U2 will release a compilation entitled Songs of Surender in March containing 40 reworked version of tracks from throughout their 40-plus year career. The collection, a seeming companion to singer Bono’s recent memoir, Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, is slated to drop on March 17.
The news was announced on Tuesday (Jan. 10) in a minute-long trailer (which featured the word “new” slashed out and replaced with “re-imagined” to describe the album) set to an unplugged, intimate version of the band’s soaring 2000 anthem “Beautiful Day.” The video features a Sgt. Pepper‘s-like animated montage of pictures from throughout the group’s career. At press time the band had not shared the track list for the album.
Sone lucky fans said they got a physical letter (in numbered envelopes) from guitarist The Edge that explained the inspiration behind the album, with some posting what is purported to be a personal message tied to the hashtag #U2SOS40.
“When a song becomes well known, it’s always associated with a particular voice,” The Edge’s handwritten letter begins. “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.”
It goes on to note that most of U2’s songs were written and recorded when the quartet were a bunch of “very young men,” and that they mean something different to the now 61- and 62-year-old members. “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,” he wrote. “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.”
The guitarist known for his epic, echoing riffs said the post-punk urgency of the originals has been replaced with intimacy, with new keys, new chords, new tempos and even some new lyrics. “It turns out that great song is kind of indestructible,” he said. “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.”
Bono has been on a cross-country press tour for his memoir in 40 songs, with RS noting that at the end of the book released in Nov. the singer noted that the Surrender sessions happened during the COVID-19 lockdown. He said that the project gave him a chance to “live inside those songs again as I wrote this memoir,” as well as revisit some lyrics that have 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).”
U2’s most recent album was 2017’s Songs of Experience.
See the Songs of Surrender trailer and one of the letters below.