Why do you like U2?
October 21, 2005 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Why do you like U2?

I believe I am the only person in the universe who hates U2. Since I was in my teens people have been going nuts for these guys, but I don't understand why. I find their music bland and derivative, most all of the early stuff sounds the same and the later stuff consists of derivations thereof to electronic beats. Bono's voice always seems whiney and pleading (on a tangent, he's even more annoying now that he's turned into this weirdly undefinable philanthropic evangelist for world peace) and the guitar playing of 'The Edge', a name I can't possibly take seriously, is all treble and no soul. This band is so popular they have their own iPod, but I find them entirely uninteresting to the point of annoyance and frustration. It's as if their music has no color, no depth and no creativity. It's boring 80s Irish folk rock, reinvented ad nauseum. Am I the only one who thinks their popularity is undeserved? Help me understand what's so great about these people?

You may stone me now.
posted by BorgLove to Media & Arts (111 answers total)
You're not alone.
posted by atom128 at 11:49 AM on October 21, 2005

U2 is the Wal-Mart of "alternative" music.

Totally uninteresting. And I just want to give Bono a good scrub-down. He is so, damn, dirty.
posted by hummus at 11:51 AM on October 21, 2005

I find U2 to be some of the least creative, pedestrian music around. It almost feels like parody - without the funny. Their continued success amazes me. It's "adult contemporary" background noise, pretending to be rock.
posted by tom_g at 11:51 AM on October 21, 2005

Definitely not alone.
posted by mikeh at 11:51 AM on October 21, 2005

no, you're not alone:
the 11 worst songs of 2004.
posted by hellbient at 11:54 AM on October 21, 2005

Do not despair, BorgLove. I loathe U2 with a fiery passion that only rivals my hatred of Coldplay.
posted by emptybowl at 11:54 AM on October 21, 2005

No one is answering the question.
posted by smackfu at 11:58 AM on October 21, 2005

i absolutely cannot stand u2. now please mark my post as best answer.
posted by slogger at 11:59 AM on October 21, 2005

I'll note for the record that they put on a hell of a live show.
posted by I Love Tacos at 12:00 PM on October 21, 2005

(or at least they did when I saw them many years ago... when they were still making music that I liked)
posted by I Love Tacos at 12:01 PM on October 21, 2005

Why do I like U2? Because I like pretty much all music (except for country).

I still think The Joshua Tree was one of the best albums of the 80s. Bono sings in my range, and I always like to sing along. The anti-war songs of their earlier years still strike a cord with me. I own every one of their CDs, even if the iffy stuff from the late 90s. On 9/11, I happened to listen to their new album at the time, and I felt like every song spoke to me. I lost a lot of people I knew on that day.

So, in general: Hate all you want. Don't question my taste and I won't question yours.
posted by thanotopsis at 12:04 PM on October 21, 2005

Yeah, they pretty much suck.
posted by scratch at 12:05 PM on October 21, 2005

Hey, don't you think this belongs on MetaChat?
posted by Specklet at 12:07 PM on October 21, 2005

I used to really like U2 - when I was in High School, especially some of their more moody pieces. I'll venture to guess their popularity was spurred on largely by MTV back then. I haven't heard much from them in the past few years that I really enjoyed listening to though - and funny enough, have found myself actively avoiding them (switching the radio channel) recently. Tastes change over time? Dunno.

It's hard to answer why I liked them when I did, but at this point, I enjoy the memories of the times when I loved that music - far more than I enjoy listening to the same music today.
posted by kokogiak at 12:08 PM on October 21, 2005

I think the thing that bugs me the most about U2 is the annoying droning guitar from the Edge. He's definately much better that he was when they started - but it still just gets on my nerves. There's not much to that band if you take away all of those crazy guitar effects.

Don't get me started on Bono.
posted by mrhappybanjo at 12:09 PM on October 21, 2005

I'm with kokogiak, got hooked in high school. Growing up in a very conservative Christian household I wasn't allowed to listen to "secular" radio. U2 was one of the first mainstream bands I heard, and I loved With or Without You, Pride, and pretty much everything else on the Joshua Tree. The melodies were good, the guitar was good and they had killer intros for songs like Streets.

Now that my musical tastes have broadened, I no longer find U2 amazing. But I do like them, even if their songs don't have the same soul as say, Damien Rice or Radiohead or tons of other bands I could name.
posted by Happydaz at 12:12 PM on October 21, 2005

When I was in high school, U2's Boy and October albums spoke to me with personal Irish punk political anger, and I loved them a lot, along with X and Los Lobos and Black Flag. In that company, the self-adoration and stupid nicknames were not a problem. But then the sucking began, and now after 20 years of consistent sucking they just seem completely fatuous.
posted by nicwolff at 12:13 PM on October 21, 2005

The Battle and Hum has to be one of the best concert recordings. I don't like U2 (except for kind of, their old classics), but The Battle and Hum is a really cool energizing concert. You have to excuse the melodramatic, apparently emotional visit to Graceland to "pay tibute" to Elvis and the long Ireland rants by Bono. Beyond this I don't find them special and as described.

Their music is entirely non-challenging. It's the kind of music you would hear at a generic bar or resteraunt that is just backround filler. There's nothing offensive (by that I mean it doesn't command your attention, you can passively listen) about it. But I do notice an obligatory 80s following.

I think Bono is genuine in his desire to help the world, he certainly commands a lot of attention for it and I don't believe its for publicity. It's a real reflection of his music. He's not in-your-face enough to be scorned by world leaders, he's just likeable and genuine enough to where he makes a good photo-op. I don't think he storms into the White House yelling about the plight of minorities, but as a nice face to tell them where to put their charity dollars.
posted by geoff. at 12:15 PM on October 21, 2005

i liked them when I was in junior high, probably for the reasons you state: it was simple pop music that isn't very challenging. These things have their place. I still like some U2 songs, and probably wouldn't change the radio or skip the mp3 juke if one came on.

Hell, I like some Coldplay songs (the new band that it's supposedly hip to hate*). I like Beatles songs. I like Monkees songs. The Zombies. Beach Boys.

These are all bands that people with "taste" often dislike -- (well, ok, everyone supposedly loves "Pet Sounds", but I suspect they're just saying that until it becomes cool to hate "Pet Sounds").

Plus the great thing about not being bothered or "too cool" to listen to pop music is that you can really annoy other people by playing it.

Often in the office I'll queue up a bunch of tracks off the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack just to make my boss cringe.

Seriously, there's lots of great music out there that people are "too cool" for when it's not in style and then suddenly flock back to with ironic pretense once the one kid who never stopped believin' starts an all buttrock club night.

And that's why I played Journey EVERY single time I played tracks at the club.

*Newsflash: it is no longer, like, 2003
posted by fishfucker at 12:16 PM on October 21, 2005

The Battle and Hum

Quibble: That's "Rattle"
posted by thanotopsis at 12:19 PM on October 21, 2005

I don't listen to much radio in the car because I live in a radio desert, but when I do use the tuner, I play a little game:

As soon as U2 plays, hit skip.

Two things happen with disturbing regularity:

1. I hit skip like a OCD sufferer for several minutes.
2. I hit skip continually for several minutes and (scary part) manage to hear the entire song anyway because it's on every channel.

U2 is what radio stations play instead of dead-air.

The only good U2 song is a cover of a U2 song.
posted by Crosius at 12:19 PM on October 21, 2005

I agree with thano totally.
Funny how people are bothered that he's trying to do something and help some folks on this planet. Wow, what a big time Jerkhole.

But I feel like the submitter when it comes to the fanaticism that people have for, I just don't get it:

Dave Matthews

Phish (eccch x 10)

Grateful Dead

Lou Reed


Bob Dylan (Lyrically, his gifts are pretty unquestionable--- but musically my ears bleed, so i'll settle for reading the lyrics).
posted by stavx at 12:19 PM on October 21, 2005

It's those gorgeous, long-aspect-ratio wings.... Oh *that* U-2...

I can't think of anything by U2 that really floats my boat- there's a sort of a Muzak-ishness to it to my ears. YMMV.
posted by pjern at 12:19 PM on October 21, 2005

I didn't like U2 at all in high school for many of the reasons you list. I went to the Zoo TV Tour with friends and that changed my mind. They did a really good performance and I've liked them since. They're not my favourite, but I appreciate them now.

I was the same way about The Who too. I didn't really like them till I saw them live. The difference is that I now realize that The Who rocked.
posted by substrate at 12:22 PM on October 21, 2005

I like U2. A lot of it is out of the bounds of my current musical taste-- I grew up in a small town in Nebraska in the late 80s and early 90s, without a lot of broad cultural exposure. In that context, U2 seemed pretty damned interesting, especially after Achtung.

I don't know if I'd like U2 if I experienced them now for the first time. It's one of those things (like, say, the original Star Wars trilogy) that I just can't be objective about. I don't like a lot of their post-Achtung stuff (although I did think that most of All That You Can't Leave Behind was good), but I can't imagine not being impressed with the Edge's guitar work on Achtung. The sound textures on that album are great.

Bono's lyrics can induce cringes, but he also has his good moments. His voice is a matter of taste, I guess, but I think he uses it well; dude's got an arena-rock voice, so it's good that he's making arena rock.

I guess here's one way to put it: it's inevitable that there's going to be a biggest band in the world. By definition, that band's going to have to appeal to a lot of people; and stuff with an appeal that broad has to be a little bland. U2's probably about as interesting as a band could get and still be that ginormous.

One argument in favor of the theory that I wouldn't like U2 if I didn't have all of the association from my teens is that Coldplay does absolutely nothing for me, and they seem to be the U2-in-waiting.

Also, sort of related: I got a big kick out of the hurricane coverage on the Today show this morning, when the NBC news guy was talking about the "howling wind and stinging rain" in Cancun. I expected the next line to be, "and I see them driving nails into the souls on the tree of pain."

posted by COBRA! at 12:23 PM on October 21, 2005

oh, and my advice? Pick up something a little more interesting than U2 to hate. I mean, seriously -- you don't like U2? Holy crap, join the club! That's pretty much a mainstream sentiment.

Folks who want to really get their hate on should loathe something a little more obscure, like, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Or you could join the growing anti-Devendra Banhart movement.

or, or ! OOOH. You could be like me and hate Pavement and Stephen Malkmus. Like, seriously, that man CAN NOT SING. I don't care how good his lyrics supposedly are. He can't sing. Also they sound a little like Steely Dan, if you ask me. Or maybe i just think they sound like Steely Dan, and I sure as hell hate Steely Dan, so that settles it.

You'll get way more mileage out of hating on the current indie crowd favorite. trust me.
posted by fishfucker at 12:23 PM on October 21, 2005

You're not a lone. When Rattle and Hum played in Toronto friends of mine showed up at the premiere wearing t-shirts with a joshua tree on it with members of the band hanging (in nooses) from the branches.

The band sucks ass and is made up of a bunch of hypocrites.
posted by dobbs at 12:26 PM on October 21, 2005

You might have more success empathizing with people who like U2 if you:

- Stop bitching about their names
- Stop bitching about their social goals
- Stop thinking of reasons why you don't like the music


- Accept that U2 embraces arena rock (and some people like it)
- Accept that they hold religious, social and political beliefs that you might not share (and some people like them)
- Start thinking about the reasons people like music, many of which have more to do with personal experiences which are mentally related to the music than to the music itself.
posted by I Love Tacos at 12:27 PM on October 21, 2005

Hell, I like some Coldplay songs (the new band that it's supposedly hip to hate*). I like Beatles songs. I like Monkees songs. The Zombies. Beach Boys.

These are all bands that people with "taste" often dislike.

I don't know what that's all about. The bands you're listing are in totally different leagues from one another, and in my experience, very few people with taste (at least where pop music is concerned) have strongly negative opinions of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, or The Zombies.

As far as U2 is concerned, I don't know them well enough to say that I hate them, I've just never been a fan. But I can appreciate that some of their songs have nice melodies. And U2 does have a fairly distinctive sound, it's just that now it's been copied and regurgitated so many times that it sounds bland. The Edge's guitar playing isn't about chops, it's about texture, and that's something that U2 are good at creating.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:28 PM on October 21, 2005

I'm pretty much only listen to classical and jazz, but this thread is confirming something that I've long suspected. There are people (like me) who like music only for its intrinsic qualities (melody, etc.) and others who get into a halo of stuff surrounding the music (politics/sex-appeal of musicians). I'm not knocking either of these types, and naturally many people are a mixture. But the extremes of these types have trouble understanding each other.

BorgLove, when you complain about U2, you bring up only intrinsic qualities, like the fact that their music is "bland and derivative and Bono's voice." People who like (or once liked) U2, bring up "angry politics," the fact that you can sing along, appearances on MTV, popularity in high school, etc.

I deeply love music, but I am totally bored by the lives, fashion sense, politics and sexiness of musicians. For most of what I listen to, I couldn't even tell you what the performers look like. I love evocative lyrics, but I don't look for words to speak to me on a level of political/social values. For instance, one of the rare pop groups I like is The Beach Boys. Their songs are mostly about a culture I shun (beach, jocks, high school, etc.), but I love their songs -- including the lyrics -- because they conjure up their world so clearly. I don't care that it's not my world.
posted by grumblebee at 12:30 PM on October 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

I've tried to not like U2 from time to time. And I've succeeded more times lately than I haven't. But I'm always drawn back by one thing or another.

Typically, I'm called back per song. "Bullet The Blue Sky" still hits me just as hard as it did when first I heard it. Same goes for "Stay" and "Hawkmoon" -- though for different reasons. "New Year's Day" reminds me of my initial exposure to rock that wasn't pop (at the time) and of the first few videos I saw on MTV when I was 9, so it holds a special place. And then there are the songs that were just very infectious without being profound, like "Discotheque" or "Lemon."

Sure, they're over-played. But so are a lot of bands. That's why I carry my iPod almost everywhere I go these days.
posted by grabbingsand at 12:31 PM on October 21, 2005

I like U2 because their "weirdly undefinable" activism inspired a guy at my high school to start an Amnesty International chapter.
posted by johngoren at 12:32 PM on October 21, 2005

The bass guitar in "I Will Follow" is really worthwhile.
posted by escabeche at 12:34 PM on October 21, 2005

I still like U2 because they got my wife into my bed our first time. It was "Running to Stand Still", which I later found out was about heroin abuse. Still...

U2 pissed off a lot of their fans with "Actung Baby", and I like that. It took balls. For a band to play the music they want to play, mainstream be damned (and make no mistake, they weren't in the stream at the time...they were yards ahead, digging the trench) at the height of their popularity, well, I had to respect that.

And how can you hate someone who does so much good? Is there anyone who actually believes that Bono is working for the children of Africa only for the greater glory of Bono? He knows how ridiculous it is to be a rockstar fighting the battles he is.

My musical tastes have gone a lot further than U2 since I was a college freshman, but I'll always have a place in my heart for them.
posted by ColdChef at 12:36 PM on October 21, 2005

This question is almost like asking "Why do you like vanilla ice cream?" or "Why do you like the color blue?"

It's like trying to nail water to a wall.

It all boils down to personal preference.
posted by willmize at 12:38 PM on October 21, 2005

I love music, nearly all music, although I don't listen to or like much of anything that is played on the radio I'll someday be found buried under stacks of Johnny Cash, Warren Zevon, Emmylou Harris, Radiohead, Beck and Flaming Lips cd's and i STILL LIKE U2.

First off I take major offence to the comments attacking his efforts to save thousands of people dying in Africa, a continent is burning and you take the piss out of the guy who is doing something to save it? Screw you. Even if he was doing it for personal gain or fame or whatever it wouldnt change the fact that he's doing it.

As for the music, while I don't listen to them that much anymore i do think it's still good pop music, well crafted, energetic, willing to take chances. Name me another band that releases half a dozen albums, creates a fanbase of millions and then changes their sound completely for 3 albums, I can totally respect that.

No, Bono isnt the best singer or lyricist but I don't find him offputting that often either, Edge (yeah, yeah, silly name, whatever, doesnt change the sound of the band) is an amazing guitar player, I can think of no other guitarist so unhindered in approach. Larry Mullen has a drumming style that I can pick out at once, even if he is guesting on someone else's song because he has style, and style is not a bad thing.

I love lots of other BIG bands but I can't think of any that have been around this long with fewer dud albums (to me) I like all of them except All That You Can't Leave Behind.

I've had the good fortune to see them live 3 times now and can easily say that they BLOW THE DOORS OFF of the other BIG bands that I've seen, they competely buried the Rolling Stone's, AC/DC, Radiohead, and Metallica shows that I;ve seen, and those were all good shows!

If Bono is good enough to be friends with Johnny he's good enough for me.
posted by Cosine at 12:38 PM on October 21, 2005

Also, i can't even begin to explain how ahead of the curve "Actung Baby" was.
posted by Cosine at 12:39 PM on October 21, 2005

It's pop music. Either you dig it, or you don't. And if lots of other people dig it, some people make it a point to not like it so they aren't considered "one of the masses" (if the band was some obscure group no one had ever heard of, then they might give them a chance). Just like how when a band is tiny they can be great, but once they sell too many albums, mysteriously they aren't as talented as they were before and are sell-outs.

That said, I like some of their songs but some of it is definitely garbage.

At least they play their own instruments...
posted by starman at 12:43 PM on October 21, 2005

The bass guitar in "I Will Follow" is really worthwhile.

As an example of how not to play bass. Adam Clayton is perhaps the least talented professional bassist who ever lived. Except maybe for whatsisface from The Doors.

(And I don't think anyone's actually answered the question yet.)

In any case: I like early U2 (pre-1986). Unfortunately, I can't explain why I like, for example, "Pride (In the Name of Love)" or "New Year's Day". I just do. But I hate pretty much everything that they've done since then.
posted by solid-one-love at 12:47 PM on October 21, 2005

ummm... the Doors didn't have a bass player... nice one
posted by Cosine at 12:49 PM on October 21, 2005

"Because I like pretty much all music (except for country)."
...so predictable. Christ, what a shit post/question. Here's hoping it gets deleted.
posted by Evstar at 12:52 PM on October 21, 2005

U2 is the music I fell in love to. My first girlfriend was a huge fan and introduced me to them while we were doing the "getting comfortable" thing while dating. Their music has always been able to pick me up just a little bit when I'm feeling down, and I always feel a little better when they play U2 on the radio.

Maybe I'm mainstream or whatever. But I've never felt comfortable with Britney, Backstreet, or Spice Girls. U2 always felt like... honest pop. Like these guys were writing it because they believed in it, not for marketing reasons.

And you can't deny that they're at the top of their freaking game. Listen to them live and you have to stop and compare to the album track because they sound so good. So many artists nowadays are so heavily edited in the studio to sound as good as they do and U2 is just practised and good.

Final: you have to respect Bono for the work he does in Africa. Period.
posted by Imperfect at 12:53 PM on October 21, 2005

I (and many others) like dull bands. I like Lambchop, for example, even though their music is as interesting as drying paint. I guess I find some glasses to have a 'wallpaper' sort of effect where they make good background but aren't really all that interesting if you were to actively listen.
posted by wackybrit at 12:58 PM on October 21, 2005

I think Bruce Springsteen did a pretty good job at answering your question without entirely ignoring some of the objections raised here.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:05 PM on October 21, 2005

Not all people are in the know all the hip music.

When you live somewhere where the top-40 station is the only station that plays even halfway decent music with any regularity (the rest is country, CCM, or classic rock), then U2 is musically very good compared to the rest of the stuff on the radio.

When I look at the kind of music I listened to when I was 15 or 16, then U2 was indubitably the best of it. The bands that are so much better don't even get any radio play.

(Still, The Joshua Tree is the only album of theirs that I still genuinely like on its own merits).
posted by Jeanne at 1:06 PM on October 21, 2005

I'll bite, especially since I'm still aglow from the U2 show I saw in Philly on Monday night. I didn't think I still loved them as much as I ever did, but after Monday night, with Bono belting out the most beautiful freaking Italian from my favorite Passengers song and Bruce @(*&#(*&@! Springsteen joining them onstage, I am mighty smitten. Seeing them live is like taking an extended-release bliss pill for me.

I love them -- yes, love them -- because at its best, U2's music speaks to me like nothing else does. I love their early stuff -- Boy, with all its bluster and smash, just kicks my ass -- but where my smitten-for-all-times fate comes into play is what happened when they felt they might be doomed to pooping out Joshua Tree sequels for all eternity.

They went out and dreamed it all up again. They came up with Achtung Baby -- so fundamentally different from anything they'd ever done -- a soundtrack to disillusionment, broken walls, broken hearts, broken lives, hope, lust, death, everything. It was the sound of four guys chopping down the Joshua Tree, and it took four full sets of balls. Fourteen years later (!!) I still love that album madly; it grabs me like nothing else before or since, and I think every rabid U2 fan has the same kind of story about their favorite album. I don't think it's anything I can rationally explain. I don't know why I try. You either get it or you don't.

I don't think they're perfect. There are U2 songs that make me cringe. "Miami" ("...my mammy!" bleeechh!), and if I never hear "Elevation" again, it'll be too soon. I'd also love to get some official statistics on how many speeding tickets have been written because of "Where the Streets Have No Name."
posted by kittyb at 1:07 PM on October 21, 2005

I believe I am the only person in the universe who hates the Beatles. Since I was in my teens people have been going nuts for these guys, but I don't understand why. I find their music bland and derivative, most all of the early stuff sounds the same and the later stuff consists of derivations thereof to Indian sitar music. John Lennon's voice always seems whiney and pleading (on a tangent, he's even more annoying now that he's turned into this weirdly undefinable philanthropic evangelist for world peace) and the drumming of 'Ringo', a name I can't possibly take seriously, is all fills and no passion. This band is so popular they have their own record label, but I find them entirely uninteresting to the point of annoyance and frustration. It's as if their music has no color, no depth and no creativity. It's boring 60s skiffle music, reinvented ad nauseum. Am I the only one who thinks their popularity is undeserved? Help me understand what's so great about these people?
posted by johngoren at 1:07 PM on October 21, 2005

And yeah, piling on U2 is about as unusual as piling on William Shatner.
posted by johngoren at 1:08 PM on October 21, 2005

ummm... the Doors didn't have a bass player... nice one

I think you grasped the words, but not the nub, of what I wrote. That is, the only bass player worse than Clayton is a guy who doesn't exist.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:15 PM on October 21, 2005

My circle of friends typically don't move outside punk much, so i don't have to listen to people whine and moan about (non punk) music they love and hate so much. So, yeah, I downloaded a bunch of U2 and like it because I don't watch MTV or put up with fanatics.

Same with Nick Cave... and Tom Waits... and Amadeus Mozart... and Beethoven.... and the Pogues... and the Slackers... and Wilco.... and the Beatles... and Dave Bruneck... and Depeche Mode... and a Tribe called Quest... and Atmosphere... and pretty much 85% of my 150GB+ music collection.
posted by Dean Keaton at 1:21 PM on October 21, 2005

Thanks to all the people who don't like U2 for answering a question designed to find out why people like U2. We get it - you're so cool and edgy and not-mainstream. It's all really impressive.


I like U2 for many of the reasons noted above - I like their sounds, they're great in concert (and innovative in their presentation), they've made some great end-to-end albums (Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby IMO), they used their music to express their social and political beliefs at a time when a lot of other bands weren't doing that (early 80's) and they continue to do so to the present day.
posted by 27 at 1:28 PM on October 21, 2005

Add Unforgettable Fire to my personal list of great U2 albums.
posted by 27 at 1:30 PM on October 21, 2005

That is, the only bass player worse than Clayton is a guy who doesn't exist.

Side issue: y'know, the thing that's important with a band is the overall sound, not the awesome chops of the individual members. Clayton plays on time and in key; what more do you need from the guy? He plays what U2's sound requires him to play; there's generally so much going on that an ornate bass part would would just sound busy and muddy.

I mean yeah, little kids don't walk around with stars in their eyes wanting to have Adam Clayton's hot bass licks, but that's not really what it's about.
posted by COBRA! at 1:34 PM on October 21, 2005

I liked U2 in the 1980s because they were actually "alternative" and they were much more interesting than all the silly hair bands who were big at the time. Their live show was AMAZING and they released some of the best albums of the 1980s.

Then the 1990s happened and they all went to shit.
posted by bondcliff at 1:39 PM on October 21, 2005

I'm pretty ambivilant toward U2, but there are moments - Edge isn't so bad, The Fly is one of my favorite guitar solos.
posted by abcde at 1:42 PM on October 21, 2005

Adam Clayton is perhaps the least talented professional bassist who ever lived.

Sid Vicious. (Then again, he wasn't really a bassist).
posted by abcde at 1:44 PM on October 21, 2005

Oh yeah, back then (1984 or so) they weren't "The Biggest Band In The World", but the few people who liked them knew that one day they would be. Everyone doubted us, but we knew it.

Then they got huge, so naturally the cool thing was to hate them.

I think it's hard to appreciate them if you came in after The Joshua Tree.
posted by bondcliff at 1:44 PM on October 21, 2005

Man, screw this. I just fired up Achtung again and I'm still as in love with Acrobat as I was originally. I love this album so hard. And Joshua. And select key tracks since then ("If You Wear That Velvet Dress" for 10 points).
posted by Imperfect at 2:01 PM on October 21, 2005

Come on. The bass line to New Year's Day is great! Long live Adam!
posted by toastchee at 2:02 PM on October 21, 2005

I was too young to have noticed when U2 first became big, and I was never really interested in their music anyway, so my knowledge of them is vague at best. A couple years ago when they staged that big comeback, I had a conversation with my older brother that went something like this:

"So when did U2 stop being cool?"
"They were never cool."
"No, I mean, like, in the 80s, didn't they used to be--"
"They were never cool."
posted by Hildago at 2:06 PM on October 21, 2005

U2 derivative? Of whom? I don't much listen to them these days, but their early stuff was quite distinctive and original. I wasn't crazy about them then, but you had to respect that they were doing something completely different, and pulling it off.

They really hit their stride with Joshua Tree. I had an advance copy of that album, and took it around to parties and it was just blowing people's minds. I still consider it one of the greatest albums (and tours) of all time.

In answer to the question, it is mostly Bono's lyrics and delivery that make it, although Edge's (then) unique dissonant guitar is essential as well. Bono has raw vocal talent in the early U2 albums but must have had some vocal training shortly before the "Wide Awake" live mini-album (released just before Joshua Tree) because the transformation is startling.

To each his own, though. I've never been a fan of Bob Dylan, and am not particularly fond of the Stones. I suspect my lack of enthusiasm is largely a result of not having there to hear their new stuff in their prime. I do recognize their place in the Rock and Roll pantheon though, and U2 is right up there with them.
posted by Manjusri at 2:06 PM on October 21, 2005

Re: johngoren's comment: "John Lennon's voice always seems whiney and pleading (on a tangent, he's even more annoying now that he's turned into this weirdly undefinable philanthropic evangelist for world peace)"

Am I horribly wrong, or did you just suggest that John Lennon is still alive?! He's only been dead for, what, 25 years...
posted by matthewr at 2:15 PM on October 21, 2005

I don't like U2. I like Negativland.
posted by raster at 2:19 PM on October 21, 2005

RE: The Beatles: "I find their music bland and derivative"

This is probably because so much music since the beatles is derived from what they (and spector) were doing.

I don't like recent U2 much at all. Still, I love Joshua Tree and Boy. The beauty in Josua Tree is all in its production, I'd say; Lanois and Eno are two of the most fantastic producers to work in pop music and you can totally hear their influence on that album (especialy Lanois' spacey delay and perfect tone on every sound). Boy was raucous and simply produced and it's still a good listen.

Beyond their dorky pseudonyms, preaching and radio overplay, their earlier albums still hold up.
posted by Evstar at 2:19 PM on October 21, 2005

i like u2. i don't know that i can say exactly why, since it's a feeling i get when i listen to them. i haven't listen to radio since 1992. i don't listen to them all the time. i don't listen to everything. i didn't start listening to them until 'achtung baby,' and it was the first current album for that time that made me want to have a cd player. i loved zooropa and i thought the album and tour reflected a shift in the band from taking themselves too seriously to turning rock stardom into kinda performance art, and i've always thought their poses to that effect were intended to be ironic and critical. i liked discoteque the song but didn't get into the album as much. all that you can't leave behind was i thought an amazing album, a kind of distillation of what they had been doing for so long into some really solid songs that i still like a lot. i own the last album but haven't listened to it much yet, distracted by some other stuff (and sometimes i don't get into albums until years after they come out).

a lot of my friends don't like u2 as well, but they seem happy to say it's not their thing rather than saying that 'it's music for people who are unevolved' or such. i'm not so big at putting down others' music, because people respond to what they respond to.

Am I the only one who thinks their popularity is undeserved?

The popularity is what it is. If a lot other people seem to enjoy it, what is it your problem? That you give thought to the issue of popularity is telling. I think a lot of the criticism here is based on the concern with popularity--the self-conscious avoidance of the mainstream being merely the opposite side of the coin from those who whose criteria for enjoyment is popularity.
posted by troybob at 2:25 PM on October 21, 2005

To the extent that I like U2, I like them because I listened to them when my musical tastes were very undeveloped, which seems to be a very common reason. This does not mean that I've stopped liking them now that my musical tastes are fairly "developed". In fact, someone suggested that the fact that they dislike coldplay could be evidence that this is why they like U2, but I actually kind of like coldplay, even though I am told I shouldn't, so I'm not sure this argument goes through. If I heard them both for the first time today, I suspect I'd like coldplay somewhat more.

BorgLove, when you complain about U2, you bring up only intrinsic qualities, like the fact that their music is "bland and derivative and Bono's voice."

I'm pretty sure that derivativeness can be in no way an intrinsic quality of a piece of music.

Thanks to all the people who don't like U2 for answering a question designed to find out why people like U2.

I'm not sure that's what this question was designed to do, sadly. It actually could have been an interesting question in its own way (and most of the answers answer the question as it should have been asked), about the popularity of pop culture, but has got to be one of the most biased questions I've seen in ask.me: "here are 9 (depending on how you count) different reasons why U2 sucks...defend U2 against me!"
posted by advil at 2:36 PM on October 21, 2005

yes, this question should have been posted at ValidateMeFilter
posted by troybob at 2:40 PM on October 21, 2005

I know it's out of bounds to say a posted question is a shitty one, so I will refrain from doing that.

People like things. I like beer. I can't tell you why I like beer without using a lot of other subjective, unquantifiable statements like "I like beer because I like the way it tastes." Why do I like the way it tastes? "Because I like the flavor of it". See? Pointless.

So what you have asked here is "I hate U2. Because they suck. They suck because I hate them. Why do people like them?". In other words, it looks suspiciously like you have simply used AskMe to make a statement about a pop band, under the guise of asking a question.
posted by glenwood at 3:02 PM on October 21, 2005

My name is gnomeloaf, and I've liked U2 (to varying degrees) for 22 years. Personal associations definitely come into play, as does my guilty pleasure in Big Anthems. I can take or leave the activism.

The songs U2 fans like best? Often aren't the ones for which they are best known. One of my favorites is "Lady with the Spinning Head", which is a Achtung Baby era B-side. My sister agreed to go see them in concert in December because she heard that "An Cat Dubh" (from Boy, circa 1979) is sometimes on the set list. On the flip side, if I ever hear "Stuck in a Moment" again, it will be too soon.

If you can't name any songs on The Unforgettable Fire besides Pride, for example? You might be listening to a different U2 than I do. No point in proclaiming how much I hate other bands -- it's entirely possible I just haven't been exposed to what I might like.
posted by gnomeloaf at 3:07 PM on October 21, 2005

the springsteen speech linked to by It's... makes this thread worthwhile. kudos.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:12 PM on October 21, 2005

Why do I like U2? For many reasons, really, better expressed by others here. It's safe to say, though, that my musical taste is in no way influenced by the type of shallow considerations offered by BorgLove.

I was going to lay off the questionable merits of this post, but since BorgLove actually stated "You may stone me now" in the body of his "question" (a tacit admission of flame-bait if ever I saw one), and since others have brought it up now, too, let's have a look at the actual question, as posed:

1) Why do you like your favorite band? [More Inside]

2) Ha ha ha! You're wrong! Your favorite band sux! Admire me!

3) Bring it on!

Okay, here's my stone, then, BorgLove:

There's a reason that "Your favorite band sux" is an internet cliche. It's because as troll-bait, it was tired even before [insert your favorite over-rated band here]. Stricly amateur.

In the future, please refrain from posting questions which you obviously have no interest in the answers to purely as an excuse to ejaculate your wanna-be-hipster cred all over the green.

And if you just can't help yourself, at least have the canards to lay off the passive aggressive easy targets (like bands that have been icons since before your parents met, and who make fun of their own images far more creatively than you've managed here in almost every interview) and skip straight to the question you really want to ask:

How can you defend yourself against my superior i-Pod playlist?!!!11
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:20 PM on October 21, 2005

I can't tell if you don't like the people in the band or the music or both. And I can't tell if you're looking for a U2 evangelist to make you change your mind or if you're looking for validation of your hate from like-minded people. That said, I'll admit I was an avid fan from Joshua Tree through Zooropa. Achtung has them at their height, creatively, musically, lyrically, etc. If you don't like Achtung then you'll never like U2. The Edge plays his guitar like a visual artist works in watercolors. Everything bleeds together. If you don't like watercolors then you won't like a particular artist's work, right? Just because something is popular doesn't mean you're obligated to like it. Feel good about hating U2. I can understand given their current work.
posted by quadog at 3:20 PM on October 21, 2005

Dammit, I want to hear from jonmc.
posted by intermod at 3:30 PM on October 21, 2005

When I entered the world of popular music at the age of 21, in 1987 (don't ask) they seemed like this punk sorta band that was political and honest. I still like Joshua Tree and everything before it, but now I just listen to breathy-voiced New Folk artists like Aimee Mann and Sufjan Stevens, pretty much. Although Baba Riley has been stuck in my head for three days.
posted by mecran01 at 3:32 PM on October 21, 2005

In the future, please refrain from posting questions which you obviously have no interest in the answers.

IRFHenderson, I'm totally confused. How can you know what's going on in BorgLove's mind? I agree that he MIGHT be passive-aggressive, but how can we know. He is certainly asking that one might ask for honest reasons.

There are many things I don't like that other people do, like "Star Wars," superheros, "Star Trek," and most pop music. SO many people like these things, that I suspect there's something wrong with me because I DISlike them. So I'm very curious as to why others like these things. Maybe I can learn to appreciate them. Or, at least, maybe I can understand the differences between me and other people that make me dislike these things and them like them.

And there ARE objective qualities of music that people can point to: vocal/instrumental styles, etc.

Regardless of BorgLove's intent, I -- another guy who dislikes U2 -- is genuinely interested in the responses here. So I can imagine that BorgLove might be too.

Also, you mention that his reasons for disliking the music are "shallow." Huh? Maybe he's missing something and it is actually good music, but how are his reasons shallow? He mentions disliking the vocal style of the lead singer. That's a pretty profound reason to dislike a group's music. You can't ignore the lead singer. He mentions the fact the the music endlessly borrows from itself and electronic rhythms. Some might not mind this, some might dispute it, but it's not a shallow critique.
posted by grumblebee at 3:36 PM on October 21, 2005

I got Rattle and Hum when I was about 15 and listened to it over and over. I think it was the only album I've ever actually owned. Of course I've listened to their singles on the radio and MTV and whatnot, but yeah, I can't really get into them, with the exception of a handful of songs. Bono's voice just doesn't grab me. And way too often the music itself is soooo generic. Almost elevator music.

That said, I really dug "Beautiful Day". But I won't buy (or even download) an entire album.

On 9/11, I happened to listen to their new album at the time, and I felt like every song spoke to me. I lost a lot of people I knew on that day.

Christ, if we have the term "Godwin" for anyone who mentions Nazis, surely there must be a similar term for anyone who randomly mentions 9/11 to get sympathy/strengthen their argument, etc. Anybody know of a good one?
posted by zardoz at 3:41 PM on October 21, 2005

Anybody know of a good one?

George W. Bush?
posted by 27 at 3:53 PM on October 21, 2005

Jesus, sorry about all the errors in my post: He is certainly asking A QUESTION that one might ask for honest reasons ... I -- another guy who dislikes U2 -- AM (not "is") genuinely interested...
posted by grumblebee at 3:56 PM on October 21, 2005

Handy Thread Summary

[BorgLove]: Mashed potatoes suck. Why do you like mashed potatoes?
[chorus1]:We hate mashed potatoes too!
[chorus2]: I ate mashed potatoes when I was teenager so I still like them.
[fishfucker]: If you're going to hate potatoes at least hate fried or baked potatoes. Potatoes mixed with meat and vegetables are especially bad.
[grumblebee]: I don't eat potatoes. I love food but too much starch makes me sleepy.
[Coldchef]: Mashed potatoes got me laid!
[Cosine]: How can you hate mashed potatoes? They feed starving children!
[starman]: Mashed potatoes are just potatoes. At least they aren't instant.
[It's Raining Florence Henderson]: The Boss likes mashed potatoes.
[kittyb]: Mashed potatoes are great. They started out kind of dry and lumpy (which was cool) but then they added cream and butter and then cheese, and perhaps even a hint of paprika.
[johngoren]: Mashed potatoes are as good as the Beatles.
[Dean Keaton]: My friends are punks so I don't have to talk about the potatoes I dig.
[COBRA!]: It's not the individual potatoes that matter, it's how they're mashed.
[Hildago]: My brother likes Air Supply.
[glenwood]: I like beer.
[It's Raining Florence Henderson]: BorgLove thinks his potatoes are tastier than mine and that angers me.
[grumblebee]: You don't know what BorgLove thinks.
[zardoz]: *Invokes Godwin*
posted by sockpup at 4:00 PM on October 21, 2005

That 9/11 comment did not meet any of the characteristics you claim, zardoz. More than most posts here, it directly answers the AskMe question. I associate different songs or artists with particular events or phases in my life--i think most people do--and this might help explain why someone likes or dislikes certain music.
posted by troybob at 4:02 PM on October 21, 2005

Read it again, grumblebee. You’re giving him too much credit. He hasn’t provided an objective critique at all:

“Bland [subjective – define your terms, possibly provide examples of similar bands in this genre who are not similarly “bland”] and derivative [of what?], most all of the early stuff sounds the same [examples of similarities, please; perhaps provide examples of similar bands in this genre who’s work does not similarly “sound the same”] and the later stuff consists of derivations thereof to electronic beats [um, yeah. U2 sounds like U2. Except one of the most common criticisms of the band is that they have changed too much, moving away from their roots, not that they don’t change enough. So, again – please provide non-subjective critique of for why the later stuff is just the earlier stuff with electronic beats]. Bono's voice always seems whiney and pleading (on a tangent, he's even more annoying now that he's turned into this weirdly undefinable philanthropic evangelist for world peace) [This self-described tangent has nothing to do with the musical quality of the band, but does provide some insight into the poster] and the guitar playing of 'The Edge', a name I can't possibly take seriously [Why is taking his name seriously relevant to the quality of the music?], is all treble and no soul [No soul – why? Because you don’t like it?]. This band is so popular they have their own iPod, but I find them entirely uninteresting to the point of annoyance and frustration [the real point of the post, clearly stated]. It's as if their music has no color [What does that mean?], no depth [compared to who?] and no creativity [unlike the poster, presumably]. It's boring [I get it now – he doesn’t like it] 80s [Okay – 80s – that’s a valid critique] Irish [damn, lazy, drunken Irish] folk [Oh noos! Folk!] rock, reinvented ["reinvented?" I thought it was derivative?] ad nauseum. Am I the only one who thinks their popularity is undeserved? [Of course not. Pick a popular band without haters.] Help me understand what's so great about these people?"

And yet, mysteriously, he doesn’t reappear in the thread to discuss his new-found understanding of people’s personal musical tastes, let alone to actually discuss their objective merits.

Okay - that's his opinion, and he's welcome to it. My opinion is that he's just showing off - and doing a poor job of it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:06 PM on October 21, 2005

And sockpup made me laugh!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:10 PM on October 21, 2005

Sockpup, how is "I don't eat potatoes. I love food but too much starch makes me sleepy" a summary of my comment?

My comment suggested that (a) there are two kinds of listeners, (b) they have a hard time getting each other, (c) Borglove is probably one kind (interested in music for music's sake), (d) most pro-U2 types are the other kind (interested in extra-music stuff, i.e. politics), (d) neither kind is better than the other, (e) many people are both types, (f) I am of the same type as BorgLove (if I'm right about him).
posted by grumblebee at 4:12 PM on October 21, 2005

grumblebee: I don't know what's going on in BorgLove's mind, just in his post. And although sockpup made me laugh, I'm not actually angry about anything BorgLove may think. My response had actually nothing to do with which random band he might have chosen to post about, or why he dislikes them, or how I personally feel about them. I just dislike this kind of lazy, trollish post in the green.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:21 PM on October 21, 2005

IRFHenderson, I have zero technical knowledge of music. If I tried to describe what I disliked about a band, I would use similar language to BorgLove's. His critique might not have been backed up with evidence, but it wasn't shallow (other than the comment about The Edge -- I'll agree with you there). Just like saying "God exists" isn't shallow. It's a pretty deep, meaningful statement. It's just not backed up by evidence.

I'm mystified how you deduce that "...I find them entirely uninteresting to the point of annoyance and frustration" is the main point of his post. What's your reasoning for this? I can see how someone MIGHT be trolling by saying that, but I can also see how it might be part of an honest question. Why are you settling on one specific interpretation? What is your evidence for your reading of BorgLove's mindset? I don't get it?

You point out that he hasn't appeared in the thread since posting. I can think of many reasons for that, including really innocent ones, like he hasn't had time to get back online. That has happened to me many times. I post a question and them get so busy that I can't get back online to see the answers for a long time. I would hope people wouldn't read anything sinister into my absence.
posted by grumblebee at 4:22 PM on October 21, 2005

I just dislike this kind of lazy, trollish post in the green.

If you honestly had Borglove's question (and didn't have an understanding of the technicalities of music) -- if you honestly wanted to know why tons of people loved a bad you hated, how would you have phrased the question?

I'm asking because I would have phrased it the way BorgLove did, and they you would have accused me of trolling, which wouldn't have been my intent.
posted by grumblebee at 4:25 PM on October 21, 2005

I find them entirely uninteresting to the point of annoyance and frustration cannot be part of an honest question because it is inherently dishonest. How could something 'entirely uninteresting' hold enough interest to arouse 'annoyance and frustration'? Also, this statement contradicts the only portion of the original question that might be granted legitimacy: Help me understand what's so great about these people? It betrays that no matter what someone says in defense of U2, the questioner ostensibly cannot arouse enough interest to take it seriously, much less read it at all, and thus has no desire to gain understanding.

Aside: i find that way over 99% of the time i successfully avoid hearing music that i do not care for, so i don't quite get how one attains a level of exposure that creates annoyance and frustration. i suspect that way over 99% of people have similar aural freedom. so why all the whining about hearing stuff you don't like, if you don't have to hear it?
posted by troybob at 4:36 PM on October 21, 2005

grumblebee: It is entirely possible that you are correct. However, you seem to be asking me to provide a standard of proof from which you are holding BorgLove immune. I cannot prove that God exists, either. Why am I settling on one specific interpretation? Probably for the same reason that BorgLove hates U2. Because that's the way I see it. If it looks like a troll..., etc.

If, on the other hand, your generous interpretation of his motives proves out, I will gladly revise my comments to:

In the future, please make at least a half-hearted attempt not to word your AskMe posts as if they were standard flamebait, and then kindly stick around long enough to prove your sincere intentions.

Your intentions, however, grumblebee, I hold in high regard.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:37 PM on October 21, 2005

Best answer: Huh. I'm not going to bother to read this whole, huge thread, but I like U2 so I'll answer the question. I like U2 because:

1. I like Bono's voice. Seriously. And I find the melodies catchy and like to sing along.

2. I love the huge arena sound of U2. The guitars are part of this - I, personally, think The Edge is a guitar badass.

3. I love the U2 drama. I think it's totally great. I loved Bono's American Flag leather jacket at the superbowl; I love the white flag thing; I love the huge video screens and the costumes. I also love the dramatic vocals and theatricality of the whole experience. I don't really believe in or care about musical 'authenticity' in my rock bands -- although, for the record, U2 seem pretty 'authetnically' theatrical.

4. Their live show is amazing.

5. Bono is sometimes a crap lyricist, but sometimes I think the lyrics are quite good.

6. I like both late- and early-period U2. I think _Pop_ is their best record; I guess I find their 'experimentation' quite convincing. Don't forgot they cut a lot of their records with Brian Eno.

7. I guess - and I imagine this will be the most inexplicable part of my answer for a person who doesn't like U2 - that I love the U2 attitude. I actually really like their silly names, their weird Christian-Irish-crusader-sloganeering, and their over-the-top-ness. I suspect that, basically, everything others find objectionable about U2, I pretty much find that to be what I love about them.

I'll add, for the record, that I have what is often considered -- although not by jonmc, hahaha -- 'good taste' in music, listen to 'cool new bands' and 'classic albums' and own thousands of records and have worked at a college radio station and so on and so forth. And I still love U2.
posted by josh at 4:45 PM on October 21, 2005

grumblebee: "How would you have phrased the question?"

How about just sticking with the original question, and leaving off the bad review?

"Why do you like U2? (Or not?)"

If the poster feared this wouldn't be enough to keep the post from deletion, a simple straightforward comment like your own would have been fine:

"I honestly want to know why tons of people love a band I hate."

And no - I wouldn't have accused you of trolling, even if I hadn't liked the way you had posted the question, because unlike BorgLove, a simple query of your contributions here would have convinced me to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Again - I hope you're right, and that I will have occasion to apologize to BorgLove for getting uppity.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:51 PM on October 21, 2005

I believe I am the only person in the universe who hates the Beatles.

Of course you're not. This thread isn't about The Beatles, though. If it was, I'd tell you how many things were wrong with the paragraph you wrote.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:56 PM on October 21, 2005

I suspect that, basically, everything others find objectionable about U2, I pretty much find that to be what I love about them.

The thing I find objectionable about U2 is their mediocrity. Their music just isn't bad, it just isn't very special. At times above the level of filler, but still.

Is that what you love about them?
posted by zardoz at 5:47 PM on October 21, 2005

Ah, well you got me there, zardoz. I was thinking more along the lines of their theatricality, etc. (as I'm sure you can see from my post).

At any rate -- I don't really find them 'mediocre,' if by mediocre you mean bland, boring, etc.
posted by josh at 6:03 PM on October 21, 2005

I, too, dislike U2. Some of the earlier music was passable, but with the Joshua Tree crap, it was all over. And when "Bono" got all politically-hyperinvolved-Jubilee idiotic, the entire concept of U2 became nothing more than a joke.

But that's just me.
posted by davidmsc at 6:43 PM on October 21, 2005

Response by poster: Wow... the comments really stacked up on this fast. I really should clarify though, since my intentions seem to have been at least partly misunderstood. I'm not trolling with this question; I am genuinely curious to hear your opinions. To be honest, if a bazillion people like something and I hate it, it makes me wonder if I'm missing something. The statement 'help me understand what's so great about these people' sums up the question perfectly: I want to understand their popularity, because even though I don't like the music, U2's impact on pop culture intrigues me. Getting hung up on the semantics of the question is a red herring. Florence, you got it completely wrong. There's no trolling going on; you should take it easy on the flames.

Thanks for the comments, everyone, especially Josh. Best answer.
posted by BorgLove at 6:46 PM on October 21, 2005

How did I miss this question earlier?

I do not like U2 as they are today. I sort of liked All That We Leave Behind (or whatever it was called), but I loathed Vertigo. I disliked almost all of the 1990s output of the band.

However, I loved U2 with an indescribable passion during the 1980s. I first heard them during my freshman year of high school, in the fall of 1982. There music was revelatory. The bus trip I took to see them play live in Vancouver during their Joshua Tree tour is one of the most important events of my life.

The 1980s U2 was an amazing thing. Unforgettable Fire is a tremendous album, filled with original material, ethereal sounds, and and and....

Well, let me point to my weblog. Three years ago, I wrote an entry entitled U2: A Love Story that answers the question you're asking.

U2 used to be amazing. Now they're bloated and unoriginal and you have every reason to dislike them. But please: buy Unforgettable Fire to hear a work of brilliance.
posted by jdroth at 7:14 PM on October 21, 2005

Okay, BorgLove. You say you were sincere, your word's good enough for me. My sincere apologies for the harsh words. I'll flag my own comments (except this one).

And grumblebee - good call.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:57 PM on October 21, 2005

Just want to be the......
posted by Idiot Mittens at 8:41 PM on October 21, 2005

because they're the band that people love to hate? ... but seriously, i like them because they touch me ... generally, there's something of the personalities and souls of u2 in what they play ... they pour themselves into their music and it shows

derivative? ... of what? ... i don't know of another band that sounded like them before they came along

the walmart of alternative? ... phooey ... alternative is the self-conscious notion that one isn't going to make accessable music that god forbid, should have a memorable melody, lack of dissonance, any emotion beside ennui or rage, or have the slightest resemblence to anything ever played on commercial radio, unless you're being ironic about it ... by 1990, alternative was as tired and cliche ridden as any other genre one can name ... my musical growing up was during the 60s and 70s and there was a lot farther out stuff done then ... so please don't tell me that a lot of these alternative bands are doing anything original, new or worthwhile

some of us define our musical taste by what we love, instead of what we hate ... it's the difference between people who love music and those who just love being cool

that being said, that last u2 album kind of left me cold ... i just didn't hear anything that grabbed me ... it didn't seem like the songs were focused or memorable ... there was a real feeling of "been there, done that" to it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:56 PM on October 21, 2005

I was a massive U2 fan in the 80s -- my first concert was seeing them in 1982 on the October tour at the age of 13. My second and third concernts were seeing them on the War tour the next year, including at the famed Red Rocks show (look for me in "New Year's Day" shrieking "Bonooooo!"). I really loved them through The Joshua Tree, got fairly disenchanted with Bono's antics/posturing/hats around Rattle & Hum, fell back in love with them for Achtung Baby and Zooropa, and have been fairly indifferent to them ever since.

I initially loved a lot of what Josh touches upon -- the drama! The bombast! The passion! The earnesty! The waving flags and the ringing guitars like a call to arms! It really felt like being called into some sort of army -- it sounds cheesy, I know, but that's the best way I can explain it (and a fair share of the credit for me becoming a political activist must be given to them, frankly). I continued to love their sound as they shifted over the next few years -- there was just something very emotionally resonant in those records. And I think Achtung Baby saved them, basically (for better or worse!), because they allowed themselves to discover irony. (Yes, admittedly a few years after the rest of the world had done so, but let's not quibble.)

However, nothing that they've done since c. 1993 or '94 has been very interesting to me (though I've liked individual songs enough when I hear them on the radio). I haven't bought a new record of theirs in over 10 years; haven't been to a concert of theirs in about 15; don't really consider myself a fan in an active sense. Whenever Bono's in the news, I always greet it with a mix of eye-rolling and affection. They were an indescribably integral part of my musical growing up, but I had to move on. They're kinda like the musical equivalent of my first serious boyfriend: we were crazy about each other! We thought we'd love each other forever! We got into fights all the time! Then we finally broke up for good and began to grow up.

Having said all that -- and as much as I like to bust on Bono -- I will always ultimately love him for being so incredibly kind and funny and warm to me when I met him when I was in high school. It's a long crazy story, but it basically involved me ditching school for the day, pretending to be a journalist, and talking my way into his room (after running into him on an elevator) by asking him a question about the finer points of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. They had just performed the Amnesty International concert the night before, and Bono could easily have dismissed me, or just given me an autograph and sent me on my way. But he didn't. He invited me to stay for breakfast, and gave me an hour of his time for one of the most interesting, exciting conversations of my life (we talked about music, of course, and politics, but also books and travel). He knew full well I wasn't a journalist, but he took me seriously just the same.

He also gave me one of the best kisses of my life when he walked me to the elevator, but I swear that's got nothing to do with it!
posted by scody at 10:17 PM on October 21, 2005 [2 favorites]

I admire U2 for their consistency. This is not a claim of elder superiority, but I saw them twice in 1980; once at my local Uni. and once supporting Talking Heads at the Hammersmith Palais. On both occasions they pulled a trick of focussing large lights from the stage onto the crowd, allowing us to revel in how special we were, with the wild flailing dancing and all. So, consistency. 25 years of pretentious bollocks.
posted by punilux at 11:13 PM on October 21, 2005

Though I haven't met Bono, what scody says is very much true for me.

It seemed that the band, most of whom are just a couple of years older than me, were always singing from a place in life that I was just coming into, throughout the 80's and early 90's, and trying to do so with easily-mockable honesty. I was also listening to everything else, of course, but U2 was an important part of the palette for me.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:00 AM on October 22, 2005

I like the way the Edge uses his guitars and effects. The deeper you get into it, the more you can find there - he's brilliant.

If you don't play the guitar, though, you won't know, because he's not a guitar showman; he's part of his band.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:52 AM on October 22, 2005

every release up to and including "the unforgettable fire" was pure teen-angst rock for me.

the songs spoke of the issues that mattered to me in high school in the 80's.

"most" everything elese they've released since has been radio-safe mall music.
posted by stevejensen at 6:56 AM on October 22, 2005

Okay, I'm coming in late here....

When I was in college, Achtung, Baby had just been released and Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum were both still in heavy rotation on the radio, on TV, and among some of the people I knew.

There were several of their songs that I especially liked; "All I Want is You," chief among them. A friend of mine pointed out that Bono wasn't writing love/relationship songs so much as he was writing Robert Graves-ian odes to a female diety. And this female deity thing was kind of a fixation for me at that time, owing to factors that we needn't go into.

Now, let me be clear here: I do not think that painting literary pretensions on top of your lyrics makes them any better than they would otherwise be. In fact, I'd say it probably almost always makes them worse. Nor do I buy into this idea that, if a lyricist writes in a certain way and achieves a certain degree of quality, s/he is elevated to the status of "poet." That's bullshit for about three different reasons. But nothing I saw in U2's stuff from that era suggested to me that Bono wanted to be called a poet or win a pulitzer. As far as I was (and am) concerned, Bono was just writing pop/rock songs on a subject that interested me.

And since I was a word geek first and foremost and didn't have much of an ear for pitch or anything (Bob Dylan sounded just fine to me, most of the time) and wouldn't know a chord or a melody if it walked up and bit me on the ass, I cared a lot more about the lyrics than anything else. I did like whathisname's guitar work most of the time, but it wasn't a major attraction; apart from U2, I usually preferred either crunchy electric guitar or sorta traditional acoustic.

In any case, as I said, the lyrics were the part that hooked me. I'll just throw out a few examples. Hawkmoon 269 has that truly spectacular refrain "When the night has no end/ with the day yet to begin/ as the room spins around / I need your love." In "Mysterious Ways," he nails just about every line to the floor. Ditto for "When Love Comes to Town" (I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that Bono wrote the lyrics while BB King just helped out with the music). Then there's "Desire," "God Part II," "One" and so forth.

When Zooropa came out, I heard, I think, the title track and the other one that got airplay - the one where the Edge sings/raps - and wasn't impressed. Bono had moved on to something else or had run out of ideas. Well, okay. It's pretty rare that I find a musician or a band that I can stick with for, like, a decade.

But I never worried too much about how mainstream U2 became. That just didn't seem relevant. I also didn't give a shit about the political stuff. I always fast forwarded through the "I don't mean to bug ya" song ("Silver and Gold," right?), but Bono's pro-third world spiels weren't any more irritating than, say, Stevie Wonder's appearance on The Cosby Show or Aerosmith showing up in a Wayne's World skit. I mean, I ended up agreeing with him on a lot of that stuff; it's just that I don't like being preached at any more than the next geek.

So. That's why I like U2.
posted by Clay201 at 9:24 AM on October 22, 2005

If you find yourself with a netflix account and nothing is catching your eye, try the Joshua Tree Classic Albums DVD. There are a few scenes on this disc that helped me pin down why I like U2: It's Edge's band, not Bono's.

There's a scene where Edge, Bono, and Daniel Lanois (album producer) are sitting at the mixing desk, playing around with faders and talking about the music. Edge and Lanois are getting along as total equals. A few times Bono makes a comment, and then looks at Lanois to see if it was the _right_ comment. There's defintely a pecking order there, and Bono sure isn't at the top.

Also on the disc, Lanois is sitting at the mixing board playing back "Where the Streets Have No Name". All that can be heard are about 50 different synth tracks that are almost inaudible in the final result. Lanois talks about these sounds and how the track wasn't working well. He reaches for a fader, slides it up, and *boom*, instant U2. Edge's guitar part comes flying out of the speakers, and this weird mix of synths solidifies into a rock anthem. A buddy and I now have a running joke about the "Edge fader", wishing that such a thing could be bought at a music store.

I also like the fact that they're one of the few bands left (at least in my mind) where the public has a fighting chance of knowing every band member's name. They're a _band_, not a lead singer and a faceless backing band (Gwen and the Blowfish, Chris Martin and the Blowfish, etc). I'll argue that none of the guys in U2 are replacable.

Finally, as a bass player, I truly dig the zen artistry of Adam Clayton's bass lines. After the first few albums, he really settled down into ostinato land. Chord changes? Screw 'em, I'm just going to hold down this absolutely solid 5 note groove until the end of the song. You guys have fun with your fancy harmony and melody parts.

Do I like 'em as much as I used to? No. Do they still put out some songs and performances that are stellar? Absolutely.
posted by dr. fresh at 6:01 PM on October 22, 2005

wow, scody. great story! thanks for sharing it.
posted by fishfucker at 6:54 PM on October 22, 2005

great story because: it makes me wonder what sort influence that interactions with my childhood/teenage heroes may have had on me, which might make an interesting chatfi in and of itself.
posted by fishfucker at 6:55 PM on October 22, 2005

I'm 48 and totally disconnected from the majority of the world. I also happen to like Joshua Tree. I don't really know about the body of U2's work. If I could freely download, I'd try some of this Achtung Baby, just to see. Thanks for advertising for this band you hate so much.

Why do I like it? It's simple. When U2 showed up, the popular music was dull. Then along came Bono and company. Bono puts guts into his singing. He is sharing his heart. And he was there doing it at a time when most were not, at least not enough for me to notice.

My relationship to music is weird, compared to the mainstream. I rarely see music videos. I don't like seeing the musicians much, it pollutes the music. (I hate when my mental image is shown to be 180degrees wrong).
posted by Goofyy at 11:38 AM on October 24, 2005

Lucky scody! The first time I lusted for someone onstage was at the Zoo TV show in 1992 at the Worcester Centrum.

I wasn't all that big on Pop or All That You Can't Leave Behind, but I like How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.
posted by brujita at 12:08 PM on October 24, 2005

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