new album’s first single and somebody needs to come forward and tell them. Pick me!
Today I was at JB HiFi and was reminded of just how brilliant and inspirational U2 can be. Lots of people would agree with that and would no doubt cite countless songs from the 80s and even 90s as proof. But the DVD playing in-store was from their most recent tour and the song that made Bono take off his sunglasses and look skywards was from their most underbought album in decades, 2009’s No Line On The Horizon.
Magnificent is not ambiguous. When Bono sings against a stunning Edge guitar line, “I was born to sing for you,” and he looks to the heavens, you’re not left in any doubt as to who he is singing to. He goes on to say, “I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up / And sing whatever song you wanted me to / I give you back my voice from the womb / My first cry, it was a joyful noise.”
In the same way that their early 2000’s mega-hit Beautiful Day wasn’t really just about a bit of sunshine and blue sky, Magnificent isn’t really about something or someone being “magnificent” as far as we would normally comprehend. It’s much like the word “awesome.” At the heart of it, both these words pack significant punch which due to their common usage has been diluted. Regardless, had the awesome (and to be blunt, God-fearing) song Magnificent been the first single (rather than the forgotten second) from U2’s 2009 album, it would’ve undoubtedly given a much more positive impression of the album than Get On Your Boots.
For a band as drenched in meaning, importance and metaphor as U2, it was probably briefly exhilarating to release a song as frivolous and literal as Get On Your Boots. Only problem was that not only was it not particularly catchy, it was not at all representative of the serious artistic work that it came from. And try as I might, I couldn’t find a metaphor. It really was about feet and boots.
Las Vegas band The Killers are currently facing a similar conundrum. The momentum of their new album Battle Born has been stalled by a poor choice of first single, Runaways. While not as throwaway as Get On Your Boots, Runaways sounds in individual 10 second segments like a grand piece of stadium rock that somehow barely hangs together when listened to in one go. Indeed, it is arguably the weakest track on what is one of the best albums of 2012. To find out tonight that the album’s second weakest song Miss Atomic Bomb is going to be the second single is bordering on heartbreaking.
In the music industry, everyone likes to think they are the expert with the almost clairvoyant ability to pick hits. I hate to say, but I am no different. As a massive fan of The Killers and without knowledge of the first two chosen singles, I sent an email after a week of non-stop Battle Born listening to my fellow Killers diehard buddy (also named Tim) with my six best songs on the album. None of the six were the singles. In short, whoever is making the decisions regarding singles for this band, they are costing Brandon Flowers and co. potentially millions.
The six songs in question were: The Way It Was, Deadlines And Commitments, From Here On Out, Battle Born, Carry Me Home and the remixed Flesh And Bone. To think that the last two songs are bonus tracks is galling. As to what the first single should’ve been, Carry Me Home leaves Runaways for dead and beautiful ballad The Way It Was as the followup would have been the business. Carry Me Home, as well as U2’s Magnificent are below: