If you want to feel old, consider that U2 is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. During that span, they’ve released 14 albums and sold nearly 200 million copies worldwide. They are among the most revered and successful bands in popular music history.
And yet, they feel almost completely irrelevant these days. It’s been four years since their last release, the unmemorable Songs of Experience, and 15 years since their last bona fide hit, 2004’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.
When U2 released Zooropa, its eighth studio album and my #9 album of 1993, the band was coming off a run of blockbuster albums that sold 10+ million units apiece. The Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum and Achtung Baby had cemented the Irish rockers as the world’s biggest band.
So this album’s left turn in the direction of electronic dance music was unexpected and risky. But it paid off, both creatively and commercially. Zooropa didn’t sell as well as its predecessors, but it did move 7 million copies and it won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.
Looking back on mixtapes I’ve made over the years, I notice one recurring mistake. Too often, I haven’t considered my audience when choosing songs.
If I found a song that I really liked and it fit well in the mix, I threw it in there. But the perfect fit for me might not be such a perfect fit for the recipient if the song itself isn’t to his or her liking. The last thing you want is somebody having the urge to press fast-forward in the middle of your masterpiece.