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African leaders advise Bono on reform of U2


Bono thanks Commission chairman Nelson Mandela for the Report

An expert commission of African leaders today announced their plan for comprehensive reform of music band U2. Saying that U2’s rock had lost touch with its African roots, the commission called for urgent measures to halt U2’s slide towards impending crisis.

“Our youth today are imperiled by low quality music,” said Commission chairman Nelson Mandela. “We will be lending African musicians to U2 to try to refurbish their sound to satisfy the urgent and growing needs for diversionary entertainment at a time of crisis in the global music and financial sectors.”

Concerns about U2 have been growing in Africa for a while. One Western aid blogger testified to the Commission that his teenage kids found U2’s music “cheesy.” The Mandela Commission proposed that U2 follow a series of steps to recover its Edge:

1) Hire African consultants to analyze U2’s “poverty of music trap”

2) Prepare a Band-owned and Commission-approved Comprehensive U2 Reform Strategy Design (CURSD)

3) Undertake a rehabilitation tour of African capitals to field-test and ground-truth proposed reforms

4) Subject all songs to randomized experiments in which the effect on wellbeing of control and treatment groups is rigorously assessed.

Mandela expressed optimism that the Commission’s report and proposed reforms had come in time to stave off terminal crisis in U2, and restore its effectiveness in the 80s arena rock field.

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  1. John wrote:

    I think somebody has a little Bono obsession, hmm?

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 1:02 am | Permalink
  2. JDT wrote:

    This post was a great laugh, and made an excellent point too.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 3:26 am | Permalink
  3. Joe wrote:

    Brilliant, thanks for this.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 6:06 am | Permalink
  4. Otim Michael wrote:

    Love it! I will be anxiously awaiting the Mandela Commission’s CURSD Report so I can start a proper 501(c)3 charity in the USA to help all those innocent victims of U2 music.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 7:29 am | Permalink
  5. Gold!

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  6. k denny wrote:

    Have we learned nothing? Piece-meal reforms such as this will achieve nothing without a comprehensive “Make Bono history” agenda

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 10:02 am | Permalink
  7. Laura wrote:

    @k denny

    While I am hopeful that U2 will benefit from the careful interventions planned by Mr. Mandela, I remain skeptical that outside experts, even renowned musicians from Africa, can reverse the worrisome trends documented in the piece. True change will only come from within.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 10:36 am | Permalink
  8. Sceptical Secondo wrote:

    Here’s a little something to comfort you Bill :-)

    And here’s the link in the likely case that embedded videos aren’t allowed:
    – by Tom Waits on Youtube

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink
  9. k denny wrote:

    Laura:perhaps but think of what Graceland did for P Simon?

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink
  10. J. wrote:

    To really make the point, you should have had African musicians/consultants advising U2 about how to get back to their IRISH musical roots (but with appropriate African influences/instrumentation, so as to maintain popular appeal in Africa…).

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 11:37 am | Permalink
  11. Jeff wrote:

    Just when I say you have stopped being snarky, you go and get snarky. That said, this is hilarious– and warranted– their last album sucked. They sounded like a poor imitation of themselves.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  12. Bryan wrote:

    pffft, way to appease the bitter criticize everything do nothing types. Nice.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 12:05 pm | Permalink
  13. Bryan wrote:

    allright. I guess it’s kind of funny… but come on! really? you don’t have something better to do with your time?

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  14. David Zetland wrote:

    Awesome. And maybe they should rethink the yellow sunglasses look: they can leapfrog their technology to leverage their emergent human capital using best of practice techniques that consultants with big salaries (CBSs) can suggest in breakout sessions where out of the (CD) box ideas from all corners of the globe come together… in a trainwreck.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
  15. Jason B wrote:

    What Mr. Easterly misses is that, while helping U2 as a band is important, one must look at the distribution of musical endowments within U2. The Edge clearly possesses a far greater share of the musical endowments of U2 than the other members; Bono is not far behind.

    Instead of focusing myopically on GMP (Gross Musical Product), we should really be focusing African aid on at-risk groups within U2, such as bassist Adam Clayton or drummer Larry Mullen Jr. Only a strategy that effectively targets aid–such as technical assistance on polyrhythms and root-oriented bass lines–can effectively contribute to U2’s overall growth.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  16. Chris Brown wrote:

    I thought Bono ran into a tree while skiing? Blamed it on the pink shades.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 5:32 pm | Permalink
  17. A rival commission has decided to discard the ideologically motivated recommendations of the African commission. Obviously, it was born out of a misguided “planner mentality”.

    Instead we have come up with alternative “free-market” solutions to what are simply imaging problems U2 faces.

    Create working relationships between U2’s deprived Irish band and much more successful African bands like Plantation Boys, the Refugees or “Mariam and Amadou” to open up a different kind of market to U2’s music.

    Commence the process of dishing out the U2 brand to African investors whose interest in profit that will motivate U2 to actually regain its edge

    Raise more money on the debt and equities market to finance better music equipment, production talent and a new and expanded touring circle for U2.

    Make U2 albums really cheap by producing them in China. If dollarama stores have U2 music, it can only increase their exposure and put them on the part to regaining “their edge”.

    Include in the band, a drama inducing gangsta rapper so we can get more air time on TMZ and BET and reach out to the new, younger “hip” market.

    Finally, have U2 vote (after the fact) on whether they actually want to keep making 80’s rock…

    End of rant.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink
  18. Robert Tulip wrote:

    The “Make Poverty History” campaign led by Western charities and pop stars such as Bono has focussed more on equalising the distribution of wealth than on how the poor can create wealth. The dilemma is that the justice and equality agenda of Make Poverty History is urgent, but cannot provide the sustainable growth that is the only sustainable and effective path out of poverty. For long term development, Africa needs to rely on private sector development, not charity. Western generosity should re-focus its attention towards private sector growth. I wonder what Bono would think of this argument?

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 6:26 pm | Permalink
  19. Ben Lyon wrote:

    Perfect… just perfect =) Think it will resonate?

    – Ben

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink
  20. Michael wrote:

    The Commission should have pointed out that Bono has clung to his office as lead singer for 33 years — much longer than leaders like Museveni, Obiang, Than Shwe, Kim Jong Il, or Mubarak.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 7:19 pm | Permalink
  21. ” Western generosity should re-focus its attention towards private sector growth.”

    Can western “generosity” promote, in good conscience, promote African private sector growth? I highly doubt it.

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  22. Nadir Q wrote:

    love it!!

    Posted November 23, 2009 at 8:56 pm | Permalink
  23. christo wrote:

    It looks like they are about to have a passionate kiss.

    Posted November 24, 2009 at 6:19 am | Permalink
  24. Yi-An wrote:

    Hilarious – you obviously missed your true calling as the first comedian economist. I will be the dissenting voice here and say that while I agree with your points, I would love to know how you think Bono SHOULD be involved. Should he just go on with his extraordinarily successful music career and ignore the causes he deeply cares about, or is there a better way? A hint: People tend to be very obstinate when they are criticized (and mocked) without being given advice on how to be better. I’ll look forward to a follow-up post!

    Posted November 24, 2009 at 7:48 am | Permalink
  25. pam wrote:

    Hilarious. Succinct.

    Posted November 24, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink
  26. Marc Woodall wrote:

    Also worth noting: While Bono continues to plead with governments to increase aid, including his own Irish government, U2 promptly moved its publishing company, U2 ltd, to Holland in 2006 when the Irish government started rescinding some of the bands tax breaks. “Increasing tax efficiency”, The Edge called it. So i guess the final message from U2 is ” give more aid so we don’t have to”

    Posted November 24, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  27. Irish sod wrote:

    Bono should pay his full share of taxes in the Republic. U2 should move their royalty collection corporation back to the Ireland and forget about promoting debt relief until they stop avoiding Irish taxes.

    Posted November 25, 2009 at 12:28 am | Permalink
  28. Peter T wrote:

    Yes I have been feeling the same way that rock and roll music has lost its focus on the advancement of the African American. With yet more white boys copying even more white boys to the point where colour blind rockers will not even listen to black music. The time is definitely hear to speak up about this.

    Now on U2 specifically they have damaged our environment for far too long. I would hope that large rock concerts could be converted to appropriate technology not using the amount of fossil fuels they presently use.

    As to the quality of music. I like U2. I am happy with the message Bono promotes but that’s about it. I am not into fund raising machines much they alienate my help your self work. I have a job and thankfully I am not some poor musician anymore.

    Posted November 25, 2009 at 1:38 am | Permalink
  29. Manuel wrote:

    Hmmm, 28 (29 with this) comments and 15 trackbacks… not bad, prof. Easterly. What do you estimate will be your retention share for all the other, non-celeb, “serious” stuff?

    Posted November 25, 2009 at 8:29 am | Permalink
  30. Colm Pierce wrote:

    What’s the difference between God and Bono?
    God doesn’t think he’s Bono!

    From a Northsider.

    Posted November 25, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  31. Andy M wrote:

    One of the comments here was spot on…..what U2 needs is not a blanket, budget-support, kind of intervention, but a more focused approach, trying to alleviate the ‘binding constraint’ – ADAM CLAYTON! God, if we have learned anything from Bill Easterly writings, isn’t it that we need a more bottom-up approach rather than ambitious master plans for the whole of the band? And how more bottom up can you get than with Adam Clayton?

    Posted November 27, 2009 at 5:19 am | Permalink
  32. they are working on it, i have it from inside sources. The delay is related to them wanting to hire anjelique kidjo as a best practices consultant but someone in the dublin office tried to get in touch with angelina jolie instead.

    Posted November 27, 2009 at 9:47 am | Permalink
  33. Beeman wrote:

    Excellent! Hilarious!
    Deflate the pretentiousness of the most over-hyped rocker in history!

    Posted November 27, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink
  34. Paul David Hewson wrote:

    Don’t worry baby, it’s gonna be alright
    Uncertainty can be a guiding light
    I hear voices, ridiculous voices
    Out in the slipstream
    Let’s go, let’s go overground
    Take your head out of the mud baby

    Posted November 27, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink
  35. Word_Bandit wrote:

    I preface the following by admitting I’m no economist. Simply a bleeding heart liberal always looking for ways to understand and help, when appropriate and possible.

    I understand the gist of this post: it calls attention to many issues, including the hubris of the West (especially “celebrities”) in playing savior to regions of the world that have born Imperialism’s brunt, in this case, specifically Africa.

    Attenborough’s “Gandhi” is on IFC this afternoon, and I’m reminded once again of the truth that a people can and must always free themselves, or it’s not freedom, not development, not growth.

    Intervention at some point must cede to personal liberty and a recognition of personal power.

    That written, the “popularity” of this post and the comments smack to this reader of irony. Irony abounds all over,

    For all the yammering against celebrities, the high fives here and there, most of the accolades and kudos laid here are precisely because Bono’s a celebrity.

    I’m assuming all those here would care as much about the hardship of female textile workers, and other such invisible causes. That particular post got few responses, if I remember correctly.

    Instead, the white male taking on another white male in a metaphorical boxing match, well that will get the viewers attention. WWF for the social causes literati is how this post reads to this ignorant, ill informed viewer.

    I find little truly productive in this post: it may have raised some awareness, but as Kristof pointed out in his recent column, it’s not an either or at this point.

    Top down and bottom up.

    And don’t forget, while the white western males are bucking it out for what is best for the African “people,” the black women on the ground will do all the work.

    This just smacks to me of more hubris, as well intentioned as Bono’s.

    And we know that Bill Easterly thinks the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    And only a few of the comments offer any thing substantive on real issues, just smart cracks from wanna be Saturday Night Live skit writers.

    Meanwhile, negotiation is always the best road, as Kristof has shown.

    Celebrity or intellect is neither good or superior. Only thinking makes it so.

    This is just a quick post, sorry for editing oversights.

    Posted November 28, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink
  36. Word_Bandit wrote:

    As a quick addendum, I thought the entries on Africa’s invisible wealth and the plight of the women textile workers were stellar.

    Also think that Africa — as with the individual — is ennobled and empowered by focusing on it’s potentials, contributions, and strengths.

    This post does not do that. Focuses on the failures of a man, one individual . . . and the pile up then ensues.

    Perhaps I can’t hate Bono because I just don’t know or care enough. Don’t pay attention to the MSM, so I really have no thoughts on what a pretentious despicable human being he is.

    I don’t need to. Not how I work.

    I just know that this post lacks what so many entries offer, and I find it way too telling.

    Posted November 28, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink
  37. Word_Bandit wrote:

    No, my comments are not that you are exploiting celebrity culture . . .

    you’re taking the low road and getting responses, because it’s a celebrity culture. And many who jump on the bandwagon here just give you the high five because it’s Bono, who they hate.

    Good try, though.

    But if it’s good enough for Bono, whose behavior you seem to loathe, I guess it’s good enough for you.

    Now try using the photoshop girls to draw attention to the textile workers.

    Posted November 28, 2009 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

20 Trackbacks

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  • About Aid Watch

    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

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