The Legacy Of U2

My well-traveled copy of U2's The Joshua Tree. I have no idea how old this is but it replaced a cassette tape. That's how long I've been into U2.


I've loved the music of U2 since the 1980s. "With Or Without You" was the song that first grabbed me. A couple of girls from school went to a concert and one of them came back with a t-shirt and damn Alicia looked cute in it, but in those days I was too shy to show interest. The image on the shirt from the Joshua Tree automatically brought the songs into my head. The photography in the album jacket was brilliant and perfectly suited the music. It's a cliché, but U2 is the soundtrack of my life, or it's on the soundtrack anyway.

My interest grew during the 90s. U2 was in the right place at the right time with the right sounds. I was a brooding type of young man (and I can't say I'm immune to brooding even now), and U2's thoughtful lyrics and dark, sometimes chaotic tone during that era fit my perspective. I have a compact disc library left over from before streaming, and it contains several U2 discs. I'm missing only a couple of their early LPs. It also contains a lot of other depressive music, and I can somewhat tell when I'm down by the fact that I revisit the old albums.

Despite some of his earlier lyrics being a little vague, I consider Bono a genius of words and melody. He was born with a gift and has the heart of a poet. On dark nights I would listen in headphones and feel that rising in my chest that can only come from a moving song. To me, even many of their album tracks are infectious and stick in my mind for days after a single listen.

Despite the success of U2, they draw a lot of criticism. This is because of what I will call "cultural factors" rather than any weakness in their music. They aren't masculine enough or loud enough for some people. They aren't American enough for some of the more loudmouthed patriot types. Young people see them as outdated. Bono gets accused of sanctimony, which in my opinion merely means that he won't bother to hide his religion.

Put frankly, most of U2's music is more intelligent, thoughtful, and sincere than most of their contemporaries', even when they aren't trying to be. Some people don't like it.

For quite a while, U2 was the biggest band in the world. They filled stadiums and dominated the airwaves for many consecutive albums from the 1980s all the way into the 2000s. I've seen some commentary lately that U2 is "not holding up" over time. I guess this is somewhat true in that some of their music seems to have hit only during a particular era. I think many of their songs are fading from the collective memory of American society and will not be played much, if at all, in the future. But I think a handful of songs will persist.

I still think "With Or Without You," is probably U2's best song, but they have so many other hits that one or two others should survive for at least a few more decades in pop culture. I don't think their music will persist like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or Michael Jackson, but they probably still have a place in history.


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