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America's Captain 


Location: Bayville New Jersey
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 12,139

I always used to hear people say that. "U2 sold out." I used to hear that about another band too, and I think I'll make that the subject of our next banner. Meanwhile - Did U2 sell out? What does that even mean?

I think it has to do with making music that's more commercial. Did they? And if they did - is that some sort of betrayal of someone or something? Doesn't "commercial" just mean more likely to have broad appeal? Is having broad appeal bad? Does it maybe mean they stopped being their true artistic selves?

Along those lines - Did you like their older stuff best, or their newer stuff? Or maybe their in-between stuff?

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Superman's Pal


Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 5,676

I gotta say, I haven't listened to much U2 so I can't say. The first time I ever heard of them I was at a movie and saw a trailer for "Rattle and Hum" and I thought what is this, is this a movie? It took me a while to realize it was a band.

The band I most hear of selling out is Metallica, perhaps that's your next subject.

I think if a band changes their musical style and someone doesn't like it they get accused of selling out. Especially if they gain more mainstream popularity after that. But if they are changing just because they want to change I wouldn't call it selling out. If they like two different styles but they choose one over the other because it has a bigger audience, that's not selling out. If they stop doing what they themselves love to get more money or popularity, that is selling out.

Did U2 undergo a major stylistic revamp mid-career?

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Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 1,435

I don't know whether they "sold out" or not because I don't know their principles and if they were ever especially honorable or something. I don't particular admire Bono's humanitarianism.

Joshua Tree was an AMAZING album; truly original and artistic; religious really. They never came close to equaling it. Achtung Baby was also quite good to a lesser degree.

The next time I thought about U2 was when the mediocre "Beautiful Day" was played at Al Gore's 2000 Dem Convention. I sorta groaned.

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Nose Norton

Location: Plainville
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 6,626

As the others have said, I don't think "sold out" is the right term. U2 was really on top of the world after The Joshua Tree(1987). Rattle And Hum(1988) wasn't the masterpiece The Joshua Tree was, but Desire, Angel Of Harlem and When Love Comes To Town were all big hits.

And then they changed and created another masterpiece with Achtung, Baby(1991), which they described as "Four men chopping down the Joshua Tree". After that, however, they delved deeper into electronica and some self-depreciation which rubbed some fans the wrong way, especially when Grunge came in and made electronic dance music seem even more vapid. You don't sell out, however, when you're already on top and go in a creatively different direction.

But, I can see why people feel this way. They went from a stripped down r&b band playing stadiums to a progressive band with elaborate stage shows and themes about consumerism and commercialism. I know Bono's Mr. MacPhisto character and Zoo TV rubbed many fans the wrong way. Growing up in an Irish Catholic Boston neighborhood, as close to U2 country as you get outside of Ireland, I heard several people in the 90s start to say that they liked U2's early stuff better.

If you go by the definition of selling out, you could argue that they sold out with All That You Can't Leave Behind(2000) and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb(2004) when they ditched electronica for a more "back to the basics" sound. Since 2004, they seem to be creatively stifled but I still love their stuff.

It was pretty much around Pop(1997) with Discotheque when I think fans became disappointed with them. That's also around the time they started to flood the market with Greatest Hits and other collections, so in that respect you could argue they sold out.

For the record, I think Pop is a great album but look at the difference in the band's image from The Joshua Tree to Discotheque in the images below.

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The Black Guardian


Location: Paragon City, RI
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008

Whenever I hear someone use the term "sold out," I think of the Tool song "Hooker With A Penis."

"All you know about me is what I've sold you, dumb ****
I sold out long before you ever heard my name
I sold my soul to make a record, dip****, and then you bought one"

But no. I pretty much think U2 were what they were from the beginning. Their styles have changed a bit, but not really a whole lot. They've always seemed to be a very passionate, spiritual group, and that hasn't changed.

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