Friday, June 10, 2011

Why is U2 So Popular?

Sometimes, it just clicks.

Every once in a while- when the planets are ever so aligned, when the serendipitous causality of the universe attains perfect harmony- certain perspectives crystalize in a way that makes you question your prior beliefs and convictions. Like an Aphex Twin album pouring into a good set of Bose headphones, an initially obvious, simplistic idea is revealed in all it's richly layered glory and texture.

The following is an excerpt from - a popular online forum for questions and answers. What caught my eye is how miscellaneous forum member Daniel Rosenthal answers the question of this article: Why is U2 So Popular? Now, Daniel Rosenthal may not even exist. For all I know, he is simply "a name on the cloud". But his response, for lack of a better word, just clicks:

"Why is U2 So Popular?

Answer summary:

*Big market
*Product market fit

Big Market

Imagine you’re a middle-aged, upper-middle class male.You live in a large metropolitan area. You have a good job. Your wife does Pilates. Your oldest just started Kindergarten. Yes, you’re an adult but you’re still cool! Your jeans cost $125. Sometimes you wear sneakers with a blazer!

You like the idea of being a guy who’s into live music but the last few concerts you’ve been to were a) too loud b) too crowded c) too foreign (you're lucky if you recognize one song). You’ll snap a few photos with your smartphone and tell your bros about it to get some street cred but let’s face it – you didn’t enjoy yourself. There are millions of you. And you’re willing to drop cash to have a concert make you feel cool again.

Product Market Fit

Then you learn that U2 is coming to town – U2! Earnest, melodic, Oprah-endorsed U2! $200 a ticket? No problem. You get a sitter. Your wife is excited – this is going to be great! You invite some friends from college to join you.

On the way, you listen to the “early stuff”. Joshua Tree pumps through the speakers of your Lexus SUV (no judgement - you have two kids!). The harmonies soothe. The lyrics are straightforward. You recall a simpler time before car seats and prostate exams. The nostalgia is so thick you have to wipe it from your face. You haven’t looked at your phone in nearly 11 minutes.

You arrive at the show and see yourself everywhere. Tasteful North Face and Patagonia jackets abound. The stands are awash in earth tones. No one is shoving. No one has a nose ring. These are your people.


The band begins with A SONG YOU RECOGNIZE! You’re on your feet. You’re drinking “craft” beer. Everyone is singing terribly.

And here’s the best the part – YOU CAN DANCE HERE! 80,000 people surround you and there’s not a coordinated movement in sight. Even the band sets a low bar. Bono doesn’t so much dance as lunge and bounce. The other guys seem content to nod and rock. All around you, middle-aged people are rocking and lunging and bouncing and singing badly. Is that guy wearing Tod’s loafers and a Barbour jacket? Yes he is. And he’s in the zone.

The set is basically a greatest hits playlist. The band graciously performs two new songs that no one recognizes to give you a few minutes to use the john and grab another IPA. They might as well flash an intermission sign.

Even the political statements go down smooth: “Democracy!” “Fight AIDS!” How could you possibly disagree? You’re not only dancing and reminiscing – you’re spreading freedom and reasonably-priced medicines to distant lands!

And the kicker: not one but TWO encores, the ones you know best – the ones you first heard that summer you painted houses or kissed Katie at the beach party. You’re closing your eyes now. This is sad and sweet. You put your arm around your wife. You’re wondering if Katie ever got married. A third of the crowd departs after the first encore. It’s no big deal – some of us have work in the morning! Anyway, the traffic will be better if everyone doesn't leave at once."


  1. Great post man, As someone who is still a fan of the band, I whole-heartedly agree. Many of the things that make them so appealing are also the biggest face palm moments simultaneously. I love the part about the photos with the smartphone for street cred. haha Classic.

  2. Sometimes I feel that the only thing bigger than U2 would be U2 if they somehow got bigger.

  3. What an absurdly simplistic take on the world's biggest band.