Letters Introducing Songs of Surrender

U2Songs.Com / U2360Gradi.It by Aaron J. Sams (2023-01-09)

Updated January 10, 2023: The Songs of Surrender album has now been announced. More information on the album is now available in the discography entry for Songs of Surrender.

The release of Songs of Surrender is due to be announced any day now. And as they have done in the past, U2 have been sending out physical letters introducing the album. They are appearing in numbered envelopes, and all contain the hash tag #U2SOS40. These have just started showing up, and we can share the content with you thanks to Dani Mattei of U2360Gradi.It who shared the letter with us:

The letters, which are photocopies of a hand written letter by The Edge, speak about the songs of U2. The letter can be seen embedded at the end of our article. So far we can confirm that letters have been arrived in several countries in Europe, and that some countries have had more than one person receive a letter.

“When a song becomes well known its always associated with a particular voice. I can’t think of Tangled Up in Blue without the reedy timbre of Bob Dylan or All The Time in the World without the unique voice of Louis Armstrong.

So what happens when a voice develops and experience and maturity give it additional resonance?

U2 have been around long enough to know what that is like. It’s true for us all, but it’s particularly true for Bono.

The fact is that most of our work was written and recorded when we were a bunch of very young men. Those songs mean something quite different to us now. Some have grown with us. Some we have outgrown. But we have not lost sight of what propelled us to write those songs in the first place. The essence of those songs is still in us, but how to reconnect with that essence when we have moved on, and grown so much?

Music allows you to time travel and so we started to imagine what it would be like to bring these songs back with us to the present day and give them the benefit or otherwise, of a 21st century re-imagining. What started as an experiment quickly became a personal obsession as so many early U2 songs yielded to a new interpretation. Intimacy replaced post-punk urgency. New keys. New chords. New tempos and new lyrics arrived. It turns out that great song is kind of indestructible. Once we surrendered our reverence for the original version each song started to open up to a new authentic voice of this time, of the people we are, and particularly the singer Bono has become.

I hope you like our new direction.”

Across the top of the letter in Morse code is the title of the album Songs of Surrender. Also on the top of the letter is a number out of 40. It appears that the letter is the same in each case, but each copy is numbered out of 40, suggesting 40 copies have been sent out.

It looks like the album of reimagined songs, Songs of Surrender will likely be announced this week. The hash tag #U2SOS40 is a reference to the title of the album Songs of Surrender and the 40 songs that have been recorded for the album.

The Songs of Surrender album is reported to be released on March 17, 2023. The album will have 40 recreated U2 songs, re-recorded by the full band. These recreated songs were started after U2 finished the 2019 tour of Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The songs were completed in 2020, and early 2021. Previews of some of these tracks have been heard in the audiobook accompanying Bono’s memoir. The 40 songs will be spread across four discs on vinyl and CD formats. Both of these physical sets (vinyl and CD) have been pressed in Europe, and will be distributed worldwide. Each disc in the set will be contained in its own unique sleeve, with each “cover” featuring one band member. (At the Cheltenham Literary Festival Bono mentioned the photo the Edge chose would see him bald on the cover.) Initial rumours shared that a one disc version with 14-15 songs may also be made available.

The album is mentioned by name in Bono’s Surrender memoir in the “After the Afterwords” section:

Thanks to my band mates and our publishing house, Universal Music Publishing Group, for permission to quote from our songs and, in case some of you had noticed, yes, I have sometimes been rewriting some of the lyrics. During lockdown we were able to reimagine forty U2 tracks for the Songs of Surrender collection, which gave me a chance to live inside those songs again as I wrote this memoir. It also meant I could deal with something that’s been nagging me for some time. The lyrics on a few songs that I’ve always felt were never quite written. They are now. (I think.)”

Although some of these recreations are acoustic in nature, not all of them are. The snippets included in the audio book give some previews, and we discussed many of these in our look at the audiobook. In many cases U2 have worked with producers who have previously worked with the band on the songs, including Daniel Lanois, Jacknife Lee and Howie B. The Edge will be listed as the producer for the album. Jacknife Lee has also worked with Bono on his recent “Stories of Surrender” tour to recreate some of the songs for that tour, as well as providing keyboards and percussion on the tour.

Adam Clayton first mentioned the project in 2021 in an interview with Rocky O’Riordan on U2 X-Radio, “Well, you know we are playing around with rearranging some of the songs that we have and setting them in a more acoustic environment. Edge got a bit of a bee in his bonnet and said you know, no pun intended, said let’s look at these songs and imagine them in a different context. So we are playing around with that. He’s putting a lot of work into changing the keys, and moving them onto piano and that sort of thing. And hopefully we will have something towards the end of the year that will show a different light on U2. I think it’s an opportunity to explore different versions of the band in a way. Because it’s very much the early days, it’s embryonic, it could go somewhere between Leonard Cohen or Johnny Cash – very stripped down and bare – towards something that is very lush. Very hard to say where it will end up or if it will all end up with the same tone across it, or if each song will be treated differently. I’m excited to see how the songs could exist in a different universe.” Initially Adam wasn’t confident on whether or not the material would be released as a single album, or possibly a series of EPs.

More information about the album can be found in our discography.

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