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Achtung Baby by U2 ranked # 62 on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums list.
Achtung Baby is the seventh studio album by Irish rock band U2. The album was released nearly two years after lead vocalist Bono announced the band would have to "go away and dream it all up again", following the mixed reception of 1988's Rattle and Hum. The album marks a dramatic change in the band's sound, taking on electronica and dance influences and more guitar effects.
One of U2's best-selling and most critically acclaimed albums, Achtung Baby was a vast departure for the band, adding more European than American influences, especially the avant-garde theatrics of David Bowie, Lou Reed, and other artists. Bono has often described the album as "the sound of four men trying to chop down The Joshua Tree". During the 1970s, producer Brian Eno collaborated with Bowie in the same Berlin studio in which U2 did its earliest session work for Achtung Baby, and The Edge uses guitar effects and pedal similar to those used by Bowie on albums such as Low and "Heroes". U2 sampled techniques and sounds from other musical genres previously unused by the band, including dance, house and electronica, whilst maintaining their original feel of rock and roll.
The album's new sound was a source of conflict in the band because The Edge and Bono favored the new sounds they were coming up with while recording their sessions in Berlin, while drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton were partial to the band's traditional sound. The conflict amongst the members of U2 very nearly led to the band breaking up, but the fighting subdued after The Edge, struggling with two bridge sections for the song "Ultra Violet (Light My Way)" was encouraged to combine them by the band and producers Eno and Lanois. The band rallied around the riff and was inspired to write the song "One". It changed the band's outlook on the album, helping bring them back from the brink during recording sessions.
"One" was responsible for a renewed sense of optimism towards the material they had already recorded. Leaving Berlin on a high note, the band was able to complete the rest of the album in Dublin. While ostensibly a song of loss, "One" and its three separate music videos came to be seen by the band, and many of its fans, as an anthem extolling hope wrought from despair.
Achtung Baby was also darker sounding than previous efforts, thanks in large part to songs such as "The Fly", "Acrobat", and "Love is Blindness", which deal with themes of helplessness, broken relationships, and (in the case of "Love is Blindness") violence in the name of love. The spiritual yearning of U2's eighties work began to take on a more existential, despairing element in Achtung Baby.
Achtung Baby introduced U2 to a larger audience, people who otherwise would not have bought their records, significantly expanding the group's fanbase. New fans were perhaps drawn in by the hit song "Mysterious Ways", with its closer resemblance to conventional pop music of the time, and also the ballad, "One".
The album was followed by the Zoo TV Tour, a ground-breaking and, in Zoo TV: Live From Sydney, Grammy-award winning multimedia concert production.
As for the album's title, "Achtung, Baby!" in German means "Attention, baby!" or "Careful, baby!" Frequently used by the band's soundman during the making of the album, the phrase came from the Mel Brooks film The Producers.
- Zoo Station
- Even Better Than the Real Thing
- Until the End of the World
- Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
- So Cruel
- The Fly
- Mysterious Ways
- Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around the World
- Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
- Love is Blindness
100 Greatest Albums of All Time
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