20 years ago this month U2 released Achtung Baby! — the last of the huge albums (seeing as it was released after Nirvana’s Nevermind. Some will disagree with my assessment of this as one of the great albums in rock history or with my love of U2. They are allowed to be wrong — it is a free country and a free space for opinions after all. The above link is to a 20th Anniversary re-release with remastered songs and a second CD with B-sides and remixes.
Anyway… I was going to write something up but this piece from PJ Media Lifestyle pretty sums up what I would’ve said anyway…
This month marks the 20th anniversary of one of the last great culturally and musically dominant albums of the rock era — Achtung Baby by U2. The album introduced a wild new industrial wall of sound, rhythm, and psychedelic swirl to the world. It sat on top of the charts for months, won the Grammy for album of the year, and regularly appears on critics’ lists of the best albums of all time. It may be my generation’s Sgt. Pepper.
Not long after Achtung Baby dominated the airwaves, the radio and music industry changed forever. Market micro-segmentation and the diminished relevance of terrestrial radio meant that no single album would again capture the rock nation as did Achtung Baby, and Nirvana’s Nevermind did earlier that fall. Sure, musical acts still explode to riches and some fame, but culturally unifying musical dominance doesn’t occur the way it once did.
There are no more Michael Jacksons or The Beatles, or groups like U2. These days, it is difficult to name any single contemporary song that the vast majority of Americans are familiar with as they were with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” in 1984 or U2’s “One” from Achtung Baby. Like our politics, our music has frayed apart.