'One' for Art's Sake
With American Idol over until January, I'm going through a little withdrawal. To help get me through it, I've been listening to my Elliott Yamin mp3s. My new favorite is Elliott's finale night duet with Mary J. Blige. The two of them sing U2's "One". And while the performance makes me think Elliott was robbed, it also reminds me of how much I love that song.
While there are a lot of theories about what "One" is really about, the idea I like that best is that at least part of the song is about the band itself. If that's true, then I think these are nearly perfect lyrics:
but we're not the same
we get to
carry each other
In Bono's hands, the song is like a plea. He's asking that we live up to this ideal of love. In cover versions, however, the meaning of the song changes drastically. Mary J. Blige sings it like it's another "he done me wrong" song. She's defiant. Johnny Cash, on the other hand, sings it with the wisdom of someone who's been around the block a few times. He's had real love and he's not going to worry so much about other people not accepting him. What does he care? He's frickin' Johnny Cash. With "One" the song is in the hands of the singer and that makes me like it even more.
My question is this: is a work of art greater when it's open for interpretation (like "One") or is it greater when an artist creates something that communicates a universal truth? I can arguments for each. Art that makes you wonder what it's really about draws you and makes you think. But art that expresses a singular idea is probably more powerful. I don't know which one I prefer. I think my answer is probably "it depends". I'd love to hear what other people think.
Posted by at May 30, 2006 07:13 AM
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|# May 30th, 2006 9:59 AM cherlynda|
|Well I think that One has one great message. That is in the lyric we get to carry each other. Bono sees taking care of our fellow man as a privledge not some job or others guilting you into it. Being here to help others is a gift in his eyes. Thats how I always think of that song no matter who sings it...but I prefer Bono |
|# May 30th, 2006 10:00 AM TheUnabrewer|
|I can go either way, but what I hate is when something is interpreted in entirely the wrong way, like the "Runaway Train" video from Soul Asylum. |
|# May 30th, 2006 10:02 AM kris|
I like the "we get to carry each other" line the best too. You're right that the key is the word "get". That's what makes the song more meaningful to me.
|# May 30th, 2006 10:10 AM kris|
How do you know that it was interpreted incorrectly? I guess that's another question-who "owns" the interpretation? Once they put something out in public, does the artist own the meaning or do we all get to interpret it for ourselves?