“So Cruel” by U2

For starters, U2’s “So Cruel” was influenced by The Edge, at the time of its composition, being in the process of getting divorced from his first and only legal wife to date, Aislinn O’Sullivan. This is a tragedy which, understandably, affected the entirety of U2. But Bono has been careful to point out that there were also “lots of other things going on” with the band that inspired what is being put forth in “So Cruel”.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for U2's So Cruel at Lyrics.org.

As implied by the title, what we are dealing with here is a vocalist who is criticizing the addressee – his significant other – for being, under his estimation, quite “cruel”. And going back to the concept of divorce, it is evident that the singer, having now gotten to know this lady well, has a less-than-favorable impression of her.

Readers who have actually been through such experiences know that when breakups occur, a lot of times the parties involved may be angry with each other in the aftermath. A common male response in such situations is, most simply put, to go about insinuating that his ex or what have you is an unappreciative wh*re.

Well, “wh*re” may be too strong of a word to describe what’s going on here, as it is never stated forthrightly that the addressee ever cheated. But what the singer seems to be doing is something like warning other guys from getting entangled with her. 

Addressee is a very Unfavorable Person

Or more simply put, he is presenting her as someone who, despite being the recipient of his true, all-giving adoration, was naturally, in her cruelty, uninterested in receiving it. Like that’s just the kind of unfavorable person she is, someone who hates those who love her. Additionally, in the second verse she is poetically described as being untruthful. Furthermore, at the beginning of the third, the addressee is also shown to be a seductress.

But the latter part of the third verse is also quite revealing. This is the only part of the song in which the singer seems to focus on himself or more specifically, the reality of being in love. And this song is, at points such as this, very metaphorical in its approach. But what the vocalist appears to be saying is that being caught up in “love and lust” can lead to some questionable decision making. Or more comprehensively put, being smitten is such that the associated euphoria may cause one to tolerate abuse like a partner who is dishonest or furthermore, as sorta implied, unfaithful.

And with that notion in mind, what the thesis sentiment of “So Cruel” actually revolves around is the vocalist, despite the addressee’s various shortcomings as delineated above, still being in love with her.

Lyrics to U2's "So Cruel"

Facts about “So Cruel”

This song is from U2’s seventh-studio album, “Achtung Baby”. Being a non-single, “So Cruel” was officially released with the rest of the LP. Island Records released the project on 18 November 1991. 

To note, even though this song was not a single, it has still proven popular enough to be included among the band’s greatest works.

That said, “So Cruel” is not a tune that regularly appears on U2’s setlists. In fact the band has reportedly only performed it live four times to date. These performances took place during the Zoo TV Tour. This was a famous tour U2 went on in 1992-1993 to promote “Achtung Baby”.

In 2011 a tribute album to “Achtung Baby”, itself titled “AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered”, was released featuring various artists. And in that instance, “So Cruel” was rendered by Depeche Mode.

U2 is a band consisting of the following:

  • Bono, the vocalist
  • bassist Adam Clayton
  • drummer Larry Mullen Jr.
  • guitarist, The Edge 

These four individuals have been down for the cause since the group’s formation in 1976. It is also that quartet who are individually credited as the authors of “So Cruel”. Another figure who was instrumental in the creation of this song is “Flood”, a tenured behind-the-scenes’ man who stands as a regular U2 collaborator.

Also involved in this track, as far as producing it goes, is Daniel Lanois, who himself has worked extensively with the band.

One notable external influence on this song was an American singer by the name of Scott Walker (1943-2019).

The violin and viola on this track was played by a musician named Duchess Nell Catchpole.

Depeche Mode’s Cover

Below is the aforementioned Depeche Mode cover of “So Cruel”. Dave Gahan’s voice on this version has been widely praised. Some even claim that the band’s version is much better than the original. Of course this is something that many U2 fans disagree with.

And what do we think? The original version is great – one that might never be beaten. But that said, DM did a yeoman’s job with their cover.

The “Achtung Baby” Album

“Achtung Baby” is an alternative rock album by U2, an Irish rock band. It was officially released on the 18th of November 1991 as the band’s seventh studio album.

Canadian record producer, Daniel Lanois and his British counterpart, Brian Eno have been credited with the production of “Achtung Baby”.

The album was officially released through Universal Music Group’s Island Records.

The album’s potential was quite clear within its first week of release. It  landed on the Billboard 200 chart at No. 1 and recorded sales of over almost 300,000 copies in the US alone.

It ranked within the top-10 on the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks and spent a total of 101 weeks at different positions on the said chart.

Aside from spending weeks on the top-10 in the US,  “Achtung Baby” topped charts in Canada, New Zealand as well as Australia and ranked top-10 in a number of countries including:

  • Austria – 2
  • Netherlands – 2
  • Germany – 4
  • Norway – 4
  • Sweden – 3
  • Switzerland – 3

“Achtung Baby” has received a lot of accolades since its official release. It won nominations for the awards, “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” and “Album of the Year” at the 35th edition of the annual Grammy Awards in 1993. It won the former but lost the latter to Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged”. 

“Achtung Baby” has been certified 8x platinum in the US, 4x platinum in the UK, 5x platinum in Australia as well as New Zealand.

As stated above, despite “So Cruel” not being released as one of this album’s singles, it proved to be a highlight of the album. In all, 5 singles were birthed by this record . One of these singles is band’s iconic hit “One”.

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