Ambition is not necessarily correlated with success. Thank God. The Nazis aspired to a 1000 year reich and had reached less than 2% of their target by the time of their riddance.
But perhaps the trap of vaulting ambition applies to heroes as much as villains.
This thought comes to mind with a peculiarly Irish filter, as I observe the strange, unspoken dethroning of both Bono and (to a lesser extent) Geldof in the past weeks.
U2’s pushing of their latest album, free and uninvited, into millions of iPhone users’ iTunes accounts was an act of hubris.
The assumption, amongst the middle-aged executives who took the decision, was that the long-suffering people would be only delighted to have such a gift of musical manna. Bono, after all, was clear from the get-go that this album was his best work.
In an online forum, an annoyed young woman perfectly characterised the misstep:
‘Dear U2. Please don’t force your music onto my phone again. It’s rude.‘
To round-out a metaphorical toppling with a real-life impaling, Bono Vox fell off his bike in Central Park last week and broke a clatter of bones.
Sir Bob is another true warrior with a weakness for believing his own press releases. His 2014 Band Aid for Ebola initiative (Africa is his thing, as we know) is curiously tone-deaf. He pulled together a clutter of ‘musicians de nos jours‘ (his words) whom he judges sing better because of X Factor. In doing so, he made a point of bitching about Adele’s absence, whilst tending to generalise and infantilise Africans’ response to Ebola.
‘Give us your fucking money!’ he cried.
I was left with the impression that Geldof had conflated the need for a humanitarian response to ebola with a personal need for a thirty-year anniversary salute to his own magnetism.
It is not easy to understand where our equity stands, be we celebrity, brand or business. The more cultural power we have exerted, the more we are carried away by our own sense of supremacy.
Shakespeare wrote about such things.
Enter Mister Andrew Byrne. An Irishman with little celebrity ambition, a man with a debut album of stunning subversive beauty, and a man with a totally cool name, sandwiched between an anonymous civvie identity. He is Hozier, the person who brought us the global anthem Take Me to Church.
The artist in full bloom has little need to be needy, or snarky.
Hozier, aged 24, has arrived fully formed – with a point of view, a compelling dark side, an eloquence of language, and a connection between voice, melody and rhythm which is truly compelling. He is there, of course, because of the giants who came before him. But his presence teaches a lesson.
‘This is hungry work’, goes one of his plaintiff cries. And hungry work is nourished through art itself.
When asked recently, on Irish TV, which song he wished he had written, Bono answered candidly.
‘Take Me to Church’, he said.
There is a certain grace and poignance to his response. For the cycle moves ever onwards.
© Brian McIntyre. 2014.