Why is U2 So Popular?

Ever wonder why the band U2 is so popular? Here’s Quora to the rescue, with an elegantly awesome answer:

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 were lucky if you recognized 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.” The Joshua Tree pumps through the speakers of your Lexus SUV (no judgment—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 the best 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.

So, so awesome. Kudos to Daniel Rosenthal for the whimsical answer. Hat tip goes to Paul Kedrosky.

2 thoughts on “Why is U2 So Popular?

  1. Popular music is crafted to be the soundtrack to hormonal disturbances. Criticize the popular music of your youth? As well send Pavlov’s dog to review a carillon concert.

    And a) i cannot identify a U-2 song that I might ever have heard; b) Them as mock U-2 fans today will be going to Wilco tours in 2030.

  2. It’s one reason I always feel happy listening to 80s music, even though much of it is crap. It’s a link with the best parts about childhood, and that emotional connection makes any critical analysis of the music unimportant.

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