Songs of Experience: Your Answers (Part One)

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2019-01-11)

In early 2018, a month after Songs of Experience had been released we asked our audience a number of questions about the album. They included questions about the album itself, what formats you had purchased, and how you were listening to it. We asked questions about how it ranked among your favourite U2 albums. Many of you told us that the album was too new to give it a such ratings, but our intention was always to go back and ask the questions again. In December 2018, after the completion of the Experience + Innocence tour, we felt it was a good time to ask again. The album had been out for a year, many of us have had a chance to see the songs live, or at least to listen along on the internet to a few live shows. We’ve had singles, and videos, and remixes, lots and lots of remixes. We’ll reveal some of the newer results below, and in some cases will use the original results for comparison. We received over 1000 responses on each set of questions.

The original results come from a series of questions we asked and you answered in January of last year. These are marked “January 2018” in the article below. The new results come from a series of questions we asked last month, and are marked “December 2018” in the article. The results for each question are sorted so that the highest answer is the top in the chart below each graph. But this means that the colours used for each song may shift throughout the article, so pay attention to the legends as you go through the results. The biggest piece of the pie will always match with the answer that is highlighted at the top of the responses, which are listed below each graph.

We will reveal the answers in two stages, this first article will deal with some of the questions we asked about songs. Later this month we will reveal some of your answers about the album itself and how it compares to other albums, as well as looking at the singles and the videos from the album.

Our first question about the songs from Songs of Experience is what was your favourite from the new album. These are results from December 2018, after the tour had ended, and after a year of listening to these songs. The songs were not ranked by those answering the question, we have only asked you to identify what is your favourite song on the album.

The three songs most identified as favourites are “The Little Things That Give You Away,” “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way,” and “Red Flag Day.” Of the three, only “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” was released as a single from this album. It is also the only song of the three that was played each night on the tour. “Red Flag Day” was played sporadically throughout the tour, and “The Little Things That Give You Away” was not played on the current tour, but it had been played sporadically on “The Joshua Tree Tour.” Over 1/4 of the respondents to the poll chose “The Little Things That Give You Away” as favorite song. And over half of respondents picked one of these three songs as a favorite.

What songs got chosen as a favourite least often? “American Soul” with 0.4% of the vote seems to be the least likely song to be chosen as a favourite. “The Showman (Little More Better)” and “You’re The Best Thing About Me” were also rarely chosen as a favourite.

How does this compare to the previous years results?

This chart above looks at the January 2018 results on the left, after the album had just been released, and compares them to the more recent December 2018 results on the right. You can see that there hasn’t been a lot of shift in the numbers of 12 months. It appears that the same songs are chosen as favourites now as were chosen last year. And the three songs that got chosen as favourites in December, had only increased in the number of people choosing them as a favourite.

The graph above looks at the change in the vote between January 2018 and December 2018. A positive result means the song is more favoured now than it was in early 2018. A negative number means the song is less likely to be picked as a favourite now than it was in 2018. “The Blackout” has gained the most votes as a favourite over that time, as have “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” and “Red Flag Day”. As time has gone on these songs have gained more votes. “The Blackout” was probably helped along by the prominent placement at the start of the show in both legs of the tour. Perhaps more surprising though is “Summer of Love” is now less likely to be chosen as a favourite, and has lost more votes than any other song. The song was not played live throughout the US tour stops, but had been introduced as a single and was played each night in Europe. “Lights of Home” has also lost some votes as a favourite.

The above results ask what your favourite song, and a lack of votes for the song does not mean that it is unloved, it just means that the song is not a song that jumps out as a favourite on the album. To look at what songs didn’t work on the album, we also asked the opposite question, what was your least favourite song on Songs of Experience.

So it appears that there are two songs that are quite far ahead of the rest when you were asked to name your “least favourite” song on the album. “American Soul” came in first. Not only is it the least chosen song when asked to pick your favourites, over 25% of you identified the song as your least favourite. “The Showman (Little More Better)” also comes in high, with 22.7% identifying it as a least favourite song. “You’re the Best Thing About Me” comes in third, as the third chosen least favourite song, but at a much lower percentage at 8.5%.

“The Showman (Little More Better)” was not performed during the tour other than some snippets of the song read aloud in the introduction to “You’re The Best Thing About Me” and has never received a lot of attention on the album. “American Soul” is perhaps more surprising, as the song was promoted with two videos, used in a number of sportscasts for promotion, and released to radio in the UK. The song also was heavily featured in the first leg of the tour, being used for the moment where the American flag rose behind the stage.

Once again looking back at the January results (left) done just a month after release and before the tour, compared to the more recent questions (right) we can see some shifts that are interesting. “American Soul” and “The Showman (Little More Better)” were both identified the most in both surveys as a least favourite song. The current results had “You’re the Best Thing About Me” coming in as the third most identified song as least favourite, but back in January when the album was fresh, that song was behind “13 (There is A Light),” “Landlady,” and “Love is All We Have Left” just after the album came out.

This graph looks at the change in results from January to more recent in the choices of least favourite” song. In this graph a negative number is a good thing, it means that less people are choosing it as least favourite now than they were last January. A positive number is negative, it means more people are choosing it as a least favourite now. “13 (There is A Light),” “The Blackout,” and “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” have lost the most least favourite votes. All three were spotlight songs on the tour, which may have helped change opinions on the song.

“American Soul” really suffers, 5.5% more people are now choosing it as a least favourite than they did last year. Opinion on the song has shifted and has become less favourable over time. Other songs seeing this less favourable shift include “The Showman (Little More Better)” and “You’re The Best Thing About Me”.

A month after the album was released, and before any information was known about rehearsals of the tour, we asked the song you thought would be the perfect opening for the concert. The results above are from those questions a year ago. We wanted to look back and say good job! You guys nailed the opening songs for the album. The three songs that were chosen, that made up 75% of the vote were “The Blackout,” “Love is All We Have Left,” and “Lights of Home”. The three songs that opened the North American tour were in a different order, but they were these three songs. “Love is All We Have Left” moved to the background on the second leg of the tour, still in the mix under the Charlie Chaplin speech, but far more muted than in the North American leg. On both the North American and European leg, this song was used as a pre-recorded track, with only some lyrics being sung live by Bono in performance.

We also asked you for the song you thought would be perfect for closing, before the tour started, and before rehearsals. Again, the tracks identified as perfect closers were “Love Is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” and “13 (There is A Light)” which were the final two songs used on the tour. Over 50% of you chose one of these two songs as a good closer. A number of fans expressed throughout the tour that they would have preferred the show to end with “Love Is Bigger Than Anything in its Way.” The third most chosen song was “The Little Things that Give You Away” which had been used a number of nights on The Joshua Tree 2017 tour, but was not played on the more recent tour at all.

Another question we asked last year was which one song did you not want to hear live. This was asked before the tour started to get a feeling for what songs people were looking forward to. At the time the results included “The Showman (Little More Better),” “American Soul” and “Landlady” at the top of the list of songs you didn’t want to hear in concert. “Landlady” had not made the top three in songs that people identified as least favourite, but it did show up here. (Although it wasn’t far behind coming in at number four on that question – see above.)

With the tour over, we couldn’t ask the same question. But we did take a look at what was played and what people didn’t like about the show.

The first question was “What song did you enjoy least in concert?” We asked people to vote whether they saw the songs in concert, or if they just listened at home. There was also an option to list that you had not yet heard any live shows. The song most identified as the song enjoyed least in concert was “You’re the Best Thing About Me” with 20% of respondents choosing that song. You may have identified “American Soul” as your least favourite song, but it was “You’re the Best Thing About Me” that you enjoyed least at the show. “American Soul,” not a favourite in either poll, not surprisingly comes in second of this question. And “Love is All We Have Left” which was more pre-recorded than it was live, was identified third in the poll.

Songs identified least among least favourites? “Red Flag Day,” “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” and “The Blackout,” which indeed did all seem to be favorites at the shows I attended among the crowd.

Although it was your least favourite song live, “You’re The Best Thing About Me” doesn’t show up until fourth in this question, asking which song do you not want to hear on future tours. Maybe we’re holding out hope that they’ll do it full band or even break out a more upbeat remixed version on later tours to redeem this one? No surprises here, “American Soul” is the song most chosen that people would pick if they had to choose a song to not hear live in the future. Close behind was “The Showman (Little More Better)” which was never played on this tour. That one surprises me a bit, as usually there’s some love for songs that have not yet been played (cough cough “Acrobat”) but it seems that you are content not to hear this one, and also not to hear “Book of Your Heart,” which also was not performed on this tour.

Three to go. We thought we’d save some of the positive results for the end and look at the answers about favourite tracks in a live setting. The first chart above is from last January’s results, before the tour, and before rehearsals. We had asked what song people were looking forward to seeing live. The answers? “The Blackout,” “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” and “Red Flag Day” combined got 50% of the vote a year ago. Two of these were played every night on tour, and were crowd pleasers, witnessed by the energy during “The Blackout” and the crowd sing along for “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way.” “Red Flag Day” was played a small number of times on each leg, before being abandoned completely part way through the second leg in Europe.

Asked after the tour ended what song you enjoyed the most from the new album in a live setting, the overwhelming answer was “The Blackout” at 28.4%. Clearly people enjoyed that song on the tour. “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” comes in at second with 18.7% of the votes. Surprising perhaps, the third favourite song? “The Little Things That Give You Away” got 11.7% of the vote here, based on the performances of that song on The Joshua Tree 2017 tour. “Red Flag Day” was the third song that was played on the more recent tour. Perhaps had it been played more often it would have made it to the top three overall.

Finally, asked after the tour ended, what song you would want U2 to play on their next tour, you identified “The Little Things That Give You Away” as your number one choice with 23.2% of the votes. The song is clearly a favourite among fans, and they would like to hear more. Fans also chose “Love is Bigger Than Anything in its Way” and “Red Flag Day” which were played on the current tour to continue on to what the band does next. If the current rumours turn out to be true, and the band is considering a 2019 tour of Australia, Asia and Africa, perhaps they’ll include “The Little Things That Give You Away”.

We’ll have the second part of your answers about the album, and singles in the next couple of weeks. But we would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who participated in our first and second round of questions.

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