Salon calls it "an internet punchline" and "the most hated band in America." Gizmodo says "lame as hell." Deadspin terms frontman Bono "an ass wipe." (Just look at his face — he thinks he’s the Irish Nelson Mandela.) And the Daily Dot calls the group "the new Nickelback."
We get it. They’re insufferable. They’re pretentious. For Gen-Xers, U2 has overstayed its welcome, and millennials just don’t get the hype, even though they somehow love the shit out of Imagine Dragons.
But here's a little secret: U2 doesn’t actually suck. It's just wrong that if people dare admit to enjoying the band, they're immediately cast naked into the streets like Cersei Lannister. This is an important rock band. To paraphrase Bill Murray in Stripes talking to his Tito Puente-hating girlfriend: U2 is gonna be gone, and you’re gonna say, "Oh, I’ve been listening to them for years, and I think they're fabulous."
Here’s the hater's guide to why U2 doesn’t suck as much you like to act like it does:
1. They gave us The Joshua Tree.
Seriously, listen to this 1987 album. It’s an all-timer. And it’s a record we need at a time when our commander-in-chief is doing everything he can to shut the door on immigrants while playing grab-ass with Vladimir Putin. The Joshua Tree is an important album because it’s about America and the American experience through immigrant eyes. "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For" is a classic anthem of hope-tinged gospel goodness, "Running to Stand Still" is one of the most moving songs about addiction, and the album is steeped in folk-music arid-desert American mythos. Forget for a minute that your iTunes library was flooded with a free record, and appreciate the pure artistry that is this album. It still resonates in our time.
2. They put on a helluva show.
You can sit there and be all Cynical McCynicalface and bitch about Bono trying to change the world with his loftiness, or you can attend a concert and let the band’s live act wash over you. There aren’t many artists who can pull off a stadium show, let alone any live show, to the kind of near-religious effect that U2 can. When it comes to touring and giving you your money’s worth, U2 is on point. These guys can rock a midsize NBA arena or a massive soccer stadium with the same gusto. They’re a tireless act, a band that feeds off the energy of the crowd. And they actually play their hits! Over the years, U2 has managed the art of making stadium shows feel intimate, and when it comes to audience interaction, no other group makes fans feel like family. Between the staging, the lighting, and Bono being all Bono-y, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better live act.
3. They’ve done a lot of good in the world.
One of the biggest beefs that haters have with U2 is the band’s insistence on playing Jesus to the lepers. And sure, it’s a little annoying when Bono acts like he and the band are ambassadors of change. You’re just dudes who play instruments and sing songs about lemons. Calm down, bro. But when you take a step back, you’ll see that the band has brought a lot of attention and money to worthy causes. Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Habitat for Humanity, Stand Up to Cancer, and the Special Olympics are just a few of the charities that have been helped. The band has helped create the One Campaign and Red: groups that help fight poverty, hunger, and the AIDS epidemic in Africa. U2 isn’t changing the world with music, but this band is definitely doing some good with its popularity.
4. They're not afraid to experiment and fail.
When you’re the biggest band in the world, it’s easy to keep churning out songs that sound exactly the same on every album like some sausage factory of mediocrity. But U2 has always embraced its inner weird — and not always to great success or fanfare. Remember the album Pop? What in hell was that? Then there was that time when they spent all the money on a world tour where Bono walked onto the stage dressed like the Devil in a gold Elvis jacket and made prank calls at the beginning of every show. But then there are albums like 1993’s Zooropa. When other bands were trying to ride the Seattle coattails, U2 released a weird record that featured Johnny Cash on one of the songs. And it friggin' worked. Zooropa has aged well over the years and stands as proof that the band is unafraid to push the boundaries of its art. You gotta respect that.
5. They’re good for the current climate.
We’re living in a world where Donald Trump is president, our most beloved celebrities are dying, the New England Patriots keep winning Super Bowls, the country is seriously divided across racial lines, our children are being secretly hypnotized by fidget spinners, and Russian hackers are watching us masturbate through our phones. We are living in horrid times. And no band is ready-made to get us through the maelstrom of shit that is our current climate quite like U2. This is the band, after all, that pulled us out or our collective post-9/11 sorrow during a Super Bowl the Patriots ended up winning. That takes a special kind of talent. U2 has always been very political, and it doesn’t matter if you think Bono being all handsy with George W. Bush was wrong. It's all about mending fences in unconventional ways. Like Oprah, U2 has always seemed to know the pulse of America. And as we watch our president self-destruct 140 characters at a time, it’s comforting to know there’s a band out there that, no matter how much you claim they suck, can at least make us feel like everything is gonna be OK.
But in case none of these reasons is enough to change your mind about how much you hate U2, here’s a video of the Edge falling off the stage:
U2: The Joshua Tree Tour 2017
7 p.m. Sunday, June 11, at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens; 888-346-7849; livenation.com. Resale tickets cost $112 to $2,286 via ticketmaster.com.