Single Review: U2 “Vertigo”

Album: How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
Year: 2004

Almost every pop singer and band from the early 80s has faded into obscurity. Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and U2 are the survivors of the decade. U2, the only band, have managed to stay relevant by consistently changing their sound and knowing their audience.

The 1997 album “Pop” saw U2 experiment with techno whearas 1993’s “Zooropa” found the band mocking commercialism while reveling in its tackiness. With their original fanbase older adults, U2 maintains their official site with explanations about all their singles and an interactive timeline, and past tours. For the newer fans, there are videos, messages boards, photos and downloads.

In “Vertigo,” Bono is disoriented in a strange world. When he first enters, it’s night and the city has shut down. Not knowing what the city is about, he’s functioning on only instinct. He’s not relying on his mind to get him through the streets. (“Lights go down, it’s dark/The jungle is your head/Can’t rule your heart/a feeling is so much stronger than a thought”). He’s with someone, though. He talks about the person in an innocent, loving way. He does want this person (now assumed to be a girl he likes) to be corrupted by whatever they place they landed in. (“Your eyes are wide/And though your soul/It can’t be bought/Your mind can wander”). He’s afraid she might be tempted, though.

Bono announces he’s in Vertigo. It’s a place which is revealing his secrets and he’d rather leave. (“Hello hello/I’m at a place called Vertigo/It’s everything I wish I didn’t know/Except you give me something I can feel, feel”). But the girl he likes is encouraging him and giving him confidence.

Vertigo is violent and at war (“The night is full of holes/As bullets rip the sky/Of ink with gold”). Nonetheless, he sees a male rock band playing a concert in the middle of it. (“Boys play rock and roll/They know they can’t dance/At least they know….”). He doesn’t like the music and now finds himself at the concert. He sees a girl with a crucifix around her neck. In Vertigo, God is a trend, an accessory to go with an outfit.

His subconcious tells him he has found his home. It’s a place of instant gratification and hedonism. All Bono has to do is say yes and he will be there forever. (“check mated/hours of fun/all of this can be yours/just give me what I want and no one gets hurt”).

He doesn’t want to stay there. He wants to go home with the girl he likes. He’s found the faith in himself necessary to get out of there. (“We’re at a place called Vertigo/Lights go down and all I know/Is that you give me something/I can feel your love teaching me how/Your love is teaching me how, how to kneel…”).

In my humble opinion, Vertigo stands for another side of Bono. The part of him which would rather party, never thinks about consequences, faithless, and selfish. It’s a side he rather not return to. Instead he’s showing the girl he likes as if to say “this is who I could become at anytime. Please help.”


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