Love and hate live side by side. There are numerous subversive artists out there who have the courage to be themselves without latching onto the expectations of society and are adored by millions. Some of these creative souls fall into temptation and into a whirlpool of money and fame, leaving behind their ideals and beliefs. Can fans truly forgive this fall from grace and see it as another phase of a performer’s career?
Bono and Adam in the 1985 Live Aid concert
U2 is one of the bands that underwent this shift from love to hate, becoming one of the most reviled bands in the world. Why? The reasons behind this hatred are completely subjective, specially when referring to Bono. In the nineteen eighties, music critic, Robert Hilburn had close ties with the band and its vocalists. At the start of U2 and Bono’s career, Robert recalls the surprising talent of a musician who knew what he wanted and how he loved music above all else.
In 1985, they did two concerts in London and Philadelphia to raise funds for LEDCs in Africa and countless other artists pitched in this noble cause. This experience profoundly changed the trajectory of the band. Hilburn in his book, Corn Flakes with John Lennon and Other Tales from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Life recalls how Bono wanted to take his music to his next level but couldn’t find a way to make it happen. It wasn’t until the Live Aid performances that Bono discovered a way to mix his altruistic spirit with his work.
After the release of The Joshua Tree, U2’s fame skyrocketed, which gave Bono the resources, power, and strength to give free reign to his activist identity. Bono was no longer a musician; he was a person intimately engaged with humanitarian concerns. He swiftly jumped from artist to politician, disenchanting his fan base.
He took on the shroud of a saint and martyr. There were plenty of eyes rolling in U2’s acceptance speech at the Grammy’s for The Joshua Tree as best album of the year. “We appreciate it. It’s actually, um, it really is hard, um, carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, and, uh, saving the whale, and, uh, organizing summits between world leaders and that sort of thing.” The savior of the world and the activist became prevalent elements of his identity.
This is why many people believe U2 became an arrogant, pretentious, and egocentric band. The issue with these accusations is that they are based on actions carried outside the stage and recording studio. We cannot discredit their musical achievements, which is why we want to show you the top 5 albums that will remind you why they are such a great band.
Original Soundtracks 1
This is one of the albums that has gone under the radar. What is special about this album is that it was created as a soundtrack for imaginary science fiction films. The band heralding from Dublin worked side by side with Brian Eno, and the result was a highly experimental material. This album tries to reproduce the sound textures found in space, and listening to this music will feel as if you are setting off into the universe, floating around its vast immensity. The only single they launched was “Miss Sarajevo”, which is accompanied with vocals by Luciano Pavarotti.
After launching the album Rattle and Hum, the band received harsh and negative criticism. This inspired U2 to reinvent its style in a surprising way, and they accomplished this with Achtung Baby. This album deviates from their previous ones, as it adopts electronic music. To make this transition possible, the whole band temporarily moved to Berlin to soak up the music scene.
Many see Zooropa as the twin of Achtung Baby. However, on this occasion U2 hits hard, with criticisms against the era of technology we currently live in. They reveal that in this new world there are consequences that go hand in hand with technology. Songs like “Numb” and “Daddy’s Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car” still show a marked influence by the electronic music scene of Europe from the late eighties, early nineties.
The Unforgettable Fire
In 1984, U2 launched The Unforgettable Fire, which is considered to be a stepping stone in the musical evolution of the band. There are punk elements in the album, which can be appreciated in “Pride (In the Name of Love).”
The Joshua Tree
The Joshua Tree is the album that launched U2 into global stardom and where its three most iconic songs are found: “With or Without You,” “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” On this occasion The Edge had free reign and created unique pairing of chords. Bono demonstrates a lyrical maturity with songs like “Mother of the Disappeared,” while Adam and Larry provide an unbeatable rhythmic beat.
Each of these albums show to all the naysayers and haters that U2 deserves to be respected for its musical accomplishments. The businesses, alliances, convictions, and political ideologies form only a small part of their world. Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam are not just activists; they are musicians of the finest kind.