How Did U2 Become So Loathed?

With the Innocence + Experience tour in full swing, the haters aren’t letting up. While fans are giving the tour rave reviews, non-fans continue to deride, debase and otherwise despise everything to do with U2. How did the biggest rock band in the world become so loathed? And is this loathing a little overdone? Salon takes a look.

A Facebook friend recently prefaced his casual announcement that he was going to see U2 with a tongue-in-cheek addition: “Here’s a polarizing subject.” Indeed, very quickly, the thread devolved into fans of the band and passionate detractors mildly arguing with each other about the seemingly innocuous statement. This response was entirely predictable: U2 have always been a lightning rod for controversy and an easy target for ridicule and disdain, often and especially because of their own actions (e.g., Bono spray-painting “Rock and Roll Stops the Traffic” on a San Francisco public fountain, overindulging on red wine and disappearing for a quick nap during an interview, insulting Coldplay’s Chris Martin on the radio). Even though the band members themselves are often the first to admit to any foolishness or idiocy–Bono especially–it doesn’t seem to make much of a dent in the thicket of negativity surrounding them.

The paradox is striking, because from a musical standpoint, liking U2 is about as controversial as enjoying chocolate: The band members have been global superstars for well over 30 years now, having sold more than 150 million records and remained a reliable touring draw, whether their stage setup involves a giant claw or simply an innovative light and video show. But then again, in the post-”Pop” world of U2 fandom–a 15-year-plus arc of trying to make people forget about the unfairly maligned, electronic-leaning album and accompanying Popmart tour–copping to U2 fandom is an admission fraught with baggage. Certainly 2000′s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” and 2004′s “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” did wonders to restore their reputation as a superstar rock band capable of universal uplift and communion. In recent years, 2009′s tepid “No Line On The Horizon” and then last year’s free-to-iTunes album “Songs Of Innocence”–another record that receives an overly bad rap–unleashed untold levels of vitriol.
Keep reading.  And once you’re done, check out this gallery of pictures from the current tour.  Click on the image to get started.
U2 - May 14

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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