U2 frontman and noted sunglass wearer Bono has been spraying opinions lately, both in interviews and in songs. His band’s latest album, Songs of Experience, was a limp response to a world in crisis, a record strangled by its abandonment of responsibility. If you’re under the age of 40, it’ll make you cringe. And if you’ve just spent a week or so trying to avoid conversations about current events with your 50-or-60-something-year-old parents, the sensation will be familiar.
Now Bono's in the headlines after an end-of-year interview he did with the Rolling Stone. It’s a long back-and-forth with the magazine’s co-founder (and recent stock-seller) Jann Wenner. When Bono's not talking about world peace and world tours and world hunger, he moves his foot towards his own mouth and starts to chew:
Wenner: Do you believe it [that a “rock & roll revolution is round the corner”]?
Bono: I think music has gotten very girly. And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment—and that's not good. When I was 16, I had a lot of anger in me. You need to find a place for it and for guitars, whether it is with a drum machine—I don't care. The moment something becomes preserved, it is fucking over. You might as well put it in formaldehyde. In the end, what is rock & roll? Rage is at the heart of it. Some great rock & roll tends to have that, which is why the Who were such a great band. Or Pearl Jam. Eddie has that rage.
It’s exhausting, listening to Bono define rock ‘n’ roll for the thousandth time. If you want a list of all the outlandish, self-serving ways that he's tried to boil down 70-odd years of history already, try this handy Twitter thread from New York Times Magazine's Jody Rosen. My favorite part is when Bono talks about rock ‘n’ roll as “fucking with technology” shortly before the whole world got saddled with a U2 download against its wishes.
But we should take a moment to say that this "girly" comment isn’t a miniature slip of the tongue—it’s a colossally ignorant statement from a man whose opinion couldn't be less crucial, but whose thoughts are still valued by millions. Okay, "girly" is a stupid word—but this paragraph goes deep. Setting up “young male anger” as the beginning and end of rock music obviously ignores the massive influence that people who aren't men have had on guitar music and its nearby fury since inception. And while I'm sure he's trying to make it seem cool, he ends up selling rock music as narrow, unimaginative, and dull. If rock really was all rage-filled, hair-tearing hormone-balls getting pissy at their dads, it would’ve been “put in formaldehyde” half a century ago, and only the worst types of shitheads would have lamented its demise. Testosterone isn’t the lifeblood of guitar music—never has been, thank God.
While we’re at it, hip-hop isn’t just a space for “young male anger” either—rethinking that tired, racist cliche, and zooming out to appreciate hip-hop’s kaleidoscopic nature, is essential right now. And there’s a whole generation of kids coming through who are making hip-hop’s diversity—emotional and otherwise—impossible to ignore. Bono is a 57-year-old man who may not spend time absorbing that, and it's fine. He should just shut up about it.
But if you follow Bono all the way to the end of this—if you, angry young man, want to believe his inane ramblings—you end up with the deification of... the Who and Pearl Jam? As the bastions of great rock 'n' roll? Above all else?
Serves you right for following Bono to the end of this.
Follow Alex Robert Ross to the end of Twitter.