There’s nothing wrong with a song that takes as much time to write as it does to play. “U” (none of this new-fangled “You” business, I prefer Prince-style), is an exhuberant slice of bubblegum that asks nothing more of listeners than to smile, purposefully. Had the song reached for some other brass ring of meaningfulness or deep cultural import, I would understand the handwringing “U” sometimes provokes. But it is what it is, even faking out listeners with a moody intro that quickly dissolves into syrup. That being said, I much, much prefer the original “Wishlist” b-side version to that of Lost Dogs, which is one of my least favorite of the band’s released alternate takes, just ever so slightly less brisk, with a re-recorded vocal and Cameron’s drums replacing Irons’s.
Writing a good pop song is neither easy nor a useless, unworthy talent, though it’s generally scoffed at by “serious” rock fans. Vedder may have written “U” during a 12-minute car ride, but he was likely able to do so because a) he’d been honing his melodic sense for years as a songwriter and obsessive fan, and b) he had the instinct and good sense to commit the idea to memory and tape, and not abandon the tune. Half of the battle in creating high, low, or other art is just following through. I believe that everyone possesses the capability of creating something great, but half of the battle is following through. Students in writing classes are often told to keep a journal or pad of paper by their bed at night, so that they don’t ignore the thoughts and ideas that come to them before drifting off to sleep. People are too quick to dismiss their own ideas, not only because they’re unsure about how to take them further, but because their ideas might seem to simple or poppy or catchy or even silly. But as “U” proves, there’s room enough in the music world for silliness, straightforwardness, and hooks that get endlessly looped in your brain.