U2 and The X Factor
In 1981, a young band called U2 embarked on it's first ever US tour and made critics in the US take notice. This review from Musician Magazine captured the moment pretty well.
"It's a grand and solid sweep U2's music makes, with spooky, modal melodies and lyrics curled evocatively around the daydreams and night fantasies of a child's transition to manhood. Guitarist The Edge's icy riffs hang suspended in the cavernous production, blending with chiming glockenspiels and thundering drums to create an atmosphere of heroic minimalism."
I love to go back with the benefit of retrospect and see how people saw these now-iconic acts when they started making music. This article also contains some great will-they-make-it speculations.
"U2 has that ineffable "X" factor that suggests potential greatness. The arty preciousness of their music on record disappears into an exhilarating tightrope sprint across the cavern between kamikaze youthfulness and serious pop composition."
Praise for Ireland's U2 first spread through the U.K. press like head colds in autumn. Now with the American release of their debut LP, Boy, U2 have risen to the dizzying post of fave rook-ies in the colonies, too. Actually, they share the position with a rotating handful of other newborn British post-punkers like Teardrop Explodes, Echo and the Bunnymen and the Psyche-delic Furs.
It's a grand and solid sweep that U2's music makes, with spooky, modal melodies and lyrics curled evocatively around the daydreams and night fantasies of a child's transition to manhood. Guitarist The Edge's icy riffs hang suspended in the cavernous production, blending with chiming glockenspiels and thundering drums to create an atmosphere of heroic minimalism: Pink Floyd meets the Who. Following the traditional scenario, U2 is now pounding its way across America, hoping to go the record one better. And also true to the scenario, the heartland states just might provide the most accurate prognosis on their chances for a U.S. breakthrough. Top dog critics simply don't have as much impact out here, as evidenced by massive April Wine ticket sales. The night U2 played Minneapolis, guitarist Edge had a numbing head cold, lead singer Bono was suffering from tour lag, and the hall that had been booked had acoustics that have often brought greater bands to their knees On the other side of the monitors stood the unconverted, unprepped denizens of a secondary market The denizens and the debutante band surprised the daylights out of each other.
Live, U2 has that ineffable 'X' factor that suggests potential greatness. The arty preciousness of their music on record disappears into an exhilarating tightrope sprint across the cavern between kamikaze youthfulness and serious pop composition. Bono Vox is a much stronger singer than Boy would have you believe, and his Daltrey-esque stage moves work perfectly with the indisputable sense of fun he brings to rather solemn songs. Edge clamps his knees together, rocks back and forth and creates the spinal chord of the band's promise: rhythmic dialogues, strange and elegant chording, leads that hint at a monster of a musical imagination. Sure, they just might make it to next year but even more fun than watching the outsized crown teeter on their collective heads will be trying to guess what pseudo-movement thousands of trees will give their lives to herald in 1982. — Laura Fissinger
U2 has the X Factor – Do you?
The band saw early on who they were. They have more or less stuck with it for the past 35 years. And it's especially relevant that the article compares Bono and the boys to acts like The Who and Pink Floyd. Most writers would more appropriately use them as the standard for comparison these days.
Pink Floyd already existed. The Who had made their mark. U2 survived by making music that was as good as those bands, and then they did something different. And people noticed.
There are literally thousands of artists doing music in your sub-genre, therefore you have to shift and think about the story you are going to tell. How are you drilling down into your sweet spot as an artist or producer? Think about what sets you apart as an artist and then build on that.
We all naturally find inspiration and influence everywhere! It's a good thing when art inspires, but don't stop there. Do something unique with that inspiration. Bring your twist, add your personality and then find your "X."