Miss Sarajevo

Among HTDAAB‘s PR back in 2004 was a quote which seems remarkably relevant, in an accidental way, to “Miss Sarajevo”; one of the band stating “we’ve always been political in an organic way”. At first, this seemed like excusing the current album’s lack of polemic or protest, but reaching right back to “New Year’s Day”, something is clear about U2 as a political element – outside of the contacts in album liner notes, the politics in U2 has often (possibly mostly) been entwined within other subjects within a given song. So it is with “Miss Sarajevo”, a song that kinda-is-and-isn’t about the Bosnian Civil War. That’s not to say that the band has made it a sideshow – this was, after all, a war the band made a key part of the ZooTV era, right from raising awareness during the Zooropa tour, through this song and on to the band’s PopMart stop in Sarajevo itself in 1997. Instead, the focus here is on the people within that war, and their (frankly bizarre) response to it – as the bombs fall over their network of bunkers, they decide to have a beauty pageant, like you do.

Of course, one of the most obvious features with this track is Pavarotti. Not being an opera fan, I’m not exactly qualified to judge it as a performance, although it sounds powerful and poetic enough (), and works well as a contrast to Bono’s lower and more rigid vocals based around that repeated refrain of Is there a time…?

As for music, there’s quite some elements going on here. The string arrangement was done by an at-the-top-of-his-game Craig Armstrong (also responsible for the same role on Massive Attack’s Protection the previous year), which, unlike a lot of string arrangements, has a real and genuine (and very classical) sense of dynamics, rising and swirling during Pavarotti’s cameo and spinning its way through the outro. Yet whilst the strings are the key component of the song, there’s also plenty else going on. It’s all incredibly low-key though, part acoustic picking, part slow rock ballad and part ambient electronica loops sounding, ironically, slightly like Massive Attack. As great as a song as “Miss Sarajevo” is (even now, I only just realised how much keyboard is on it), maybe it doesn’t exactly need analysis. Or maybe the best analysis is already out there.

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~ by 4trak on September 10, 2008.

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