Sound — 10
The sound of this album is very electronic but also not very electronic. There's piano and synthesizers featured throughout, which give it the impression that it's electronic or rocktronic, though it's not. There's a fair share of guitar effects used, such as a synthesizer/panner used in "Discotheque," wah-wah used in "The Playboy Mansion" and "Please," Whammy pedal in "Gone" and "Mofo," rotary/chorus and echo in the clean parts of "Do You Feel Loved" and echo used in "Wake Up Dead Man" and "If You Wear That Velvet Dress," among others. Some songs have fuzz/distortion, while others have none or just a slight crunch. Some guitars featured on the album are Rickenbacker 330/12 and various Les Pauls. The lead vocal are entirely done by Bono, with Edge added in backup vocals throughout. Most of the vocals are recorded straightforward and added into the music, but some songs have echo placed on the vocal tracks due to Bono becoming sick during the recording of the album in early 1997.
Some of the louder songs, like "Last Night on Earth" and "Discotheque," Bono raised his voice, where as songs like "The Playboy Mansion" and "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" are sung very quietly and feature very broad vocal ranges. Drums on the album vary. "Miami" features a drum machine loop until halfway through the song. Some of "The Playboy Mansion" has beats that were sampled by the band's drummer, Larry Mullen Jr. As with guitar and vocals, the drums are dynamic, with a party/dance vibe coming from the opening three tracks, "Discotheque," "Do You Feel Loved" and "Mofo," and other songs like "If God Will Send His Angels" and "Wake Up Dead Man" feature more basic stripped-down beats. The snare in some of the songs sounds like it lacks a ring placed over the head, resulting in an overtone. The sound of the garage-esque snare does not bother me whatsoever. The bass on the album was contributed by Adam Clayton. Notable bass performances from the album are, "Do You Feel Loved," "If God Will Send His Angels," "Gone," "Miami," "The Playboy Mansion," "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" and "Please." The sound of the album is excellent and deserves a 10 in my opinion.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics and themes of the songs can be tricky, as Bono is a very clever song write and some (most) of the songs he writes contain hidden meanings. Below I have listen the themes of the songs as written from my opinion/understanding:
1. "Discotheque" - The song pokes fun at disco, as the music video was shot inside a large inverted mirrorball. Bono has said of the song "This is a little riddle about love," which may be obvious when reading the songs lyrics.
2. "Do You Feel Loved" - This song is about love. The song describes fantasies from the narrators perspective and describes love "love is coming, pushing and shoving, in the belly, of a woman," and "it looks like the sun, but it feels like the rain, and there's heat in the sun, to see us through the rain."
3. "Mofo" - Like songs "I Will Follow," "Tomorrow" and "Iris (Hold Me Close)," this song is about Bono's mother, who passed away when he was 14 year old. The song tells Bono's story about how he misses a caring person in his life and how her departure created the person who he is today "mother, you left to make me some one, now I'm still a child, no one tells me no." Despite the songs title, Bono doesn't mention mother fucker in the song.
4. "If God Will Send His Angels" - This song is the break from the dance and party vibe that was apparent throughout the first three songs. The song starts out slowly with acoustic guitar. The song pleads for god angels when times get tough. The song mentions "the blind leading the blonde" which may be a reference between Bono himself and Larry Mullen Jr. due to Bono's mentioning of blind in "Staring at the Sun" (another song on "Pop," lyrics state "I'm happy to go blind") and "I Will Follow" (song from "Boy," band's debut album, lyrics state "I was blind and I could not see." The blonde aspect comes from the fact that Larry himself is blonde, and Bono is often regarded as the front man and the leader, even though it was Larry who started the band in 1976.
5. "Staring at the Sun" - The song's meaning to me is that in the end, we're all just people and we're all, in a way, the same thing, so go ahead and do what you have to do, because we're all doing the same thing, which is metaphorically "staring at the sun."
6. "Last Night on Earth" - The party vibe returns, with tambourines and loud chorus. One of the most dynamic songs in the band's catalogue.
7. "Gone" - The song talks about the absence of one's self. Bono references an alter ego of his that he used in 1992's Zoo TV tour, "mirrorball man," with the line "goodbye, you can keep this suit of lights." Bono says the song is about feelings of guilt as being a rock star.
8. "Miami" - An ad lib description of Miami, where the band spent some time recording the album. Features synthesizers, drum machines, harmonics and scat singing.
9. "The Playboy Mansion" - A humorous account of pop culture icons such as OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, McDonalds, talk shows, perfumes and the fountain of youth. The song's prechoruses and bridge describe entering the playboy mansion which may be a metaphor for heaven. "Do I have the gifts to get me through the gates of that mansion." The song is regarded as the start of the darker half of the album with it's crunchy guitar chords, slide guitar and dynamic and quite vocal range.
10. "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" - The song describes fantasies about the image of a velvet dress and lights and is U2's only lounge piece. It may be regarded as U2's most quite and relaxing song, despite the heavy bass in the song.
11. "Please" - Similar to "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (even featuring the same drum beat in the song's bridge upon live performances), this song describes The Troubles of Northern Ireland.
12. "Wake Up Dead Man" - U2's darkest and most grim track, even being one of the few to contain profanity "I'm alone in this world, and a fucked up world it is too." This song is the asker's repeated demand "wake up dead man." The song describes a feeling of isolation and could even be interpreted as questioning the faith, which is something many fans though as U2 kept kind of quiet about their faith in the '90s.
Overall Impression — 10
The album needed to happen, and it doesn't deserve any of the hate that it gets. It's weird and whacky compared to previous and future U2 albums, but look underneath the party and dance vibes and you'll be very surprised as to how easily it is to dismiss Bono's lyrics. Even though I feel like I hit the nail on the head while describing several of the songs, I still feel like I don't truly understand the meaning of many. I love everything about U2's whole "Pop" era. The album cover, the ridiculously large LED screen used on the tour, the songs, the outfits used on the tour, the vocal dynamics and range.
I love this album and it will always be my favorite album ever. I love all U2's albums, but this one has a sound and meaning that the others don't have. I may not be certain what it is, but I can tell. If I had to buy this album again, I certainly would (though it's on both my phone and iPod), but I have it on cassette (for the sake of having my favorite album on cassette), CD (just to have in case I'm near a CD player, I have another copy with the disc and album book framed in glass hanging on my wall) and I have it digitally on all of my devices. Overall, this album gets a 10/10 and nothing less.
Favorite song: "The Playboy Mansion"/"Do You Feel Loved."
Honorable mentions: "Gone," "If You Wear That Velvet Dress," "Miami."