Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lost, American Idol, and the return of the Cover

Wednesday night was sort of a big deal for television fans. For Travis and I, it was all about Lost, but I have to admit I was also just a little curious about what would happen in the American Idol finale.

We tuned in occasionally and caught the following: Meatloaf coughing up a furball (or singing... whatever), some funny recaps of early auditions, and Mary J. Blige dueting with the utterly annoying Elliot on U2's One. As I've said before, I feel there is a shortage of worthwhile U2 covers, but unfortunately this one does nothing to help the problem -- "mediocre" and "dull" are two words that come to mind.

Fortunately we could just change the channel and go back to our beloved Lost, right? Sure, until the commercial break, when Mary J. Blige's cover was used again; this time in an ABC promo along with the words: "One Love, One World, One Network." Add to that "One Barf," please.

I don't particularly believe in the concept of a band selling out -- but still I can't help feeling that this song is being undersold and cheapened in recent years. In its original context (the sublime Achtung Baby), it is a desperate plea for understanding and reconciliation. What I saw Wednesday night was a bombastic exercise in uncalled-for feel-goodery. U2 may be known as that band with all the big stadium-rock anthems, but the anthemic quality of songs like One is betrayed by its less than optimistic lyrics:

"Did I ask too much?
More than a lot?
You gave me nothing,
now it's all I've got."

or

"Did I disappoint you?
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without."

There is a give-and-take element here that is being completely ignored in favour of the more palatable chorus: "One life / With each other / Sisters / Brothers." To me, the song is divided between what the speaker wants out of life and the reality of what he receives. That's a kind of pain that many people feel, but few have the talent and experience to express. Here is one of those people:

[mp3] Johnny Cash - One

* Buy Johnny Cash - American III: Solitary Man

1 comment:

c said...

i totally agree. didn't u2 always shudder that people played "one" at weddings? this is supposed to be a bitter love song.

i didn't mind so much mary & u2 collaborating and i didn't see american idol, but i hate that the song is in an abc tv promo.