How is it that Bono hasn’t released a solo album? I contemplate this as I sit at the counter of a gloriously perfect New York City diner, sipping my third cup of coffee, chomping overcooked eggs and toast. In any other location it would be unremarkable and perhaps a little bit depressing; but here: delicious. Every time the waitress calls me sweetie, it’s like music to my ears. Better music than what I’m listening to, to be certain.
The stereo in the café (insert what ever name evokes for you reliably, comfortably, unremarkable food, but tons of charm in the assertive staff and décor) plays a recognizable array of 80s hits with the occasional modern song mixed in for the younger folks. Bands such as Foster The People and Maroon 5. Artists whose sound is inoffensive and catchy. Not a ballad, not a rocker.
The last song the radio played was something new by U2. At first, when I noticed Bono’s unmistakable warble, I thought to myself, what is this song? I know this. And the more the song played, it became clear to me that, no, I hadn’t heard this song before. It just sounded like a blend of every U2 song from Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. Only worse. Like it was some new young band trying to sound like U2. Except not even a U2-inspired band would be able to pull off this level of faux-emotional gravitas.
I didn’t think it was possible, but Bono’s voice was even louder in the mix, to the point where I thought the song was a cappella. Which is what led me to wonder why Bono hadn’t released a solo album yet. If his ego is as large as it appears (and I am not so cynical as to believe everything I see in the media; maybe Bono has been misrepresented and is a humble poet and we’d be great friends if given the chance), why haven’t we seen Bono I, or Bono II: The Resurrection, or Bono III: Bonofide? He apparently does write some of the music of U2. He’s more than capable of writing an albums worth of songs by himself. Yet, it’s been over 30 years since U2 released Boy and Bono has yet to release a solo album.
I am truly impressed that he hasn’t attempted the solo career route. I can already hear the response to this statement: The last several U2 albums may as well have been solo albums. Yeah, perhaps, but the credits still read as U2. And they don’t sound like solo albums. They sound like watered down U2 albums.
I don’t hear the argument that the last few Rolling Stones albums are glorified Mick Jagger solo albums. I’m not comparing Bono to Mick Jagger, though a compelling argument could be made, as both bands would be nothing without their front men. But that’s fodder for another post….
Mick Jagger has released solo albums, and yes, they never would be confused with Rolling Stones albums, but in my opinion, this is a good thing. Mick had ideas that didn’t fit the Rolling Stones mold and he was able to express them on his own. But even he knew, that, without Keith Richards, his songs would be pretty weak.
If Bono did release a solo album, what would it sound like? Would it sound much different than U2? Would it be Bono and an acoustic guitar playing Bob Dylan and John Prine (for indie cred) covers? Would he learn to play the lute and pen a 10-song ode to his father a la Sting?
Bono probably already knows how to play the lute. I bet he can play all stringed instruments, if you’d ask him. Oh, that’s the cynical voice I was trying to contain. It does rear its ugly head every so often.
If Bono were to release an album of instrumentals, if he was so bold as to put out something that didn’t have any singing at all, how awesome would that be? Commercially it would be a failure, but in the eyes of the people who think he’s sold out or grown to become a parody of himself? It would give him instant cool cred.
I know, it can be a surf instrumental album. Yes. Bono at the beach. Beach Blanket Bono. Now that would be amazing! It has to happen. Does anyone know how to get a hold of Bono? Twitter? A mailing address?
Maybe if I produce a documentary on some obscure blues guitarist or a punk rock pioneer? Jell-O Biafra for example? Well, it can’t be too obscure, or Bono wouldn’t offer to be part of it. I’m sure that Bono would reach out to me, offering to appear in my film, telling me that his presence would surely get the film into festivals.
I can’t think of a single rock documentary that doesn’t have an appearance by Bono at least once. Joe Strummer? Check. John Lee Hooker? Check. So many others. If there is a doc without Bono and also doesn’t have Johnny Depp reading the narration I’d love to know what it is.
I just came up with another idea. Bono you are my muse!
Johnny Depp can play Bono in the Bono biopic, the first biopic of a musician where the musician is still alive and well. (note: I know there probably are others) Of course, you would assume Bono would want to play himself, like Howard Stern did in Private Parts, though that wasn’t truly a biopic so doesn’t count. Or, Bono can play himself as the older Bono and Johnny Depp can play the younger Bono. Or like that Bob Dylan movie, Bono can be portrayed by a different actor in every scene. I’d love to see Charlie Sheen portray Bono in a segment.
Another thought: would a Bono biopic be considered a Bonopic? Would he be so powerful as to get his name added to a commonly used term? Taking this even further, would a Lee Majors biopic be considered a BionicPic?
All this is a long-winded way of saying that I truly think that the fact that Bono hasn’t put out a solo album is proof that he does possess an inkling of humility. That even if U2’s music no longer speaks to me, Bono seems to still get joy in being part of a band. And none of the other members of U2 have quit or said anything bad about Bono.
Even The Edge has put out solo material.