Bono isn’t really one of those celebrities who typically garners heaps of unwavering adoration like your Beyonces, Taylor Swifts, or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnsons. He often falls more into the Phil Collins camp. Sure, a lot of people like Bono and his music with U2 — myself included — but for a lot of people, the sight of him invokes either a shrug or an eye roll. Ripping on the guy has become so common that it’s become a cliché along of the lines of “Nickelback sucks.”
You don’t have to look far on the internet for signs of Bono disgust. Anytime U2 puts out an album, makes a talk show appearance or Bono simply shows up in public, there will be an article harping on about how the guy is a musical parasite. There’s even a Facebook page called I Hate Bono.
I’m not going to try to change your opinion on why you may or may not wish that Bono would barricade himself in some Irish tavern, never to be heard from again. Instead, in honor of the singer’s 56th birthday, let’s examine the causes for why Bono’s become such a musical punching bag.
The single name.
Bono’s real name is Paul David Hewson. Not a terrible name, but it also doesn’t have much of a rock star vibe to it — whatever that is. Taking a singular name for a musician is a bold move, and one that seems to either be embraced by the public (Prince, Madonna, Adele) or merely just accepted with a groan and eye-roll (Sting, Moby, Jewel). The entire idea of asking the public to simply refer to you with just a single name carries with it a certain amount of ego.
In the case of Paul David Hewson adopting the name Bono, there’s definitely a tinge of self-importance with the backstory of his stage name. Hewson took the name as a teenager when given the nickname “Bono Vox” by a friend, but initially wasn’t a fan of the nickname. It was only after learning that it was a Latin phrase which translated means “good voice,” he was okay with it, later dropping the “Vox” part.
He’s never not wearing sunglasses.
Skim down to the comments section to nearly any article referring to Bono or U2 and you’ll undoubtedly find somebody bashing the guy for always wearing sunglasses. He’s rarely seen without a pair of tinted glasses and without doing a Google image search, it’s almost difficult to remember a time when he didn’t always have a pair on. People don’t have a problem with wearing sunglasses outside, you know, where there’s sun. It’s wearing them inside that folks have a problem with. As Larry David put it, “You know who wears sunglasses inside? Blind people and assholes,” and we know Bono’s not blind — yet. The singer revealed that he’s been wearing tinted glasses for the last 20-something years because he suffers from glaucoma. People suffering from the disease — which can lead to total blindness without treatment — are incredibly sensitive to bright light and often wear sunglasses as a preventative measure. So, if you still want to bash the guy for wearing sunglasses indoors because of a medical condition, go ahead, but now you’re kind of the asshole.
Humanitarian or hypocrite?
It’s difficult to hate on somebody for trying make the world a better place, yet somehow Bono has managed to become the world’s most-punchable humanitarian to some. The singer has been a philanthropist for various causes since the 1980s with a focus on the third-world poverty that plagues many African countries, helping to organize everything from Band-Aid to the One Campaign. Maybe it’s because he’s so outspoken about how the U.S. and UK need to fix the world’s problems or that he’s constantly flashing the peace sign, but something about Bono’s do-gooder attitude just rubs people the wrong way. Then again, maybe it’s because the guy has been accused of being a holier than thou hypocrite when it comes to helping those in need.
Bono and his U2 bandmates came under fire in 2011 for alleged tax evasion from the UK group Art Uncut. The group accused “Saint Bono” of avoiding to help Ireland’s own needy by shifting the portions of band’s $131.5 million business to accounts in the Netherlands to skip out on taxes. The band’s manager defended the action stating that “95 percent of U2’s business takes place outside of Ireland and, as a result, the band pays many different kinds of taxes all over the world.” While Bono remained quite on the accusation, U2’s guitarist was pretty blunt on the matter, saying, “Of course we want to be tax-efficient — who doesn’t?”
Giving away free music.
“Everybody loves free sh*t! Let’s put the album on every Apple device in the world.” Is how I imagine the conversation between Bono and Tim Cook going down before waking up to headlines like this. People do love free stuff, whether it’s breadsticks with your takeout pizza or an artist’s new album download with purchase of that artist’s concert tickets. The mistake is assuming that everyone is going to love the free stuff. Free breadsticks are never going to be a hit with the gluten-intolerant community. When U2 unleashed their album Songs of Innocence on unsuspecting Apple users, it was met with incredible backlash because it was forced upon them without asking. People tend to like free stuff when they have the option of not accepting it. It’s when you shove it down their throats without asking that people get pissed.
Simply too popular.
For all of the perks that come with being a ticket-selling powerhouse with a global-reach, there’s always going to be a certain amount of backlash. Nothing breeds contempt like popularity; it happened to Phil Collins, it happened to The Eagles, it happened to Coldplay. Nearly every ultra successful act from Led Zeppelin to Foo Fighters to Kanye West, gets stuck with the “overrated” label by some slice of the music-listening population. It’s inescapable. Rather than enjoy their moment in the sun and move on when it passes (example: Dave Matthews Band or Kings of Leon), U2 aimed to hold onto their spot as one of music’s biggest acts 10 years after it ended. Daily Dot writer Nico Lang noted that this is a struggle every aging band faces, and that Bono has “spent the last three and a half decades trying to get everyone to like him.” And like my mother told me, you’re never going to be liked by everyone.