“Songs of Surrender” - U2 Album Review

Story posted March 21, 2023 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by Logan M. Sharp

The old is new again. After six years, U2 finally returns to the markets with a brand-new album, “Songs of Surrender.” This is no ordinary album, however, because it presents no new material, and is instead a giant remake of their former work.

“Songs of Surrender" features select U2 songs from the 1980s to the 2010s but re-recorded for a new interpretation of “what they would sound like in the modern day.”

In return, this re-interpretation is a mixed bag of results, but with mostly bad outcomes. “Songs of Surrender” is the 15th studio album in U2’s discography, and the only one to be a re-recording of older music.

Because “Songs of Surrender” are remakes of past works, the lyrics of the older songs do not change (with one exception).

However, the context of the original songs and atmosphere of the older releases is the main thing that changed. Gone is the excellent ambience of “Where the Streets Have No Name,” and “Walk On” has been altered to be a political song for Ukraine.

"Red Hill Mining Town” sounds particularly bad, with an out-of-place trumpet arrangement. Additionally, almost all the tracks have been stripped in exchange for simple acoustic guitar strings.

Gone are the awesome guitar riffs from The Edge that helped make U2 a distinct sound and gone are the rhythmic beats of anthems like “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Instead, the remakes are in a softer, quieter (often boring) mood.

This might work for some tracks and some listeners might appreciate this change, but it can ruin the point of what made the original selections special.

“Songs of Surrender” is something that might please casual listeners, but hardcore fans are going to be protective over the original “works of art” and point out the obvious problems inherited with this album.

It should also be noted that “Every Breaking Wave” does not sound too bad in its re-recording, but one track cannot save the rest unfortunately.

Additionally, there is also no overarching theme to “Songs of Surrender,” considering it is just a mixed retread, other than the fact that “Walk On” has been retconned into be a political piece for the war in Ukraine.

There is nothing to connect the songs thematically. The only consistency is the fact that U2 now sounds like “background music.” At least there is consistency, even if it is not good. The album also rakes in with forty tracks, and it took about two-and-a-half hours to finish.

This is not a traditional studio album and might as well be recategorized as a “mega album.” However, as a cautionary note, listeners might potentially be turned off by this lengthy runtime.

If a listener’s thoughts are “good grief, how much longer is this going to take,” then consider trimming the album down to a preferable length. Or at the very least, release the extended version sometime afterwards.

“Songs of Surrender,” while better than U2’s last album, “Songs of Experience,” still fails to leave a significant mark in their discography. It used to be a tradition with their albums that there would always be something new and exciting to offer.

But here, there is a lack of such excitement, and the only thing that is new is the new “sound” that butchers their old material. There is not anything necessarily wrong with reflecting back on a group’s past, but that is something that must be done cautiously and carefully.

A lot of the U2 magic is gone at this point, as even Bono probably doesn’t remember what made the band special in the first place. “Songs of Experience” was bad because the group did not sound like themselves and basically made music for commercials. “Songs of Surrender" is bad because the original music is now butchered for a “different sound.” U2 basically turned into muzak.

Overall, “Songs of Surrender” is an album to listen to only once and then hopefully forget about afterwards. It is not to say the new release completely sucks due to at least one standout, but it is fair to say that U2’s best stuff is WAY behind them.

The phrase “did it first, did it better” could not be more evident here so it becomes hard to recommend “Songs of Surrender" to anyone.

Reader’s advice: listen to the older material as you are better off doing so.

Advice to U2 from a fan: Reflect on what made the group special in the first place.

Rating: 3/10

Reviewer’s favorite songs: “Beautiful Day,” “Every Breaking Wave”

Reviewer’s least favorite songs: “Where the Streets No Name,” “Red Hill Mining Town,” “Walk On (Ukraine)”

Logan M. Sharp is a third-year student majoring in film production. To contact him, please email lxs5590@psu.edu.