Is It Any Wonder?

Album: Under The Iron Sea (2006)
Charted: 3 78
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Songfacts®:

  • Tim Rice-Oxley says of this song in Q Magazine October 2007: "It articulates something that a lot of people have felt over the last few years: being powerless and totally misrepresented."
  • Under The Iron Sea was Keane's second major-label album. They started recording it in April 2005 while they were still on tour. "Is It Any Wonder?" was the lead single, and it helped the album hit #1 in the UK, just like their previous effort, Hopes And Fears.

    Keane got very popular very fast: After playing pubs for a few years, they were signed to an indie label and released "Everybody's Changing" in 2003. Island Records then signed the band and gave them a big promotional push. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • This deceptively upbeat tune was inspired by Keane's feelings of unease surrounding the War on Terror that George W. Bush, aided by US allies like the band's native UK, launched after 9/11. "It's probably the one song on the record that most expresses our dismay and confusion about what it means to be a British citizen, in terms of what our society's contributing to the world at large," Rice-Oxley told Rolling Stone in 2006.

    "It's very hard to make sense of why Britain feels it needs to sign up with George Bush's attacks on Iraq and the whole Afghanistan thing. It feels like there's a whole lot of trouble brewing up over Iran, and you just don't know where it's going to end. On a personal level, for people of our age, it's really unsettling."
  • Rice-Oxley was also feeling the pressure of writing a follow-up to Keane's hit debut album. He coped by working on songs constantly while the band was on the road or, in the case of "Is It Any Wonder," in the air.

    "I remember being in a plane somewhere, because we were still touring a lot, and I think it felt like a stressful time in the world, with the Iraq war and Afghanistan. Like so many people, of whatever age, I certainly felt quite traumatized by 9/11," he recalled in a 2020 "How I Wrote" feature for the UK's Songwriting Magazine. "The fallout is still being felt today, but we were right in the middle of it at the time and it was very much in everyone's consciousness. So that feeling of being very on-edge somehow led to that phrase, 'Is it any wonder?'"

    Rice-Oxley already had part of a "U2-ish" melody that he came up with a few months earlier that fit with the lyrics about his anxiety over the state of the world. He put on the finishing touches in Germany, with some help from the historic architecture.

    "I hadn't finished the middle eight and we were staying in a hotel overlooking Cologne Cathedral, which is a beautiful old gothic cathedral. And I'd been hearing a story about, when the city was bombed by the allies, the cathedral was the only thing that was miraculously untouched," he explained. "That really got stuck in my head and fed nicely into the middle eight lyrics ['Nothing left inside this old cathedral']."
  • The song was nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal at the 2007 Grammy Awards but lost to "My Humps" by The Black Eyed Peas.

Comments: 2

  • Scott from West Palm Beach, FlI really like this song based on the pure fact that I'm a die hard U2 fan and this song sounds eerily similar in nature. In fact, it could have been included on U2's Achtung Baby LP and I'd bet no one would have been the wiser! :)
  • Dora from Doha, QatarThis song could also be about a troubled relationship between 2 people.
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