Music

U2’s Zooropa Released 20 Years Ago This Week

I remember exactly where I was when U2 suddenly released a new album.  It was a Monday afternoon–July 5, 1993–and I was on the air at The Edge in Toronto when the Stewart, the boss, walked in.  

“U2 just released a new album,” he said, handing me the CD.  “The single is called ‘Numb.’  Play it.”

We were dumbfounded.  A new record?  Where had this come from?  How could U2 have recorded an entire new album while they were still on tour promoting Achtung Baby?  

It turns out that the ZooTV tour had been going so well that during a six-month break in the schedule, they went back to Dublin and banged out a bunch of songs, all inspired by the multimedia-ness of what they’d been doing.  The result was Zooropa.

No one (unless your name is David Bowie) would be able to pull off something so secret today.  But then again, U2 was in their imperial phase, a time in their career where they seemed to be able to do nothing wrong.  Why not surprise everyone with a new album?

And we really, really tried to like it as much as we liked Achtung Baby, which was an undisputable work of genius.  The intitial reviews were ecstatic. It even won a Grammy for Best Alternative Album in 1994.

In retrospect, though, Zooropa was a hint of a creative slide that would haunt the band for the rest of the 90s.  Out of the ten songs on the album, only “Stay (Faraway So Close)” became a U2 classic.  I liked “Numb” a lot (The Edge on vocals!) but it never developed deep roots.  And let’s not even talk about “Lemon” with Bono’s horrible falsetto that made your fillings resonate in a most unpleasant way.

If I’m keeping track of things correctly, Zooropa will be the next U2 album in the catalogue to received the enhanced reissue treatment.  I’ll give it another listen when that comes out.  Meanwhile, it’s going to stay on my shelf.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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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4 thoughts on “U2’s Zooropa Released 20 Years Ago This Week

  • They threw a copy in with AB 20th Ann box set so I don't think Zooropa is getting anything special as far as a re-release. Which would have been cool to have a nice version of Bono singing "The Wanderer" which is floating around.

    Reply
  • My experience with Zooropa has been interesting. I, like many other U2 fans, thought it was a weak album at the time, and for years I said it was their worst one, next to Pop. But I was a rarity in that Achtung, Baby never really wowed me either. I loved Joshua Tree and most of what came before it; the gritty almost punkiness of Boy made it my 2nd fave, next to Joshua. As I've revisited Achtung many times, hoping its greatness would eventually shine through, it still continues to remain simply a decent album to me. But revisiting Zooropa has been different. It's weird, almost psychedelic vibe rose to intriguing and eventually moved up to captivating, and eventually enthralling! Zooropa has actually become my 2nd fave U2 album now, next to the still perfect Joshua Tree. Weird.

    Pop is still terrible though…

    Reply
  • There is much I love about Zooropa, particularly the title track (which I was THRILLED to see performed live on the 360 tour). Vorstag durch technik! I have played it a lot and still do. I thought it was great. Never understood why everyone goes on about it. It isn't AB but it still has a lot to offer.

    Reply
  • For me it's an odd album simply through the fact it dropped when my parents were going through a nasty divorce. I clung to Zooropa like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver, and for the remainder of that summer it stayed lodged in the tape deck of my car. But by the time I went back to school I'd stopped listening to it entirely, and of all U2's albums, it's one I listen to the least (only October has the distinction of being lower on the rung).

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