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U2 Are Not Invisible

March 6, 2014
U2 are back in 2014

It's been five years since U2 released their latest album, having released No Line on the Horizon in March 2009, and three years since U2 concluded their record-breaking 360° Tour. Bono and The Edge dabbled in Broadway, writing music for the ill-fated Spider-Man play, but the last half decade has seen little in the way of new music by U2 -- until now.

"We're on the verge of irrelevance," Bono told BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe. Despite the success of the 360° Tour, U2 failed to produce a hit song that permeated the social sphere with No Line on the Horizon. Clearly stung by the lack of impact No Line left, U2 took a step back once the 360° Tour ended in 2011. Instead of working with Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, the same duo that produced The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, All That You Can't Leave Behind and No Line on the Horizon, U2 opted to have Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse, produce their 13th studio album. After all, exiting their comfort zone after releasing Rattle and Hum is what produced Achtung Baby, perhaps U2's best album.

With U2's new album tentatively scheduled for a late spring, early summer release, U2 gave fans two treats over the winter, releasing "Ordinary Love" and "Invisible," the first singles U2 have released since "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" in 2009. "Ordinary Love," which won the Golden Globe for Best Song, was written specifically for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. "Invisible," however, will appear on LP13 for U2, and offers fans a sonic glimpse into U2's future.

"Invisible" was given away as a free download for over a day, in effort to raise money for the RED Campaign. After three million-plus "Invisible" downloads, a Super Bowl commercial and an appearance as the first musical guests on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show, it appears Bono and U2 have found relevance again -- and are avoiding the dreaded nostalgia act label.

With an electronic beat, pulsating bass, and a guitar hook that could be mistaken for a synth, "Invisible" harkens back to both Zooropa and The Unforgettable Fire -- yet, somehow also sounds like a mature version of "Out of Control," U2's first single. No, 2014 Bono certainly won't be mistaken for 1993 nor 1985 Bono, but the 53-year-old singer still sounds good, and still emotes as if he's in his vocal prime.

Lyrically, "Invisible" grapples with the overwhelming feeling of insignificance at first, before exploding into an uplifting chorus -- where the protagonist eventually finds a sense of self.

"I finally found my real name, I won't be me when you see me again," Bono exclaims in the first verse, before launching into the song's uplifting chorus. Even in the chorus, the song's protagonist struggles with a sense of self at first. "I'm more than you know, a body in a soul," suggesting that we are not human beings searching for something higher, but rather, spiritual beings attempting to find terrestrial purpose. The chorus ends with Bono nearly pleading, "You don't see me, but you will, I am not invisible."

By the time the song reaches its second and final chorus, the song's main character has found himself in the world -- and the tone of the chorus changes with three simple words added to the end.

"I am not invisible, I am here," Bono declares, before The Edge rips into one of his vintage, minimalist guitar solos.

It's easy to see the song from Bono's perspective -- both as a teenager forming a band, and as a 53-year-old in a legendary band, trying to stay relevant in U2's unprecedented fourth decade. "Invisible" probably isn't the best song on U2's upcoming LP13, after all, it was given away for free months before the release of the album, but it certainly showcases U2's new direction, and gives the world a glimpse of what Danger Mouse brings to U2's table.

Even in 2014, U2 aren't invisible -- they are here, and not going anywhere. Well, except on tour -- later this year.

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