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"These guys are from England and who gives a shit?"note 

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

U2 are a rock band from Dublin, Ireland. The band consists of Paul "Bono" Hewson on lead vocals, David Evans aka The Edge on guitar, Adam Clayton on bass and Laurence Joseph "Larry" Mullen, Jr. on drums.

The band formed in 1976 under the name "Feedback" when the members were teenagers with limited musical proficiency. It soon changed its name to "The Hype." In 1978, when David's older brother Dik left the band, they decided to change their name again; Mullen's friend Steve Averill of The Radiators from Space gave them six suggestions of names, and they settled on "U2" because it was the name they least disliked.

By the mid-1980s, U2 had become a top international act, noted for their anthemic sound, Bono's impassioned vocals, and The Edge's textural guitar playing. They 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, the backlash against their earnest image and their own sense of musical stagnation by reinventing themselves with their 1991 album Achtung Baby and the accompanying Zoo TV Tour, which introduced an experimental, heavily electronic sound mirrored by a satirical, self-deprecating image. They carried on with this style for the rest of the 1990s. Starting in the 2000s, they pursued a more traditional sound that retained the influence of their previous musical explorations, although works like 2009's No Line on the Horizon saw them combining both their prior sound and the experimental spirit of their '90s releases.

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 listed them 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.

Looking beyond the current discography, Bono said at the surprise launch for 2014's Songs of Innocence that U2 have made a few albums since 2009, and this is just the first one to be released, and a few hours later announced that their next album Songs of Experience should be out soon. It came out in 2017. 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 forty years, they don't show any signs of slowing down soon.

Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):

  • Adam Clayton - bass, keyboard, guitar, backing and lead vocals
  • David Evans (The Edge) - guitar, backing and lead vocals, piano, bass, keyboard, synthesizer
  • Paul Hewson (Bono) - lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, synthesizer, piano, keyboard, dulcimer
  • Larry Mullen Jr. - drums, percussion, vocals

Studio Discography:

Live Discography:

  • 1983 - Under A Blood Red Sky
  • 1997 - Please: PopHeart Live EP
  • 2000 - Hasta La Vista Baby! U2 Live From Mexico City
  • 2003 - Exclusive
  • 2004 - Live From Under The Brooklyn Bridge
  • 2004 - Live From Boston 1981
  • 2004 - Love: Live From the Point Depot
  • 2005 - U2.COMmunication
  • 2006 - Zoo TV Live
  • 2007 - U2 Go Home: Live From Slane Castle, Ireland
  • 2007 - Live from Paris
  • 2010 - Wide Awake In Europe
  • 2012 - U22
  • 2012 - From The Ground Up: Edge's Picks From U2360°
  • 2015 - Another Time, Another Place: Live at the Marquee, London 1980

Extended Plays and Other Releases:

  • 1979 - Three
  • 1985 - Wide Awake In America
  • 1993 - Melon: Remixes for Propaganda
  • 1995 - Original Soundtracks 1 (released under the pseudonym Passengers)
  • 1998 - The Best of 1980–1990
  • 2002 - 7
  • 2002 - The Best of 1990-2000
  • 2004 - Early Demos
  • 2004 - Unreleased and Rare
  • 2006 - U218 Singles
  • 2009 - Medium, Rare & Remastered
  • 2010 - Artificial Horizon
  • 2011 - Duals

I can't trope with or without you:

Band Members:

  • 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 Brüno (2009) as a slight self-parody of his real self.
  • Aerith and Bob: Bono and The Edge vs. Larry and Adam.
  • The Alcoholic: Adam turned to excessive drinking in the latter stages of the Zoo TV Tour to cope with the disintegration of his relationship, and infamously missed the Sydney concert on 26 November 1993 because he suffered from an alcoholic blackout, being replaced with bass technician Stuart Morgan. The embarrassment of missing the concert prompted him to clean up and he has remained sober since.
  • Changing Chorus:
    • The chorus of "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" ends with the lines "Who's gonna ride your wild horses?/Who's gonna fall at the foot of thee?" after the first two verses. After the bridge, the chorus ends with the lines "Who's gonna taste your salt water kisses?/Who's gonna take the place of me?"
    • The next to last line in the chorus of "Last Night on Earth" changes with each verse. After the first, it's "She doesn't care what it's worth." After the second, it's "She knows just what it's worth." After the third, it's "She already knows it hurts."
    • "If God Will Send His Angels" has the second line in the chorus change from "And if God will send a sign." in the first two verses to "I sure could use them here right now." in the third.
  • Cool Shades: Bono alternates between those and Scandalous Shades. It's not just because they're cool, either: He wears sunglasses to correct his glaucoma and sensitivity to light.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Larry and Adam. But especially Larry.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Played straight after their manager, Paul McGuiness, declared war to illegal downloaders. Also, Bono made stances against digital piracy and illegal downloaders, specially after the leaking of No Line on the Horizon.
    • New Media Are Evil: Speaking of piracy, Bono asked governments to police Internet for copyright infringement. Ladies and gentlemen, the man who declared "We shall continue to abuse our position and fuck up the mainstream!" when Zooropa won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album.
    • Worth noting that The Edge does not seem to care as much, as he has admitted to downloading bootlegs of their shows. He also defended Negativland when Island Records sued them for copyright infringement for their U2 EP, and stated that U2 were left out of the loop and the lawsuit was entirely the record company's decision.
    • Subverted when Songs of Innocence was released completely for free on iTunes.
  • Drugs Are Bad:
    • "Bad", from The Unforgettable Fire, is about a childhood friend of Bono who had died of a heroin overdose. "Wire", from the same album, also seems to reference drug addiction.
    • "Running to Stand Still" from The Joshua Tree is also about heroin addiction.
  • '80s 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.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: The band members met as students of the Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin.
  • Free-Handed Performer: Bono broke out a guitar for a few songs like "The Fly" or "One", but usually stuck to giving out a great stage performance. At least until he broke his arm in 2014 and decided to stop playing.
  • Lesser Star: Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. They get a lot of love in the U2 fandom, though.
    • Lampshaded by Larry on David Letterman.
      "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 Sweet Hearts: Bono married his high school sweetheart, Ali. Larry Mullen is also still with his high school sweet heart, Ann.
  • Hit Them in the Pocketbook: "Silver and Gold" abjures the listener to "hit where it hurts: silver and gold." The song was written to support calls to place economic sanctions against South Africa to force an end to apartheid.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Never changed since 1978.
  • 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.
  • Start of Darkness: According to Bono, "I believe my whole creative life goes back to when my world collapsed, age fourteen." Because at age 14, Bono's grandfather dropped dead of a massive heart attack. And at the funeral, his mother dropped dead from a massive aneurysm right in front of him. The incident completely shattered him, and he became a violent delinquent. He then met three other musicians and decided to channel his grief into music instead of fighting people...
  • True Companions: Upon being inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005...
    Bono: 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.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Bono and Larry. While sometimes they do genuinely disagree, most of it is humorous.

Music & Performances:

  • 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.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of Disco, in "Discothèque".
  • 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.
    • Similarly, Under a Blood Red Sky is an Album Title Drop from the War (U2 Album) track New Year's Day, which is also a live track on Under a Blood Red Sky.
    • All That You Can't Leave Behind: A lyric from "Walk On".
    • How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Adapted from the bonus track "Fast Cars", the exact line being "They're in the desert to dismantle an atomic bomb".
    • War: While the album's title is fitting, the word is only mentioned in a line in "The Refugee" (the plural form, "wars," is heard in "New Year's Day").
    • Boy: Another fitting title, having to do with growing up. The singular is heard in "I Will Follow," "Twilight" and "The Electric Co", while the plural is heard in "Out of Control" and "Stories for Boys".
  • Alternate Album Cover:
    • The cassette edition of The Unforgettable Fire used a different shot of the band.
    • The North American releases of Boy substituted distorted portraits of the band because Island Records was afraid the original cover would be construed over there as endorsing pedophilia.
  • Alternative Dance: Starting on Achtung Baby and continuing through Zooropa and Pop, and on the occasional song from later records as well.
  • Alternative Rock: Arguably one of the genre's key bands. Their Post-Punk albums in the 80s are arguable examples of the genre (depending on whether or not one considers Post-Punk to be part of Alternative Rock), but they embraced it fully on Achtung Baby.
  • Arena Rock: And they make sure to get the biggest stages and paraphernalia possible to emphasize this!
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Spanish words "Unos, dos, tres, catorce!" at the beginning of "Vertigo" actually mean "some, two, three, fourteen!", not "one, two, three, four!"
  • Broken Record: the line "Baby, baby, baby... baby, baby, baby... baby, baby, baby, light my way" from "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)". Even more, the line is repeated numerous times. Bono deliberately did this as he had never previously written a song with "baby" in the lyrics and opted to take Refuge in Audacity, to the point that the album's engineer Mark "Flood" Ellis noticed the other band members wondering if it could be actually pulled off while he was preparing the final mix.
  • Camp: The entire Pop Mart tour is this, pretty much, culminating in the video for Discothèque.
  • Can't Live with Them, Can't Live Without Them: "With or Without You".
  • Christian Rock: Zig-Zagged. They've been described as "too spiritual for rock but too strange for church." All the band members are Christian, and many of their songs contain overtly Christian themes or at least go heavy on the God-Is-Love Songs. On the other hand, they have never restricted themselves to Christian audiences or record labels, and a lot of their songs have a degree of ambivalence about faith, especially organized religion. Nonetheless, Christian fans have been happy to use their songs even in church; several denominations have put on entire services dubbed "U2charist". That said, the band's career has been completely in secular mainstream rock, not the Christian market, so they will not be filed under "Christian Rock" in anyone's listings.
  • 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 can be interpreted as 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".
    • The Joshua Tree is a concept album about the good and bad sides of the USA.
  • Continuity Nod: The kid from Boy also appears in the covers of War and The Best of 1980-1990.
  • Darker and Edgier: Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop. The band themselves described Achtung as "the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree".
    • "Bullet the Blue Sky" is significantly darker than the rest of The Joshua Tree, and is one of their darkest songs in general.
  • 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 Bittersweet Endings, 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", used to open the U2 360° Tour in suitably epic fashion several times in 2010 and 2011.
    • 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.
    • The extended intro of "Zoo Station" on Achtung Baby counts in a different way: Adam stated that the entire purpose of the song was to cause listeners' first reaction to be that either their stereo was broken, or that they had accidentally purchased something that wasn't the new U2 album.
    • The title song from "Zooropa'' has a haunting piano-based intro, played over jumbled noise not unlike too many TVs playing at once.
  • 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.
    • In the studio, they have a handful of songs over six minutes long, including the aforementioned "Bad". The only song they've recorded that's over seven minutes long is "Moment of Surrender" (7:24) off of No Line on the Horizon. Fittingly, this song was used as the set closer during the subsequent tour. The album version of "Lemon" (6:58) off Zooropa also counts.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: The band was formed in 1976 by seven students at a secondary school in Dublin. One never came back for a second practice, one more left after a few weeks, and in 1978 one more member amicably left, leaving it with the lineup it has to this day.
  • Fake Band: U2 has performed and released music under a number of pseudonyms, most notably as Passengers and The Dalton Brothers.
  • Fanservice: The inner sleeve of Achtung Baby includes an image of Adam naked. (His genitals were censored in certain markets, sometimes with a clover.)
  • Genre Mashup: U2 in The '90s were futuristic funky-techno-dance-Madchester-industrial-alternative-electronic-pop-rock. And it was awesome.
  • 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?
    • The lyrics to "I Will Follow," from the earlier Boy, were also written by Bono in tribute to his mother, though the song itself is an aversion of this trope.
    • "Bad" is about a childhood friend of Bono who died of a heroin overdose.
    • "Kite", from 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind, was originally written about Bono accepting his own mortality and the fact that, one day, his daughters would no longer need him. It became a Grief Song after his father passed away in 2001, while the Elevation Tour was still running. He altered a line in the song to make his tribute clear: "The last of the rock stars" became "The last of the opera stars", referencing his father's love of the genre.
    • "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" is a combination of this and a Pep-Talk Song, being by Bono's admission the fight he wanted to have had to convince friend Michael Hutchence not to kill himself.
    • His father got a straight example on How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb with "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own", which contrasts with the self-sufficiency Bono espoused for his own children in "Kite".
  • Hidden Depths: There are actually quite a lot of literary references in their songs.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: From "God Part 2":
    I don't believe in excess
    Success is to give
    I don't believe in riches
    But you should see where I live.
  • Hypocritical Humor: One of the commands in "Numb" is "Don't rhyme."
  • I Can't Do This by Myself: "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own".
  • Iconic Outfit: Bono's Cool Shades. Insert Gurren Lagann joke here. Also, Edge and his hat(s).
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Bono does this every now and then, probably most dramatically on the album version of "New Year's Day".
  • Intercourse with You: "But my heart is where it's always been, my head is somewhere in between"...
    • "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" from Pop is a full-on slow jam, with lyrics ranking among U2's most sultry.
    • "Song For Someone" is about Bono falling in love with his wife for the first time and...other things. Subverted at a concert in Glasgow, when during the song's intro, Bono proudly proclaims (in front of 20,000 fans) "I slept with her last night. It was good!"
  • In the Style of: Rattle and Hum features a version of "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" where the band is backed by a gospel choir.
  • Lighter and Softer: All That You Can't Leave Behind sees the band changing from dark, edgy Sarcastic-Pop to being genuinely poppy with melancholic, yet positive, tunes like "Beautiful Day".
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Bono took his stage name from a hearing aid store, Bono Vox.
  • List Song: "Numb" from Zooropa.
  • Large Ham: Bono, often. Seen, in some of the larger concerts and even further on Popmart, which was basically a Stadium Of Ham.
  • Loudness War: How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was guilty of this.
    • To an extent, so was No Line on the Horizon.
  • 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.
  • Monochrome to Color: The U2 concert rockumentary Rattle and Hum is black-and-white, until the last quarter of the film switches to color for no obvious reason.
    • The non-concert scenes were filmed in 16mm black-and-white, the concert scenes from the Mc Nichols Arena in Denver are in 35mm black-and-white, and the concert scenes from Sun Devil Stadium in Arizona are in color. It's All There in the Manual in the booklet that was given out at the film's premiere.
  • 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 back the optimistic, hopeful atmosphere and The Edge's patented soaring guitar work, after having spent a decade writing sarcastic, genre-bending electronic rock where The Edge deliberately distanced himself from his sound and used heavier distortion. (Essentially, you can say that All That You Can't Leave Behind is more pop than Pop.)
  • Non-Appearing Title: Definitely applies to a minority of their songs, but there is at least one on every album save Achtung Baby (which is ironically a non-appearing album title), All That You Can't Leave Behind (which is only one adverb away from being mentioned in "Walk On"), and Songs of Innocence. (another non-appearing album title)
    • Notably, The Unforgettable Fire is almost entirely comprised of these, with "Pride (In the Name of Love)" being the only exception. This was because the lyrics were often heavily improvised in the studio or written on the spot.
    • Songs of Innocence is technically disqualified with the opening track "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)." While "the miracle" is mentioned in the chorus, the iconic punk rocker's name is absent from the entire song.
  • 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".
    • Bono closed "Moment of Surrender" with one of these on the 360° Tour.
    • "Bullet the Blue Sky"'s last verse, at least up to a point. On the 2015 tour, the song was changed significantly, incorporating this trope to its fullest.
  • Post-Punk: Their early albums such as Boy, October, and War are this. Later followed by a (partial) genre shift to roots rock on The Joshua Tree, before switching again to Alternative Rock/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 Bono's 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.
    • "Cedars of Lebanon" has the line, "This shitty world sometimes produces a rose..."
  • 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" on All That You Can't Leave Behind, "Love And Peace Or Else" 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...
    • "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "Mothers of the Disappeared" from The Joshua Tree are protest songs against the USA's backing of right-wing dictatorships in South America during The '80s, the former being inspired by the civil war in El Salvador (Bono actually instructed The Edge to "put El Salvador through the amplifier" for the guitar solo) and the latter by the "disappearances" committed by Augusto Pinochet in Chile and the National Reorganization Process in Argentina.
    • From the same album, "Red Hill Mining Town" is an indirect protest song, examining the personal difficulties and collapsed relationships of a mining town in the midst of the UK's 1984-1985 mining strike.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: In the wake of Rattle and Hum's disastrous critical reception, the band dropped the earnest, serious image they'd developed like a hot potato and spent The '90s reminding people that they had a sense of humor and a working knowledge of satire and irony. Bono did once note that their more Rule of Cool image was meant to distract people from their still-present heavy subject matter:
    Bono, in 1992: "It's a con, in a way. We call it Achtung Baby, grinning up our sleeves in all the photography. But it's probably the heaviest record we've ever made..."
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: MacPhisto. Not as heavy metal-influenced as most appearances of the trope, but definitely an example.
  • Sentenced to Down Under: "Van Diemen's Land," named after the old name for Tasmania, is about the Irish freedom fighters who were transported, and specifically dedicated to the poet and Irish Republican Brotherhood member John Boyle O'Reilly.
  • 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 2009-2011 tour, U2 360°, which went over the top of Popmart - literally. As in, the Popmart stage could fit under the stage for 360°.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Achtung Baby is a reference to a line in The Producers, which engineer Joe O'Herlihy had frequently said while recording. Bono admitted later that the title was chosen on purpose to play up the band's new, more humorous image, stating that "the press would have killed us if we'd called it anything else" and that other working titles like Man (a Call-Back to their debut Boy), 69 (obvious), Zoo Station (the Berlin Zoologischer Garten railway station, which lent its name to the song "Zoo Station" and coincidentally served the U2 underground line), Adam (a reference to the fact that the inner sleeve includes an image of Adam naked), Fear of Women (a reference to the darker lyrics) and Cruise Down Main Street (a reference to the then-ongoing Gulf War), were rejected because they would've been seen as "another pretentious, Big Statement from U2".
    • 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 hoax story about a Soviet cosmonaut who had been left floating in orbit for weeks after the USSR collapsed, and the back cover includes images of Lenin, Mussolini and Nicolae Ceaușescu.
    • Starting around the Joshua Tree period, the band became prone to making unsubtle Shout Outs to various moments in popular music history, from the rooftop concert in the video for "Where The Streets Have No Name" through actually playing back a snippet of Jimi Hendrix's version of "The Star Spangled Banner" on Rattle and Hum to Bono in 1998 getting Northern Ireland politicians John Hume and David Trimble on stage and holding up their hands, which was highly reminiscent of Bob Marley doing a similar thing with Jamaican politicians Michael Manley and Edward Seaga at the One Love Peace Concert in 1978.note  As the band has shifted imperceptibly into genuine legend status, they've stopped doing this.
    • The title of "A Sort of Homecoming" is a Shout Out to the German Jewish poet Paul Celan (1920—1970), whose parents were killed during the Holocaust, and who once remarked "Poetry is a sort of homecoming."
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: U2 fans have never managed to agree on what Bono's mumbling at the start of "Last Night on Earth".
    • "Boomerang II", an extra track from The Unforgettable Fire. The Edge is singing something that sounds like "So wind blows", and Bono is singing something that sounds like "And the driftweed come / and the driftweed go". Other than that...
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Beyond his usual backing vocal duties, The Edge has sung lead vocals on "Van Diemen's Land" (from Rattle and Hum), "Numb" (from Zooropa) and "Corpse (These Chains Are Way Too Long)" (from the Passengers album), the first two verses of "Seconds" (from War), and shares lead vocals with Bono on the verses of "Discothèque" (from Pop). Adam Clayton sang lead vocals on "Endless Deep", the B-side to "Sunday Bloody Sunday", and also performed a Spoken Word verse on "Your Blue Room" (from the Passengers album), making Larry the only U2 member to never have done lead vocals, although he does sing the occasional backing vocals (most prominently in "Numb").
  • 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!" From the same album, Bono takes a sharp slap at music biographer Albert Goldman ("I don't believe in Goldman, his type like a curse/Instant karma's gonna get him if I don't get him first") whose biography of John Lennon, The Lives of John Lennon, had recently been published. Bono believed the book to be an un-nuanced smear on Lennon's memory, recounting all the things he'd done wrong in his life without considering the context or all the good things he'd also done.
  • Title Track: October, Zooropa, No Line on the Horizon and The Unforgettable Fire, the only times they've had an actual title track, as opposed to an Album Title Drop.
  • To the Tune of...: The tune of "White as Snow" from No Line on the Horizon is derived from the hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel", with some embellishments. The subject, however, is completely different.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: invoked Alluded to in "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me":
    They don't know what you're doing, babe, it must be art
  • 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.

Music Videos

  • Animated Music Video: "Get Out of Your Own Way", "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" and "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight".
  • The Cameo: American football color commentator John Madden in the US video for "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of".
    • William S. Burroughs in the video for "Last Night on Earth", which became his last filmed performance as he died only a month after the video was filmed. The video itself ends with a closeup of his eyes.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The video for "Electrical Storm" is partially an example for Larry. We were delighted with this decision.
  • Evil Twin: The video for "Elevation" features Evil U2 (who are just the band members dressed like a biker gang). The video culminates with both the good and evil versions of the band facing off and trying to blow each other away with The Power of Rock while they perform the song's final verse.
  • Fanservice: The video for "Electrical Storm". Shirtless Larry Mullen? Check. Samantha Morton as a hot mermaid? Check.
    • If you're into crossdressing, the video for "One" features all four band members dressed as women at one point or another.
  • Funny Background Event: The video for "The Sweetest Thing" is basically one long continuous string of these.
  • 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.
      • Actually, the LAPD did shut them down, and the band stopped the moment the LAPD made it very clear that they didn't have a choice. The video, however, is very carefully edited to make it look like the band defied the police and only began playing after being told to shut 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 Lara Croft: 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.


Video Example(s):


Do They Know Its Christmastime

A group of 80s British rockers (originally called Band Aid, but for legal reasons changed to Live Aid) sing a song about Christmas in Africa to raise money for Ethiopians suffering through famine. The Pop-Up Video provides details about their efforts.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / CharityMotivationSong

Media sources: