Bono Says Rock Is Too “Girly” These Days. How Wrong Is He?



It’s not the first time Bono has gotten into hot water for saying something dumb and it probably won’t be the last. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone the U2 frontman dished out tired bon mots Rock Star-style on a number of subjects, and here is what he had to say when asked about the current state of Rock Music:

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. 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. The moment something becomes preserved, it is fucking over. You might as well put it in formaldehyde. 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 has that rage… It will return.

Needless to say, Bono got raked over the coals for using the word “girly”. How tone deaf must one be to use that word in 2018? And to quickly add that “there are some good things about” girly music just sounds so damn patronizing. But is there any merit at all to what he is saying? Well, maybe.

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If he is saying that there is not enough loud, powerful, angry Rock these days I would tend to agree with him. Rock is going through a phase where there is a lot of sonic experimentation going on, and there’s a lot of introspection, and a lot of pop styling. Those have always been fundamental elements of Rock Music, just as fundamental as loud angry guitars, so it comes down to what he sees as an imbalance between these styles. But it is a temporary imbalance, just a phase, and he acknowledges as much. Rock’s history teaches us that loud angry guitars will always go in and out of style, and if this is the point he’s making then it’s a good one, albeit clumsily put.

But if he is saying it has anything at all to do with gender he is completely out to lunch. Why does it have to be male anger that drives loud, guitar-driven Rock? What, do women not get angry nor know how to play guitars loud? Has he never heard Charly Bliss? Women and men are both capable of making any kind of music. And if experimental, introspective or poppy music was girly, then the Beatles were girly, and surely not even Bono is dumb enough to say that.

Photo: By Daniel Hazard (http://u2start.com/photos/view/29157/) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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