Into the Car, Baby Bleed the Gas

I’m reading Killing Bono right now and thoroughly enjoying it. But it’s reminding me of this thing that really bugs me when people write about music – how to write about the band.

Rolling Stone and most other music publications use the plural, as in “U2 are busy on tour right now,” so I’m assuming that’s the standard, but it annoys me, because it doesn’t feel right to me and therefore, reading it breaks the flow. I can see it if you’re talking about, say, The Shins. The band name is a plural, so it makes sense to me to say, “The Shins are busy on tour right now.” But for a band with a singular name, I’d use “is” instead of “are.” It feels better. I think of a band with a singular name, like U2 or Radiohead or whatever, and for me it’s analogous to a word like “family.” Yeah, a family is made up of individuals, but altogether it’s a unit.

I suppose if it’s important to pick one and go with it, “are” is the better one, because saying “The Shins is busy on tour” sounds even stranger than saying “U2 are busy on tour,” and I also have a feeling somewhere in the back of my brain that this particular usage started with British journalists.

I’m sure some of you grammarians can explain exactly why this is, and I’m certainly not trying to convince any of you that I’m right. It’s just one of those things that bugs me because I’m neurotic, really.

Besides, I’m not really the one who has to worry about it, since Sammi is our family’s budding rock journalist anyway.

6 Replies to “Into the Car, Baby Bleed the Gas”

  1. how about an anti grammarian take:

    i agree whale heartedly. fuck that stupid band plural shit.

    my only grammar rule–if most people say it one way, that is A (not necessarily THE) right way.

    see also: using “they” as a singular gender-neutral pronoun, screwing up lay/lie, etc….

  2. Where’s Mike when you need him?

    I’m pretty sure that a band is a unit, like “family”, and the be verb that follows it should be singular.

  3. My husband is English and he does this with bands and sports teams. For example, he’ll say “Tottenham are playing today” (and Tottenham is a soccer team).


    “Coldplay are coming to town this summer.”

    It’s definitely taken some getting used to.

  4. I always thought it was an odd rule too, but the way I think about it, it’s like we, being the english butchering americans that we are, just leave out words that would make “are” make sense. Like if we were to draw it out we’d say “[The members of] U2 are busy on tour right now.” Because that’s what you’re really talking about, right? And in that context, “is” would sound completely stupid. And also, it still works for The Shins … “[the members of] The Shins are busy on tour right now.” a little akward.. but still…. :)

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