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"Ooh, I've got no shame, oh no, oh no..."—"Windows in the Skies"
U2 are a rock band from Dublin, Ireland. The band consists of Paul Hewson aka Bono (vocals and guitar), David Evans aka The Edge (guitar, keyboards, and vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar) and Laurence Joseph "Larry" Mullen, Jr. (drums and percussion).
The band formed in 1976 when the members were teenagers with limited musical proficiency. By the mid-1980s, however, the band had become a top international act, noted for their anthemic sound, Bono's impassioned vocals, and The Edge's textural guitar playing. U2 started as one of the early pioneers of Post Punk and their albums Boy and War were largely college radio hits. Their success as a live act was greater than their success at selling records until their 1987 album The Joshua Tree increased the band's stature "from heroes to superstars," according to Rolling Stone. U2 responded to the dance and alternative rock revolutions, and their own sense of musical stagnation by reinventing themselves with their 1991 album Achtung Baby and the accompanying Zoo TV Tour. They carried on with their experimental, heavily electronic Alternative Rock sound for the rest of the 1990s. Starting in the 2000s, U2 pursued a more traditional sound that retained the influence of their previous musical explorations before combining that with the experimental spirit of the '90s on their most recent album, No Line On The Horizon.
U2 have sold more than 140 million albums worldwide and have won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band. In 2005, the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone magazine listed U2 at #22 in its list of the 100 greatest artists of all time. Throughout their career, as a band and as individuals, they have campaigned for human rights and social justice causes, including Amnesty International, the ONE Campaign, Music Rising and Bono's DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa) campaign.
- Boy (1980)
- October (1981)
- War (1983)
- The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
- The Joshua Tree (1987)
- Rattle and Hum (1988)
- Achtung Baby (1991)
- Zooropa (1993)
- Pop (1997)
- All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
- How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)
- No Line on the Horizon (2009)
- Songs of Ascent (tentative title, originally scheduled for 2011 but delayed)
Looking beyond the current discography, U2 has at least two more albums in the works: a rock album (which is being produced by Danger Mouse), and a club music-influenced album. Oh, and Bono and Edge worked on the soundtrack to Spider Man Turn Off the Dark. Suffice it to say, for a band that's been going for over thirty years, they don't show any signs of slowing down soon.
U2 provide examples of:
- Adam Westing: Bono wholeheartedly acknowledges his reputation for being egotistical, and aside from repeatedly lampshading it, appeared in the mock charity video at the end of Bruno as a slight self-parody of his real self.
- Cool Shades: Bono alternates between those and Scandalous Shades.
- Creator Breakdown: "One", generally considered to be one of the best songs in history, was written when the band was on the verge of breakup.
- Deadpan Snarker: Larry and Adam. But especially Larry.
- Eighties Hair: Bono used to have a giant mullet. Nowadays, he prefers not to talk about it.
- In one interview on Irish TV he addressed detractors who took the mickey out of some of their more ... over the top elements, particularly their political statements. He claimed the only thing they had ever done he felt was ill advised, and that he looked back on with regret, in their entire career was The Mullet (yes, you could hear the capitals) and gave full permission for people to endlessly take the piss out of him for it.
- Garfunkel: Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. They get a lot of love in the U2 fandom, though.
"Even my parents ask me: 'Are you Adam or Larry?'"
- It's not that hard to tell them apart, though: Adam has whitening hair, while Larry doesn't.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Bono and The Edge, so very much.
- High School Sweethearts: Bono married his high school sweetheart, Ali. Larry Mullen is also still with his high school sweet heart, Ann.
- Long Runner Lineup: Type 1, no less (they never changed members since the 70s!).
- Nice Hat: The Edge! Bono as well sometimes.
- The Quiet One: Adam is generally way more introverted than the other members, and he likes it that way. So quiet that he didn't announce that he had a son until a year after the kid was born.
- Self-Deprecation: Ego is sometimes firmly rooted in humility, and it shows.
- Sinister Shades: The Fly's giant opaque goggle-shades.
- Stage Names: Bono and The Edge's real names are Paul Hewson and David Evans, respectively.
- True Companions: "We'd been campaigning for Dr. King - for his birthday to be a national holiday. And in Arizona, they're saying no. We've been campaigning very, very hard for Dr. King. Some people don't like it. Some people get very annoyed. Some people want to kill the singer. Some people are taken very seriously by the FBI, and they tell the singer he shouldn't play the gig, because tonight, his life is at risk, and he must not go onstage. The singer laughs. You know, of course we're playing the gig, of course we go onstage. And I'm standing there, singing "Pride in the Name of Love," and I've got to the third verse, and I close my eyes, and I know I'm excited about meeting my maker, but maybe not tonight. I don't really want to meet my maker tonight. I close my eyes, and when I look up, I see Adam Clayton standing in front of me, holding his bass like only Adam Clayton can hold his bass. And you know, there's people in this room who tell you they'd take a bullet for you, but Adam Clayton would've taken a bullet for me - and I guess that's what it's like to be in a truly great rock and roll band."--Bono, in his acceptance speech upon being inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Bono and Larry. While sometimes they do genuinely disagree, most of it is humorous.
Music & Performances:
- 3D Movie: U2 3D, released in 2008.
- Adaptation Distillation: The version of "Mercy" played in the Zurich 360 performance had parts of the intro and the chorus changed, causing the song to be somewhat more fast-paced and considerably better.
- Album Title Drop
- Rattle and Hum is an odd example, as it's an Album Title Drop from a lyric in "Bullet The Blue Sky", a song from The Joshua Tree... but is on Rattle and Hum too, as a live track.
- All That You Can't Leave Behind: A lyric from "Walk On".
- How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb: From bonus track "Fast Cars".
- Breakaway Pop Hit: Arguably, the aforementioned "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me". Depends on how well you (want to) remember Batman Forever.
- Camp: The entire Pop Mart tour is this, pretty much, culminating in the video for Discothèque.
- Similarly, but on a different level of campness - Sontag-y camp to Discoth Ã¨que's, well, kitsch - Bono's Mr. Macphisto persona is pretty much the tragically ludicrous; the ludicrously tragic in a nutshell. Seriously, that suit, that accent, the entire premise!
- May I remind you that the Dalton Brothers play both kinds of music: Country and Western!
- Can't Live with Them Can't Live Without Them: "With or Without You".
- Concept Album:
- How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb
- No Line On The Horizon could also count as a partial examples, as a few of the songs were written from the viewpoints of fictional characters. Notably, "Moment of Surrender" and "Unknown Caller" are from the viewpoint of a heroin addict.
- Achtung Baby follows the conceptual journey of a man from a fight with his wife to a wild night on the town, through to the morning, as detailed in the book "U2: At the End of the World".
- Continuity Nod: The kid from Boy also appears in the covers of War and The Best of 1980-1990.
- Cut Song: Tons, most notably a song called "Mercy" cut from the How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb sessions. Hasn't stopped it from becoming (in)famous throughout the fandom when a low-quality version leaked, however. And now they're playing it live!
- Darker and Edgier: Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop. The band themselves described Achtung as "the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree".
- Downer Ending: Very common on U2 albums, with Achtung 's "Love Is Blindness" being probably the best-known example. No Line On The Horizon's "Cedars Of Lebanon" continues the trend.
- "Grace" and "Yahweh" on ATYCLB and HTDAAB were more like BittersweetEndings, though.
- "Mothers of The Disappeared" from The Joshua Tree, and "Wake Up Dead Man" from Pop.
- Epic Instrumental Opener: A new song called "Return of the Stingray Guitar," currently being used to open the U2 360° tour in suitably epic fashion.
- From The Joshua Tree, we have the album opener, "Where the Streets Have No Name", while No Line on the Horizon boasts "Magnificent", which while might not have the same distinction, is just as epic.
- Epic Rocking: While not particularly common amongst U2's output, the twelve-minute-long version of "Bad" played at Live Aid needs to be mentioned here.
- Fake Band: U2 has performed and released music under a number of pseudonyms, most notably as Passengers and The Dalton Brothers.
- And here's a video of them opening for U2. If you've ever wondered what Bono would sound like with a Southern accent...well, wonder no more.
- "God Is Love" Songs: October is a whole album full of these. "Until The End Of The World", "Salome" and "MOFO" also count.
- Gratuitous Spanish: C'mon, you know the one.
Unos, dos, tres, catorce!
- Grief Song: "Tomorrow", from the October album, was written about Bono's mother's funeral. It's become something of a forgotten classic these days.
There's a black car parked
At the side of the road
Don't go to the door
I'm going outside, mother
I'm going out there
Won't you be back tomorrow?
Won't you be back tomorrow?
Will you be back tomorrow?
- Hidden Depths: There are actually quite a lot of literary references in their songs.
- Intercourse with You: "But my heart is where it's always been, my head is somewhere in between"...
- Lighter and Softer: All That You Can't Leave Behind sees the band changing from dark, edgy Sarcastic-Pop to being geniunely poppy with melancholic, yet positive, tunes like "Beautiful Day".
- List Song: "Numb" from Zooropa.
- Large Ham: Bono, often. Taken Up to Eleven in some of the larger concerts...and Up To Twelve on Popmart, which was basically a Stadium Of Ham.
- Loudness War: How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was guilty of this.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Mofo", for example, staples together an awesome techno track which sounds like it belongs in The Matrix with dark lyrics about Bono's dead mother.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: MacPhisto, a "persona" used by Bono on the Zoo TV tour. He's basically Satan as an aging Vegas crooner.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: U2 in The Nineties were futuristic funky-techno-dance-Madchester-industrial-alternative-electronic-pop-rock. And it was awesome.
- New Sound Album: Practically their entire career revolves around this.
- It's been intentionally invoked at least twice; Achtung Baby! was recorded with the intention of sounding completely different than The Joshua Tree and All That You Can't Leave Behind (and the stripped-down tour that followed it) was meant to be the polar opposite of Pop, bringing The Edge's guitar back to the centre of the songs.
- Non-Appearing Title - "Drowning Man", "Premonade", "MLK", "Exit", "God Part II", "Bad", "Mothers of the Disappeared, "Red Light", "Mofo", "Three Sunrises", "Indian Summer Sky", "The Unforgettable Fire" "A Sort of Homecoming"
- Not Christian Rock: Bono does incorporate some themes into his songs, but more of the peace, happiness, and brotherhood kind.
- Christian themes were more explicit in their early albums (Bono, the Edge and Larry all became friends while members of an evangelical students' group in Dublin). Bono continues to be a Christian to this day and in the early 2000's, he visited many churches to address the congregations as part of his campaign for African debt relief. He has consistently spoken of "Christian musicians" in 1st person plural, so they somewhat blur the line.
- Ode to Sobriety: "Bad" and "Running To Stand Still" are type 2 lashouts at heroin.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: This one's inverted on "Gloria", where the climactic point in the song features joyous Latin chanting. And it is awesome.
- Piss-Take Rap: "Numb".
- Post Punk: Their early albums such as Boy, October, and War are this. Later followed by a genre shift to roots rock on The Joshua Tree, before switching again to Alternative Dance on Achtung Baby.
- Precision F-Strike: "Wake Up Dead Man" from the Pop album, and the only mention of the F word in all of their studio recordings.
Jesus help me
I'm alone in this world
And a fucked up world it is too
- "Mofo" had one too, but it's barely audible - the song's vocals are rendered unintelligible by the loud techno-rock.
- There's also Bonos infamous "fuck the revolution" speech, delivered during a live performance of Sunday Bloody Sunday at a gig following the IRA bombing of a Remembrance Day parade in Enniskillen.
- Protest Song: While they're not exactly protest songs, per se, U2 traditionally puts one pro-peace song in each of their albums. Examples include "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" on The Unforgettable Fire, "Van Diemen's Land" (more like a "traditional" protest song than a few of the others) and "God, Part 2" on Rattle and Hum, "Peace on Earth" (natch) on All That You Can't Leave Behind, "Love And Peace Or Else" (again, natch) on How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, and, most recently, "Stand Up Comedy" on No Line On The Horizon.
- "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" on War, "Please" on Pop.
- Pretty much all the songs on War count, really. It was probably titled that way for a reason...
- Rock Me, Asmodeus: MacPhisto. Not as heavy metal-influenced as most appearances of the trope, but definitely an example.
- Serial Escalation: After the Zoo TV tour, you wouldn't think that they could go any more over the top, right? Wrong! They came up with Popmart, which was... well... just take a look. And they went past that with their most recent tour, U2 360°, which went over the top of Popmart - literally. As in, the Popmart stage could fit under the stage for 360°.
- Achtung Baby was a reference to a line in The Producers.
- At almost every live show, the band embeds "snippets" into some of their songs - short lyrical or melodic Shout Outs to other songs. These can be anything from references to Beatles songs to callbacks to more obscure songs in U2's own discography.
- When Bono's run over at the end of the video for "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me", he's reading The Screwtape Letters.
- Live performances of Hold Me Thrill Me (a song off of the Batman Forever soundtrack) on the 360 tour have Bono menacingly asking during the song's intro, "Why So Serious?"
- Not to mention the numerous allusions to William Butler Yeats that the lads chuck into their songs and performances rather frequently. Article on the subject here.
- The "sad astronaut" face on the cover of Zooropa was apparently meant to represent a Soviet cosmonaut who had been left floating in orbit for weeks after the USSR collapsed (a hoax story), and the back cover includes images of Lenin, Mussolini and Nicolae Ceaușescu.
- Something Something Leonard Bernstein: U2 fans have never managed to agree on what Bono's mumbling at the start of "Last Night on Earth".
- Take That: A classic one at the beginning of Rattle and Hum. Bono introduces U2's cover of "Helter Skelter" by shouting at the audience, "This is a song Charles Manson stole from The Beatles. We're stealing it back!"
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Just look at the opening section up there.
- With or Without You: Guess which one of their songs provides an example. Go ahead, guess.
- A Day in the Limelight: The video for "Electrical Storm" is partially an example for Larry. We were delighted with this decision.
- Animated Music Video: "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" and "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight".
- Concept Video: Quite a few.
- Fan Service: The video for "Electrical Storm". Shirtless Larry Mullen? Check. Samantha Morton as a hot mermaid? Check.
- Inaction Video: "Numb".
- The Oner: "The Sweetest Thing".
- Performance Video: Most of them, many of the nineties ones mixed with Surreal Music Video.
- Rooftop Concert:
- The band's Music Video for "Where The Streets Have No Name" sees the band draw a large crowd on the streets of Los Angeles while performing live on a rooftop. Meanwhile, the LAPD aims to shut them down.
- "All Because of You" is a variant, filmed atop a moving flat bed truck.
- Surreal Music Video: Most of their nineties videos have this and Performance Video: "Even Better Than the Real Thing", "The Fly", "Mysterious Ways", "Numb", "Lemon", "Staring at the Sun", "Last Night on Earth", "Please", and so on.
- Video Full of Film Clips: "Elevation", remixed for the Tomb Raider film, "The Hands That Built America", written for Gangs of New York, and "Hold Me, Thrill Me", which is on the soundtrack of Batman Forever.
- ↑ There is still a debate among fans over whether the album Original Soundtracks 1 (1995), a side project released under the pseudonym "Passengers", should be included in their discography.