Daily Song Study

U2 – All I Want Is You

In songs on August 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm

It would seem axiomatic that a simple song should have a simple arrangement. But often this logic is confuted, and a very basic song becomes amazingly complex. U2 is one of the bands who is best at this trick, not least on this track from 1988. There are only four chords in the song, but with the help of string arranger Van Dyke Parks, Heartbreakers’ keyboardist Benmont Tench, and some trademark atmospheric Edge guitar, it becomes a worthy end credits theme for their concert film Rattle & Hum.

While it is certainly possible to ruin a simple song with instrumental bloat, it is also intriguing to explore possibilities that less ambitious arrangers may have missed through reflexive assumption. It’s a bit like watching Bob Ross paint. At first it’s a simple tree and water scene, and you say “Oh, that’s nice,” and then he goes and puts a big black line through it. Your first reaction is to jump up and try to stop him, but then it becomes clear that he’s adding another layer that makes it far more interesting. You can always stop at the logical place. But what happens when you don’t?
  1. Bloody well written take on the song.

  2. […] song into new territory. It’s another good example of creating complexity out of simplicity, as discussed here before. There are good and bad ways to do that, and I’d place this well into the former category. […]

  3. […] is nominally Christian bucking the constraints of the “Christian rock” box. Much like U2, the sound comes before the message, as it should in any tune wishing to make a point. […]

  4. […] record. There are certain artists who are better at it than others (Genesis comes to mind, as does U2). It is a dying art, although as a poor musician I certainly see the value in being able to release […]

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