U2 Studies Alert | Let Me In The “Dublin” Sound & New Research from The British Library on U2’s Early Tours

U2 Studies Alerts share opportunities for research, writing, learning, and participation in projects and events related to U2 and topics associated with U2 that might be of interest to fans, students and scholars. Alerts are collected from a variety of sources and archived and distributed by U2conference.com. Search this site for “U2 Studies Alert” to find more.

All needed details for each alert should be in the body text, but
contact U2conference.com if you need more information or have an item to share for a future alert.

Two items to pass along today for those interested in U2 Studies:

1. Is there such a thing as a “Dublin” sound in popular music? Popular music studies researchers John O’Flynn (Dublin City University) and Áine Mangaoang’s (University of Oslo) take a big step toward answering that question in their newly published article “Sounding Dublin: Mapping Popular Music Experience in the City,” in the 18 June 2019 issue (Vol. 6, No.1) of Journal of World Popular Music.

“Sounding Dublin” is but one outcome of the larger project “The Dublin Music Map / Mapping Popular Music in Dublin,” which is best summarized on Mangaoang’s site, where you can also get free downloads of the “Mapping Popular Music in Dublin Executive Report (2016)” and the research-informed “Dublin Music Map (2016).” The new Journal of Popular Music issue is for sale, though many academics might have institutional access to the journal.

The abstract for “Sounding Dublin” reads as follows:

This article interrogates ideas of popular music “sound(s)” linked to place by interpreting data gathered during the applied research project Mapping Popular Music in Dublin (MPMiD) 2015-16. An outline background, rationale and framework for MPMiD is presented, followed by a review of methods developed and overall themes that emerged. Focusing on the project’s “Sounding Dublin” strand, the article analyses the responses of 366 participants from a section of MPMiD’s e-survey relating to music, musicians, sounds and soundtracks that might be considered “typical” (or otherwise) of Dublin. Although a substantial minority of participants eschew notions of sonic uniqueness linked to place in the abstract sense, the data reveal a rich tapestry of experiences and standpoints linked to ideas of a Dublin sound or sounds. Some appear to concur with conventional hagiographies of rock and folk, with others challenging received narratives and proposing alternative viewpoints, scenes and pathways. “Dublin-specific” associations emerging across various genres are based on appraisals of performer engagement, accent and timbre, and narrative/lyrical style.


2. The U2 Tours team of Aaron Govern, Brian Betteridge, John Cropp, and Ross Perry at ATU2.com have updated their excellent database with new research informed by weeks spent in the British Library on U2’s earliest years of live performances and tours. An introduction and summary of their research is in “We Still Haven’t Found What We’re Looking For: The Search for the Missing Setlists.”

From their report:

“During our deep and almost archaeological research, we discovered some gems. We believe this effort is the largest and most significant review of U2 shows ever undertaken, and has led to the largest discovery of new and unknown U2 live shows (in Ireland), and complete or partial set lists, in decades.”

British Library

Feedback from the U2 Conference 2018

Here’s what some of the delegates had to say:

The U2 conference exceeded my expectations.  Intelligent and challenging conversation with diverse people in a supportive atmosphere! One of my favorite conferences to present and attend!

— Brian Porter, 2018

It was the first time I’ve attended the U2 conference and the experience was wonderful. I’m looking forward to attending again (or there could be a conference in Mexico City!)

— Helena Torres, 2018

Speaking as a serious lifelong U2 fan, the 2018 U2 Conference gave me “something I can feel!” As an experienced academic who has attended many conferences, I have never attended one that provided the same level of intellectual (and even spiritual) excitement.

— Diane Pennington, 2018

The U2 Conference family is such a huge part of my tribe . . . it’s hard to put it into words. So grateful. Thank you.

— Lisa Marchal, 2018

The U2 conference was fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with other U2 fans in an environment that was both academic and social. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the non-academic programming such as the talk by Andy Rowen and the band December’s performance. I learned so much from the speakers and will be incorporating much of what I learned into my U2 class this fall.

— Dave Whitt, 2018

This is NOT your father’s conference. First-rate speakers and topics that are about more than just being a fan. This fan knows trivia about the band, but arrives at each conference knowing she’ll learn about music theory, sociology, theology, politics, art, statistics, and more. Can’t wait for the next one!

— Eileen S., 2018

Andy Rowen’s presentation was phenomenal and the highlight of the conference for me. Belfast was a stunning location–absolutely amazing city and area. It was (by far) one of the most memorable trips and enjoyable conferences I’ve ever attended.

— Kevin Ott, 2018

U2 Studies Alert | New book studying U2 and its fans on the JPMS list of New Books in Popular Music Studies (June 2019)

U2 Studies Alerts share opportunities for research, writing, learning, and participation in projects and events related to U2 and topics associated with U2 that might be of interest to fans, students and scholars. Alerts are collected from a variety of sources and archived and distributed by U2conference.com. Search this site for “U2 Studies Alert” to find more.

All needed details for each alert should be in the body text, but
contact U2conference.com if you need more information or have an item to share for a future alert.

The Journal of Popular Music Studies‘ guide to notable new music books is posted quarterly and the second installment is available here. The first installment (March 2019) is here.

The list is developed by the editors of the JPMS and announced prior to publication on the homepage for the International Association of Popular Music Studies-United States.

One new book studying U2 and its fans is on the June 2019 list:

Brian Johnston is visiting assistant professor in the Department of Media, Journalism and Film at Miami University.

Susan Mackey-Kallis is associate professor in the Department of Communication at Villanova University.

Several other books on the JPMS list might also be of interest to those working in the area of U2 Studies.

U2 Studies Alert | Research Query: Reading U2 Diffractively.

U2 Studies Alerts share opportunities for research, writing, learning, and participation in projects and events related to U2 and topics associated with U2 that might be of interest to fans, students and scholars. Alerts are collected from a variety of sources and archived and distributed by U2conference.com. Search this site for “U2 Studies Alert” to find more.

All needed details for each alert should be in the body text, but
contact U2conference.com if you need more information or have an item to share for a future alert.

Nathan Frank, doctoral student in English at the University of Virginia, is researching for his forthcoming chapter “Ontoflecting through U2,” contributed to Diffractive Reading, Ed. Kai Merten, Rowman & Littlefield (expected 2020).

He’s asking the U2 Studies community if you’ve ever read a study of U2 that employs “diffraction.” Contact Nathan directly through the link above to his UVA page if you have some information to share with him.

His proposed chapter was accepted in response to this CFP and he shares his proposal abstract here:

A B S T R A C T : “Ontoflecting through U2”
Nathan Frank

Innocence and experience: just as William Blake saw to it that his “songs” about each would have to be read through the other, so U2 rolls out a double album in which each installment converses with its other half; that is, it speaks to itself, and by doing so, it sets itself up such that its grounds and its figures are both coequal and reversible. Moreover, such textual democracy pulls listeners into the interpretive process: if innocence makes sense of experience, and vice versa, then together they also supply meaning for the listener who, from within the soundscape, hears herself, just as U2 hear themselves from within their own sonic creations, and just as I (in turn) read my own material situation from this theory that Songs of Innocence (2014) and Songs of Experience (2017) occasion. I propose to describe the dynamic at work here as one of “ontoflection,” a new sort of diffractive-flecting that is less re- or in-, and more directly experiential for all involved; less meta- and more -physical; in a word, more innocent precisely by dint of an experience that spans the rhetorical spectrum and which, therefore, has everything to do with the interactivity that subtends this spectrum.

U2 Studies Alert | CFP: FPRC Conference Fame and Fandom: Functioning On and Offline. Dec. 8-10, 2019. UWA, Perth, Western Australia.

U2 Studies Alerts share opportunities for research, writing, learning, and participation in projects and events related to U2 and topics associated with U2 that might be of interest to fans, students and scholars. Alerts are collected from a variety of sources and archived and distributed by U2conference.com. Search this site for “U2 Studies Alert” to find more.

All needed details for each alert should be in the body text, but
contact U2conference.com if you need more information or have an item to share for a future alert.


FPRC Conference Fame and Fandom: Functioning On and Offline
December 8-10, 2019
Perth, Western Australia
The University of Western Australia

Keynote speaker: Professor P. David Marshall.

Media is dependent on consumers. Celebrities are reliant on fans and mass media. One cannot exist without the other. However, in academia there is a divide between fan studies and celebrity studies. This conference aims to draw these fields together by uniting fan studies, celebrity studies, media, film and television, advertising, marketing, Internet studies, education, politics and any other field.

We invite you to look at what on and offline platforms offer fans and celebrities in terms of moments of interaction, presentation/shaping of persona (both fan and celebrity), and agency. How are fans consuming, creating and/or sharing content? Why are celebrities important to the fans? What can celebrity status achieve? Can they be activists, endorsers, promoters or more? What legacy do they leave behind? How can they influence change in society and politics? Does the Australian film and television industry differ to others? How does distance impact on Australian fans?

Attendees may present papers or create a roundtable discussion on the themes of celebrity, fandom, social media or Australian fan culture.

Roundtables you can apply to join include:

  • Reality Behind Reality TV – inviting actual reality TV stars to present their experiences
  • Manufacturing Minogue – discussing the fashion and brand behind Kylie Minogue
  • Discovering Disney: Fans as Creators

Potential roundtables you could form:

  • Michael Jackson: Falling Icon and Fighting Fans
  • Digital Distance: Bringing Australian fans closer
  • Diversity in Australian Television: Cleverman, Dead Lucky, East West 101

Or create your own theme and form a panel.

Extended versions of selected papers will be published in a peer-reviewed edited book by University of Iowa Press.

We will be holding an exclusive book launch as a part of our welcoming drinks on December 8, commencing 6pm at 399 Bar in Northbridge.

Registration includes: Your printed conference package, welcome drinks and food, catered lunch, coffee / tea breaks, eligibility to publish in edited book, and consideration for the best paper award. Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fame-and-fandom-functioning-on-and-offline-tickets-59682231160

Submission guidelines:

  • 200-word abstract or workshop / roundtable proposal
  • Include a title, your name, e-mail address, and affiliation if applicable
  • Submit to conference Chairs Dr Jackie Raphael and Dr Celia Lam at email address: cjcelebrityresearch@gmail.com
  • Deadline for abstract submission: June 17, 2019
  • Notification of acceptance: June 25, 2019
  • Early bird registrations open: June 25, 2019
  • Full text due: October 1, 2019
  • Pre-Conference reception and book launch: December 8, 2019 (6pm-11pm)
  • Conference presentations: December 9-10, 2019 (full days)
  • Estimated publication of edited book: 2021

Other topics include but are not limited to:

Fandom and Audiences
Fan Fiction
Celebrity – Fan Interaction
Fan Forums
Cosplay and conventions
Australian Fandom
Australian Television, Film and Music
Feminist Identities
Gender and Power
Race and Fandom
Whitewashing in Films
Celerity fall from Grace
Celebrity Activism and Philanthropy
Celebrity Endorsements and Advertising
Icons and Status
Branding and Identity
Politics and Leadership
Persona and Online Presence
Mass Media and Social Media
Celebrities online
Beauty Ideals, Pageants and Culture
Models as Role Models
Sporting Identities
Life After Sports
Literature and Photography
Film and Television
Laws and Policies
Ethics and Morality
Social Innovation and Change
Education and Advocacy

Conference Chairs: Dr Jackie Raphael and Dr Celia Lam
Conference Committee Members: Dr Renee Middlemost and A/Prof Ian Dixon

Keynote speaker Professor P. David Marshall holds a Professorship and Personal Chair in New Media, Communication and Cultural Studies at Deakin University in Melbourne Australia. He is the world-leading scholar in the study of celebrity and public personality systems.  Along with many articles and book chapters, Professor Marshall’s books include Persona Studies: An Introduction (2019), Advertising and Promotional Cultures: Case Histories (Palgrave, 2018), Celebrity and Power (Minnesota, 2nd edition 2014), Celebrity Persona Pandemic(Minnesota, 2016), New Media Cultures (Oxford Arnold, 2004), Web Theory (2003) and Fame Games (Cambridge, 2000). His edited or co-edited books include A Companion to Celebrity (Blackwell-Wiley, 2016), Contemporary Publics (Palgrave, 2016), and The Celebrity Culture Reader (Routledge, 2006). His current research has focussed on the concept of persona and the now associated sub-field of Persona Studies which investigates the strategic construction of the public display of the self, both in its online forms and in other transforming contexts.  His forthcoming research and publications include: the General Editor of the 6-volume Cultural History of Fame (for Bloomsbury Academic), the co-authored), and the future book Emoji Culture and Gestural Communication (McGill Queens University Press, 2020).  His expertise has led to interviews published in many newspapers including the New York TimesGlobe and Mail and the Sydney Morning Herald as well as appearances on other legacy media including the BBC, CNN, Fox News, the ABC and many other media outlets around the world. Professor Marshall has also appeared in the recent documentary film about celebrity called Big in Japan (2017). Along with occasionally publishing more journalistic articles and other media, he maintains a very intermittent personal blog at www.pdavidmarshall.com

U2 Conference 2018 Feedback Survey

We’re still collecting feedback from our 2018 delegates. If you’d like to share your thoughts and help us plan for an even better one next time, we have a very short survey here.

Also, if you have photos and/or videos of anything from the conference you’re willing to share, we’d love to add them to our Flickr albumPlease contact Conference Director Scott Calhoun if you’d like to submit your photos and/or videos.

U2 Conference 2018 Media Info Page

Contact: Conference Director Dr. Scott Calhoun

Twitter & Facebook

The U2 Conference 2018 will meet from 13-15 June, 2018, in Belfast at Queen’s University in partnerships with The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s, the National Museums of Northern Ireland, and Fitzroy Presbyterian Church.

Keynote speakers are Catherine Owens and Stuart Bailie, with presentations from special speakers  Shaughn McGrath, Steve Averill, Andy Rowen, Steve Stockman, Beth Nabi, John Brewer, Fiona MacGowan, and the band December.

Scholars, academics and critics coming from seven nations will deliver over 24 individual presentations, arranged into eight panels, happening over two and a half days.

Sessions are designed to appeal to academic and general audiences on the theme U2: POPVision. As the conference theme, U2: POPVision invites investigating, articulating and critiquing the guiding visions specific to U2’s Pop era of 1997-98 for their efficacy then and now, as well as welcoming an examination of popular music’s power to cast visions that shape its own narrative and construct and complicate larger cultural conversations, in which U2’s visions have long been engaged.

As Belfast marks in 2018 the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement – a major step as a peaceful agreement to seek non-violent resolutions to many conflicts in Northern Ireland, and an agreement which U2 publicly supported – the conference theme U2: POPVision further communicates the interest in studying how U2’s artistic visions help or hinder peace building, resolving personal and societal conflicts, and envisioning a more just, equitable and joyful world. An important theme of the conference is thus the wider relationship between music, art and peace building.

Keynote Speakers

Special Guests

U2 Conference 2018 Logos and Info Graphics

Paper Summaries @ U2 Conference 2018

We are looking forward to hearing 24 presentations grouped into eight sessions spread over two and a half days at the U2 Conference 2018. Listed below are the panel titles and individual presentation titles, with brief summaries of the presentations supplied by each speaker. The full program is posted on our program page. All sessions are open to all conference registrants.

14 JUNE 2018, THURSDAY
8:45 – 10:00 am: Panel Sessions 1A & 1B
Queen’s University

Panel Session 1A: “Don’t You Wonder Sometimes?” Sound and PopVision
Session Chair: Angela Pancella

Pop’s Music Videos
Dr. Jonathan Hodgers
Popular Music Lecturer
Trinity College
Dublin, Ireland

This presentation explores how Pop’s music videos reflect the album’s themes. These promotional vidoes provide an outlet for the songs’ paradoxes and contradictions. They enhance tracks such as “Discotheque” and offer intriguing meditations on tracks such as “Please,” but also settle for comparatively straightforward interpretations such as for “Staring at the Sun.” The discussion also compares Pop’s videos with their antecedents. On occasion, Pop’s promotionals revisit styles found in earlier U2 videos and update them to reflect the band’s aesthetic circa 1997.  The Pop video series showcases a curious mix of conservative and progressive modes, and as such provides an apt reflection of the album.

“And What You Leave Behind You Don’t Miss Anyway”: U2’s Pop and the Pop Art Aesthetic
Dr. Kimberly Mack
Assistant Professor of African American Literature
Department of English Language and Literature, The University of Toledo
Toledo, Ohio, USA

Repetition and revision is a notable feature of Pop Art, with Andy Warhol’s repeated Campbell’s Soup cans and images of Marilyn Monroe serving as striking examples. In Pop Art, sometimes the recurring images are not identical, but instead reflect relatively minor differences in color or size. U2 revised and re-recorded “Last Night on Earth” three times: the original album version, the single, and the “First Night in Hell” mix, a dance remix that bears no resemblance to the other two versions. While the differences between the repetitive visual images in Pop Art are usually minor, the third iteration of “Last Night on Earth” reflects a major change in style and form. Using musical excerpts from all three of the band’s interpretations of “Last Night on Earth,” my presentation will argue that U2 takes an expansive approach to Pop Art repetition, connecting Pop to Pop Art through structure, form, and postmodern play.

“Lookin’ for a sound that’s gonna drown out the world”: Resolving Musical Emotional Ambiguity in U2’s POPVision
Dr. Diane M. Rasmussen Pennington
Lecturer in Information Science
Lead, Information Engagement Research Area, Strathclyde iSchool Research Group (SiSRG)
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow, Scotland

Semantic ambiguity complicates finding desired information. Additionally, the same music elicits different emotions in different people, which makes it difficult to find music online that meets our emotional desires. I operationalise this as “musical emotional ambiguity.” U2’s musical emotional ambiguity is especially complex, as any fan can attest. In this presentation, I will disambiguate the emotion of U2’s PopVision using multimodal analysis of music, lyrics, videos, and live concerts from Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop, 1990s world events, interviews, reviews, paraphernalia, and fandom discussions. Can we agree on how PopVision and its artefacts make us feel?

****

Panel Session 1B: “Take This Tangle of a Conversation, Turn It into Your Own Prayer”
Session Chair: Helena Torres Montes García

A Table in the Presence of My Enemies: Pop as “Songs of Descent”
Dr. Richard S. Briggs
Lecturer in Old Testament and Director of Biblical Studies
Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College
Durham University, England

I explore Pop as a series of “poems” that consider the world “in the presence of (my) enemies,” as Psalm 23 puts it. But who are Pop’s enemies? I suggest the album lacks focus on this crucial question, and blurs the line between focusing on God’s enemies (classically: sin, death and the devil), and focusing on how evil is manifest in human life and relationships instead. The album ends up descending into darkness with no clear path available for a corresponding ascent. This sits uneasily with U2’s classic approach, hence the various ambiguities and awkwardness of the PopMart concerts.

The Urban Landscape of U2
Revd Mark Meynell
Independent writer and Cultural Critic
London, UK

Dublin, New York, Belfast, Berlin, London, Paris … and Miami. U2 invariably depicts gritty urban landscapes. If we escape city limits, it’s usually to a desert expanse. It’s hard to picture U2 anywhere other than bathed in neon on the mean streets or even urban warzones (like Dublin in the 70s or Sarajevo in 90s). In U2’s pleading for “God to send his angels,” while “hangin’ round this neighbourhood … THE HIGH STREET never looked so low.” When not actually “Staring at the Sun,” “intransigence is all around … military is still in town.” The surprise is not simply that U2 thrive here, but that they meet God here. These cities bring theophanies. Could this be one reason for U2’s extraordinary spiritual influence? They not only articulate many people’s urban experience, they introduce them to God in it.

U2’s Pop:  A Maturation and Crisis of Faith
Dr. Brian E. Porter
Professor of Management
Department of Economics and Business
Hope College
Holland, Michigan, USA

The songs on Pop address faith and its complications, expressing that neither faith nor God are simple, but instead highly nuanced ideas.  Doubt, questions, uncertainty, and struggles are consistent themes throughout Pop. A sophisticated awareness of God necessitates grappling.  Progression and growth of faith continue on future U2 releases up to their most recent Songs of Experience (influenced by Bono’s near-extinction event).  This presentation will focus on the songs of Pop demonstrating both the crisis and maturation of faith and discuss that the two are complementary. A context of where U2 (and Bono) were at previously and where they have progressed since, with faith, will be presented.

10:45 am – 12:00 pm: Panel Sessions 2A & 2B
Queen’s University

Panel Session 2A: “Got the Swing, Got the Sway, Got My Straw in Lemonade”
Session Chair: Chris Endrinal

Counterpoint and Expression in the Music of U2
Dr. Timothy Koozin
Professor and Division Chair of Music Theory
Moores School of Music, University of Houston
Houston, Texas, USA

This presentation examines counterpoint in the music of U2 from the perspective of embodied musical gesture, showing how vocal and instrumental gestures are combined freely – without strict contrapuntal alignment – to form a unique gestural approach that engages with lyrics to project U2’s distinctive sound. A focus on guitar and vocal gestures in U2’s music shows how material projecting different and even conflicting gestural implications provides a framework for creativity that the band has consistently leveraged through their various changes in style as a means to expressively mediate between the romantic inner world of the artist and an oppressive societal world.

“Already Gone”: How U2’s Use of the Harmonic Series in “Gone” Expresses in Musical Language the Searching, Restless Cross-Pressures of Postmodern Culture
Kevin Ott
Independent Scholar
Shafter, California, USA

Philosopher Charles Taylor describes the secular age as a middle space that produces tremendous cross-pressures between transcendence and immanence. On one side the longing for transcendence tugs at us while the day-to-day wants of immanence pull hard from the other side. U2’s “Gone” uses the colossal structure of the harmonic series to capture this experience. The massive physicality of the music, its rumbling lows and screaming whammy pedal highs, bears down on Bono’s restless melody with insupportable weight. He’s trying to find a way through the canyon of cross-pressures, and we’re following hard after him.

“Electric Blues Death Rattle”: Wisdom Literature and Ecclesiastical Visions in U2’s Pop
Dr. Dan Pinkston
Professor of Music Theory and Composition
Simpson University
Redding, California, USA

“All is Vanity.” So begins the book of Ecclesiastes.  This ancient wisdom echoes through the ages, influencing a myriad of philosophers and theologians … even the biggest rock’n’roll band in the world.  U2’s albums in the mid-1990s showed a departure from the optimism of their 80s output. Pop, the last of these albums, is examined in this paper as a form of wisdom literature, functioning in a manner that is analogous to the Biblical books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms.  Songs from this album will be explored in the ways they express dissatisfaction, doubts, and anger.

****

Panel Session 2B: “And You Know There’s Something More”: The Art and Soul of Pop
Session Chair:  David Whitt

A “Bogus Brand”: The Popular and UnPOPular Iconography of U2 Fan Tattoos
Beth Nabi
Associate Professor of Graphic Design and Digital Media
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, Florida, USA

Pop is one of U2’s most visually stunning endeavors, from album art and videos to tour stages and screen graphics, and hosts some of Bono’s most profound and spiritual songs. Yet the album is unpopular in the context of U2 fan tattoos. Fan tattoos merge counterculture and commercialization in the same Pop Art spirit invoked on Pop, as the band played in the tangles of art and commerce, artifice and sincerity, commercial brand and personal identity. Analyzing data from more than 500 fan tattoos, this presentation explores the allure of the most popular symbols and Pop’s noticeable absence from them.

Conversing with the Willfully Polarised: A Multimodal Analysis of “Please”
Dr. Christopher Wales
Associate Professor
Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication, NLA University College
Kristiansand, Norway

Pop’s penultimate song, “Please,” is bounded by the complexities of a fragile peace process, compounded by a broken ceasefire, heightened tension and increasingly sharpened rhetoric of polarisation. Willful polarisation. “Please” will be examined and explored through multimodal discourse analysis of various recorded and live versions of the track. Noting its direct and stinging focus, and “one-sided” conversational form, I will explore issues of identity and the temporal, while also focusing more closely on the frames of place and space (Marzierska, 2017). Consideration will also made of how the song once again resonates in the current climate of willful polarisation.

U2’s Concerts as Contemporary Spectacle: Hyper-reality vs. Authenticity
Dr. Michael Williams
Senior Lecturer and Course Leader
University of Brighton
Brighton, UK

U2 appear to intentionally exploit the spectacle to connect with and engage their global audiences. This suggests hyper-reality is an important part of the spectacle of U2’s shows, in terms of the band and their producer’s use of images to create an experience that escapes reality. Despite this, for some fans, the hyper-reality of U2’s shows detracts from the authenticity of the band’s performance and therefore their enjoyment of the shows. This paper examines the tension between the U2’s desire to create an authentic spectacle, ‘free of irony’, and the mediated ‘hyper-real’ experience that is necessitated by the scale of their shows (Jones, 2012).

15 JUNE 2018, FRIDAY

8:45 – 10:00 am: Panel Sessions 3A & 3B
Queen’s University

Panel 3A: “Wanting to Be the Song That You Hear in Your Head”
Session Chair: Jan Vierhout

Pop and the Prequels: A Case for the Necessity of These Pariahs
Dr. Christopher Endrinal
Assistant Professor of Music
Bower School of Music and the Arts, Florida Gulf Coast University
Fort Myers, Florida, USA

While superficially disparate, U2’s Pop album and the Star Wars “prequel” trilogy (Episode I: The Phantom Menace; Episode II: Attack of the Clones; Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) share a dubious distinction: Many critics and fans consider each the nadir of its respective franchise. This presentation explores these works and their reception, and argues that they were actually necessary for each franchise’s continued cultural relevance, critical acclaim, and financial success.

A Reinterpretation of U2’s Discography: Pop as a Transition Album
Dr. Helena Torres Montes García
Professor
Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey
Mexico City, Mexico

This presentation proposes the division of U2’s discography into eras. As such, Pop would be the pinnacle of an era, and the album that eased the transition into U2’s next incarnation. Pop, as an album, has been criticized, but this presentation aims to prove that this was the album that foreshadowed the U2 of the 2000s.

***

Panel 3B: Pop and the Preachers: “Is There An Order In All Of This Disorder?”
Session Chair: Tim Neufeld

Psalms of Experience: Prayers and Protests From The Boot Of Your Car
Micheal Felker
Lead Pastor
Lakeside Church of Christ
Mansfield, Texas, USA

In the Hebrew Bible there is a collection of promptings, poems, and prayers known as the Psalms of Lament that are designated by their focus on helping bring hope in the life of an individual, of a nation, or a particular group caught in the midst of trials and tribulations. U2 has always used their music to both speak truth to the powers of injustice and sing grace to pain. Pop is their master opus in this endeavor. On this album, U2 appropriates the words and images of Lament to give voice to grief and bring life to despair. Join us for a discussion of Lament, U2’s use of lament in the era of Pop, and where lament can lead us once we get up off our knees.

The Endings of Pop: Benediction, Lullaby or Lament?
Rev. Dr. Steve Taylor
Principal
Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Knox College
Dunedin, New Zealand

U2 are performance artists. They shuffle songs, insert visuals and craft snippets in the name of peace. This helps us understand “Wake Up Dead Man,” the song ending Pop. The album begins with “Discoteque” – everybody having a good time – yet ends with a song in which a profane lyric speaks of divine absence. Live, during the PopMart tour, “Wake Up Dead Man,” is performed as an ending. Is this a benediction, an invoking of divine sending? Yet midway through the later Elevation tour, “Wake Up Dead Man” is played mid-show, between “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “One.” Is this a lament? How might such performances contrast with the lullaby-like “MLK,” another album-ending song for a dead man? This talk includes #U2lyricbingo

Escape from the “Playboy Mansion”: U2, Me Too, and Masculinity
Andrew William Smith
Instructor of English and Religious Studies
Tennessee Tech University
Cookeville, Tennessee, USA

Is there a masculinity after toxic masculinity? Borrowing perspectives from feminism, men’s studies, and theology, this paper will look primarily at lyrics and images of U2 in the Pop era to reclaim and recover a tentative gender theory for U2 fans and scholars in the wake of the #MeToo movement and moment. Come look, come learn, and come listen to what Bono’s eschatological coda to “Playboy Mansion” has to say about the divine promise of a time without shame and sorrow, through and beyond the shameful status of gender relations in 2018.

10:45 am – 12:00 pm: Panel Sessions 4A & 4B
Queen’s University

Panel 4A: “Returning the Call to Home”
Session Chair: Chris Wales

Mother and Muse: The Voice of Iris
Dr. Stephen Newman
Lecturer, Department of Irish
Mary Immaculate College
Limerick, Ireland

At the heart of U2’s foundation myth is the death of Iris: “This was where a certain life-force gathered pace in me, when a certain defiance began” (Bono, Songs of Experience). This paper will explore the expression of grief in U2’s music and to what extent it relates to traditional connections between music, death and the grieving process, especially in an Irish context. She is the absent mother of “I Will Follow” and “Tomorrow,” the muse-like figure of “Lemon.” In “MOFO,” the singer, astray in a crazy Popscape, calls for her guidance. In “Iris,” memory recaptures her, a reunion of sorts, her voice emerges, still present in “Lights of Home,” Bono’s reflection on a near-death experience.

U2 and Nostalgia: Running to Stand Still or the Start of a Beautiful Day?
Madison Vardeman
Independent Scholar
Keller, Texas, USA

Within the realm of communication studies, the topic of nostalgia is often viewed in a negative light. This is due to its tendency to glorify a troubled past which allows for the potential to recreate similar issues in the future. In this presentation, I will analyze U2’s Joshua Tree Tour 2017 concert in Dallas, TX to prove that a nostalgic framework can be used in a way that does not solely glorify the past. I argue that this can be accomplished by applying the principles of Affect Theory and Aristotle’s emotional appeals to place focus on the emotional reactions that nostalgia elicits rather than focusing on the memories of the past events that are associated with the original Joshua Tree album and tour.

U2 in the Classroom: The Teacher Perspective
Dr. Dave Whitt
Professor of Communication Studies
Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

Since 2015, I have taught a course on U2 titled Songs of Ascent: The Music and Meaning of U2. I will discuss how the course has evolved over the past several years in terms of content, assignments and discussions, as well as the challenges and success stories teaching a class on U2.

U2 in the Classroom: The Student Perspective
Georgia Straka
Psychology Major and Communication Studies Minor
Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

As a former student in Songs of Ascent: The Music and Meaning of U2, I will share my thoughts about the course, what I learned, and how this experience will prepare me for being a teaching assistant in the class this fall.

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Panel 4B: “Listen As Hope and Peace Try to Rhyme”
Session Chair: Naomi Dinnen

Escape from the “Playboy Mansion”: U2, Me Too, and Masculinity
Andrew William Smith
Instructor of English and Religious Studies
Tennessee Tech University
Cookeville, Tennessee, USA

Is there a masculinity after toxic masculinity? Borrowing perspectives from feminism, men’s studies, and theology, this paper will look primarily at lyrics and images of U2 in the Pop era to reclaim and recover a tentative gender theory for U2 fans and scholars in the wake of the #MeToo movement and moment. Come look, come learn, and come listen to what Bono’s eschatological coda to “Playboy Mansion” has to say about the divine promise of a time without shame and sorrow, through and beyond the shameful status of gender relations in 2018.

“The Less You Know, The More You Believe”: The Dilemma of Pop Activism in the Case of Aung San Suu Kyi
Dr. Tim Neufeld
Professor, Biblical and Religious Studies
Fresno Pacific University
Fresno, California, USA

U2’s interest in social activism during the 1990s prepared them for an enthusiastic reception of the Suu Kyi story on a scale that was unique to rock ’n’ roll culture. The band became more than advocates; U2’s members passionately entered the narrative, moving beyond the one-off strategies of earlier decades, inspiring legions of fans to do the same. However, the experience has, of late, revealed blind spots in Western activism, celebrity advocacy, and fan-based social movements. Suu Kyi’s fall from celebrated humanitarian to international despot is sobering. The band’s failed relationship with her reminds us that philanthropists can miss important signals in their attempts to be benevolent.

1:30 – 2:30 pm: “Like Faith Needs a Doubt”: An Interactive Exploration of Theist/Non-Theist Dialogue, led by  Angela Pancella, Independent Scholar, Norwood, Ohio, USA
Fitzroy Presbyterian Church
Session Chair: Micheal Felker

An increasing number of people have a non-theistic worldview. As the culture becomes more diverse, there is a need for models of engagement where differing perspectives are treated with respect. U2 have demonstrated a talent for maintaining dialogue across a theist/non-theist divide. Participants in this gathering will respond to U2 songs that say “I don’t believe,” “I could never believe” and “Don’t believe what you hear.” We will explore how terms like “believe” can be used for vastly different experiences, and how this ambiguity keeps the possibilities of interpretation open for listeners with diverse worldviews.

“The God I Believe In Isn’t Short Of Cash, Mister”: Bono’s Timeless Exposé

Edge and Bono performing on the Joshua Tree tour at the St. Paul Civic Center in 1987. Photo credit: Joey McLeister, StarTribune/Minnesota Historical Society

Last week, the New York Times Magazine reported its major exposé How Liberty University Built a Billion-Dollar Empire Online, which has several observations and explanations that overlap with Adam Laats’ new, insightful study Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education (Oxford UP, 2018). As good as the NYT’s reporting was, Laats still picked up on What They Missed About Liberty Online.

Last month, I was invited to write about U2’s critique of fundamentalism and the religious appeal U2 has for many fans — specifically evangelical American Christians — by the blog Righting America at the Creation Museum.  Bloomsbury had just published U2 and The Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher, a contributed collection of essays I had edited, and the idea was to elaborate on Randall J. Stephens’ statement in an interview he gave to the RACM blog that “[i]n some ways Bono is a kind of patron saint” for a new generation of evangelicals who have turned from “red-meat conservative issues” toward wanting to be more culturally and socially aware Christians. Stephens’ had recently published The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ‘N’ Roll (Harvard UP, 2018) and his Part One and Part Two interviews are wonderful.

Rather than summarizing my RACM posts here, I’ll point you to read “U2 and the Limits of Fundamentalism” Part One and Part Two, in which I mentioned Bono’s commentary on the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. when performing U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” on the Joshua Tree tour in 1987. All this to say, when it comes to exposing flock-fleecing fundamentalists, even though Bono said it over 30-years ago I think he’s still said it best:

I can’t tell the difference between ABC NewsHillstreet Blues and a preacher on the Old-Time Gospel Hour stealing money from the sick and the old. Well, the God I believe in isn’t short of cash, mister.

— Scott Calhoun

                                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaughn McGrath and Steve Averill: “Pop in the Age of Experience,” at the U2 Conference 2018

Shaughn McGrath and Steve Averill: Pop in the Age of Experience

Shaughn McGrath

Right out of college, Shaughn McGrath joined a young design studio in Dublin called Works Associates run by Steve Averill. The studio worked with many young Irish bands and artists, such as Clannad, Something Happens, A House, and U2. Later clients were PJ Harvey, Depeche Mode, Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, and Art of Noise. The name above the doors changed to ABA, Four5One and then AMP Visual, which McGrath formed in 2010. AMP is a multi-specialised creative design studio, developing integrated creative solutions for international brands in the corporate and entertainment sectors. It specializes in corporate identity and brand development, music and merchandising design, both for large brands and re-branding roll-outs for boutique and bespoke design projects.

McGrath has designed for U2 continuously since Achtung Baby in 1990, developing a close working relationship involving creating comprehensive promotional campaigns and advertising, books, special packaging, and tour merchandising, not to mention working on all of U2’s albums and singles since 1990. For U2, the design process begins with the music and as the music is refined during the recording, the graphics also change. The final design comes together after the band and the creative team discuss all aspects of the project. He appreciates the unusual longevity he has had career-wise in working with U2 as a client for nearly 30 years.

Pop was the first time McGrath took on a complete U2 campaign. Pop allowed for a wide creative scope with references to the graphic Pop Art world in general with its layouts, colour palettes and iconography, which McGrath had fun expanding upon for U2. Because of the breadth of the entire campaign, from album packaging, the tour merchandising and the subsequent promotion and advertising, it was a year and half of constant work. Creatively, Pop took a long time to figure out, both for the band and consequently for McGrath. It gave him the opportunity to explore numerous different creative processes, learn all-new aspects of graphic design, and produce some nice work along the way.

“I approach my work for U2 with enthusiasm and conviction. Each project should be seen as an opportunity to push boundaries and create distinctive and engaging work. I’m driven by a sense of responsibility to the band and the fans, and to the environments where the work is ultimately seen and hopefully enjoyed,” McGrath says.

McGrath has also served as a judge on several design awards panels and lectures internationally on his work and the design industry.

Steve Averill

As a teenager two things were of primary interest to Stephen Averill: music and graphics; and from early on he sought ways to combine the two. The first real opportunity to bring them together came when he founded The Radiators From Space and designed their first single cover which was instrumental in getting the band a record deal. This, in turn, led to an approach from a young bass player named Adam Clayton seeking advice for his band, then know as The Hype. An early Averill suggestion was to change that name. His suggestion was U2. The band won a competition under that name and so stuck with it. The rest of their history since then is fairly well-known!

Averill began his career in the creative industry as a advertising art director. He eventually became the creative director of an upcoming agency before setting up a dedicated design consultancy that specialized in entertainment and music industry projects. During the 1980s and ’90s, they worked with most of the best Irish-based acts, including The Script, The Dubliners, The Hothouse Flowers, Aslan, Cactus World News, Clannad and more recently with Luka Bloom and Finbar Furey.

Some international clients with whom the has worked have included Elvis Costello (when he was an Irish resident), Depeche Mode, The Mavericks and Dierks Bentley and renowned photographers including Anton Corbijn, Jill Furmanovsky, Brian Griffen as well as Irish based photographers Amelia Stein and Conor Horgan. There have also been a host of UK and Irish bands and solo artists since that time.

In recent times since retiring from AMP Visual, Averill has continued using his graphic design skills to work with a specialist not-for-profit project called Bí URBAN a retail/teaching/workspace in Stonybatter in the heart of Dublin, where he recently had an exhibition of six limited edition prints of photographs he took during the shoot for the Joshua Tree album in 1986. This was titled Death Valley 86.

Averill, under his stage name of Steve Rapid, continues to perform with his Radiators from Space colleagues as Trouble Pilgrims. The band recently released their debut CD Dark Shadows and Rust. He continues to perform with that band and to work with upcoming musicians as a consultant and designer.

The U2 Conference logo and site design by Beth Nabi.