They’ve been easy to passively ignore and/or actively hate. Any cultural work that’s conquered the world can seem obnoxious by being around all the time. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” blares in supermarkets, restaurants and waiting rooms. “With or Without You” plays on the hour at miserable Irish bars. They’ve been featured in Apple commercials, soundtracks for awful movies, Superbowl halftime shows and been overall so obnoxious to be portrayed as human waste come to life on South Park.
But ubiquity aside, U2’s grandiose pomposity makes it hard to like them. Even when they’re admirable—there’s nothing inherently wrong with a pop group advocating for political action or trying to combat global poverty—there’s an off-putting messianic element that’s impossible to ignore.
U2’s music only fits a very specific mood. It’s weird music to hear at a bar or a party. Their music doesn’t traffic in the sex, power and swagger that most groups of their stature do. Nothing from the Joshua Tree inspires fist pumping, dancing or air guitar playing the way something like their fellow superstars Led Zeppelin, Britney Spears, Jay-Z or even REM, their closest contemporaries, can.
But I got turned around nonetheless, through a comedy podcast. Supreme deadpan comedians Adam Scott and Scott Aukerman are currently on week nine of a prankish exploration of U2’s music in a miniseries U Talkin U2 to Me? The central joke of the show is that the hosts only occasionally talk about the band, despite billing it as an encyclopedic exploration of the band’s music. My flat description is ruining both the show and my reputation as a humorous dude, but trust me, it’s a funny, goofy vibe.
But while I came for the rambling conversation, I’ve come away with a new appreciation for Bono and his boys.
I’ll be writing more about this over the coming days, but I’ve become convinced that at the heart of the U2 global cultural and economic monolith, there’s something genuinely strange and interesting.