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U2 Stopped Working on ‘Songs of Experience’ Because of Donald Trump

Kevin Winter / Mark Wilson, Getty Images
Kevin Winter / Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Earlier today, U2 announced a tour recognizing the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree. But the decision to spotlight their landmark 1987 album is coming at the expense of releasing their next record, Songs of Experience. In a new interview, guitarist the Edge discusses how the decision to return to their past was inspired by the election of Donald Trump.

As he told Rolling Stone, they “were pretty much complete with [Songs of Experience] after a couple of weeks of the final touches leading up to the end of the year. And then the election [happened] and suddenly the world changed. We just went, ‘Hold on a second – we’ve got to give ourselves a moment to think about this record and about how it relates to what’s going on in the world.’ That’s because it was written mostly, I mean, 80 percent of it was started before 2016, but most of it was written in the early part of 2016, and now, as I think you’d agree, the world is a different place.”

For the Edge, the election of Trump caused them to see a parallel between the world they wrote about 30 years ago and the world today. “That record was written in the mid-’80s, during the Reagan-Thatcher era of British and U.S. politics,” he added. “It was a period when there was a lot of unrest. Thatcher was in the throes of trying to put down the miners’ strike; there was all kinds of shenanigans going on in Central America. It feels like we’re right back there in a way. I don’t think any of our work has ever come full circle to that extent. It just felt like, ‘Wow, these songs have a new meaning and a new resonance today that they didn’t have three years ago, four years ago.’ And so it was kind of serendipitous, really, just the realization that we needed to put the album on ice for a minute just to really think about it one more time before putting it out, just to make sure that it really was what we wanted to say.”

But they still plan to continue with the idea of Songs of Experience as a companion to 2014’s Songs of Innocence, even if some of the material may change. “[W]e definitely want to take this opportunity to think about it, make sure it’s really what we want to put out given the changes that have occurred in the world,” he continued. “And maybe a little will change, but we absolutely wanted to take that chance just to reconsider everything. And who knows? We may even write a couple of new songs because that’s the very position we’re in. We’ve given ourselves a little bit of breathing space for creativity.”

Another aspect of Songs of Experience that has not yet been determined is how they plan to distribute it. Songs of Innocence seemingly gained more press for the manner in which they released it, with an automatic download to all iTunes users, than its content. The Edge joked about what they would do for an encore. “My plan is that Bono and I would sneak into everyone’s house and put a CD under their pillow. But unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be getting much support from the rest of the band.”

U2’s The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 kicks off May 12 in Vancouver, B.C. You can see all the dates here.

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