Virtual Bono belts out the official anthem of Euro 2021 in Rome. I’ve heard worse

It’s a little before 9pm in Rome and Bono’s giant head is floating above a soccer pitch

 Fireworks over the Olympic stadium in Rome as part of the European Football Championship’s opening ceremony, prior to the competition’s kick off Turkey vs Italy. Photograph:  Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Fireworks over the Olympic stadium in Rome as part of the European Football Championship’s opening ceremony, prior to the competition’s kick off Turkey vs Italy. Photograph: Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

It’s a little before 9pm in Rome and Bono’s giant head is floating above a soccer pitch. Bono isn’t in Italy, strictly speaking (he’s dialling in from parts virtual). And his “head” is rendered out of hundreds of glowing dots. But the singing is real, and he’s already surged past the dial reading Where The Streets Have No Name and is about to go full Beautiful Day.

“We are the people of the open hand,” he intones. “The streets of Dublin to Notre Dame.”

Who are the “we”? Why is Bono made out of dots? Is it permissible to rhyme “hand” and “Notre Dame”? It feels like it shouldn’t be. Oh for a referee to pop up and scribble down Bono’s name in his notebook.

A virtual Bono is always going take some reckoning with. But the “WTF factor?” will be especially pronounced among those tuning in to see the European Championships kick off with Italy v Turkey. Rather than the anticipated feast of association football they’re greeted by a brimful of Bono. What’s going on?

The answer is that Bono and The Edge are knocking off the lockdown cobwebs and belting out a new song, recorded with Dutch DJ and producer Martin Garrix (technically the release is credited to Martin Garrix “featuring Bono and The Edge”). It’s called We Are The People and is the official anthem for Euro 2021.

The European Football Championship’s opening ceremony. Photograph: EPA/Alberto Lingria / POOL
The European Football Championship’s opening ceremony. Photograph: EPA/Alberto Lingria / POOL

Pop music and soccer have a difficult history. As it happens, Ireland and soccer tournaments have a difficult history, too. For every Italia ’90 there have been innumerable competitions out of which the team has flunked during qualification (in terms of reaching the group stages, Irish clubs have arguably fared better across the past decade than the national XI).

We Are The People is not a terrible soccer anthem (social media would inevitably beg to differ). Nor is it anything to write home about. And it’s a long away off the gold standard for pop-soccer synergy. Which is, of course, John Barnes’s rap in the middle of World In Motion by New Order.

Instead we have the nil all draw of footie bangers. But it could be worse. There’s a chorus – far hookier than anything on their past three albums – and a sense this is a track that Chris Martin might write in the shower and not feel ashamed about. Rump U2 have found what they’re looking for.

The Edge, in particular, seems to be enjoying himself (Dot Bono keeps swirling about so it’s harder to tell). There is no weight of expectation. Neither he nor Bono has to fret about their legacy or what their new tune “means” in the context of all their old ones.

The best compliment that can be paid We Are The People, song and performance, is that if it popped up in the middle of Eurovision you would happily clap along.

Let us also bear in mind that Euro 2021 is proceeding with or without us. So we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss two Irishman taking centre stage. This is the first and last time it’s likely to happen over the course of the next month.

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