You would think that after 16 Rolling Stone covers, U2's Bono would have gotten this whole Rolling Stone cover story interview thing down by now without incident. That, it turns out, is not the case, as revealed in the musician's latest chat with Jann Wenner, the magazine's cofounder and publisher, for its January 2018 issue, which begins with Wenner reminiscing on that time they had a 10-hour "intimate dialogue about rock & roll, social justice, faith and the purpose of art" in 2005—well in the past, as Bono pointed out, with the recent "election of Donald Trump and a rising wave of fascism in Europe," both of which have "rocked" him. (Along with a recent "near-death experience.")
Apparently, though, events like the election of a man whom at least a dozen women have accused of sexual assault and harassment haven't rocked Bono enough to think twice about making sexist comments—though perhaps because he felt just so at ease with Wenner, who's also very much from the same school of male, white rock 'n roll. While Bono abstained from elaborating on his near-death experience because "it's one thing if you were talking about it in a place of record like Rolling Stone, but by the time it gets to your local tabloid it is just awful," somehow he did not seem to think the same about opinions that sound bad not just in the tabloids but in every place of record—namely, his notion that women are currently oppressing men in the music industry.
"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," Bono said when Wenner asked if he agreed with his son that a "rock 'n roll revolution is around the corner."
"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," he continued. "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 [Vedder] has that rage."
Hopefully Bono knows that women have rage, too. But even his claim that women have displaced men who care about rock in being allowed to express their rage falls flat. Only a handful of women appear on Billboard's current chart of today's top rock songs—including just a a single one in the top 10—and men are still revered as the faces of rock (and most other genres of music, too). That much was clear just a couple of months ago, when only three solo women artists made the cut on the American Music Awards's list of nominees outside of the designated "Female Artist" category. (U2 did, by the way, and is now up for the "Tour of the Year" award.)
Then again, even Bono admits in the interview that his line "dinosaur wonders why he still walks the Earth," on U2's latest album, Songs of Experience, was in part about himself, and that he's still getting accustomed to the Top 40 streaming era. "We're back to the Fifties now, where the focus is on songs rather than albums. U2 make albums, so how do we survive? By making the songs better," he said.
As for how he thinks he's done that? By teaming up with the Edge on writing the (notoriously poorly reviewed) Spider-Man musical Turn Off the Dark. If that approach sounds a bit out of touch, please do know that it in fact came to him by way of a reputable man: one Paul McCartney. Still, it does seem a bit odd that Bono took McCartney's memories of how the Beatles actually got to be a better band by booking "posh" wedding gigs as a "Note to self and Edge: Let's get into musical theater." In fact, such interpretation might be Bono's best argument yet that men truly are getting desperate in their search for artistic outlets.
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