If you're alive and human, chances are that at some point, you've fallen in love with U2's music. The band — which formed in 1976 in Dublin, Ireland, and includes lead singer Bono, guitarist The Edge, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. and bassist Adam Clayton — released the first of 13 studio albums in 1980, taking the world by storm with their soulful brand of rock 'n' roll. In honor of U2's newest studio album, "Songs of Experience," which comes out on Dec. 1, 2017, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at all of their albums over the years and ranking them from good to the greatest. Keep reading to find out where your favorites landed on our list…
No. 13: "Songs of Innocence"
While U2's 2014 album, "Songs of Innocence," had the unique distinction of making millions of people around the world irate (the band partnered with Apple, which then downloaded the album in its entirety to 500 million iTunes accounts without permission), it still managed to capture our attention. The album, which included songs like "The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)" and "Song for Someone," peaked at No. 12 on iTunes, at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and No. 6 on the U.K. top albums chart. While sales were historically low, it was to be expected (given that the band allowed their album to be downloaded for free). Still, critics took notice of the music, calling it an accomplished work that brought the band back to its early sound with passionate, nostalgic lyrics and rhythms. In 2014, "Songs of Innocence" was nominated for a Grammy for best rock album, proving sales figures aren't everything.
No. 12: "October"
There's an interesting story about U2's sophomore album, 1981's "October." The same year the band was set to release the album, a briefcase containing all the lyrics and notes was stolen during one of their concerts in Portland. Since the band hadn't recorded the album yet, Bono was forced to rewrite all the music from memory. The band has famously described the recording of "October" as the worst experience ever and even though the rewritten album didn't do so bad on the charts, it didn't have the same success as their first album, "Boy," did. (Notable songs on this one include the title track, "October," "Gloria" and "Fire.") What's fascinating is that in 2004, someone came forward with the stolen briefcase, returning it and all of its contents to Bono.
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No. 11: "Pop"
Honestly, U2's 1997 album, "Pop," was such a strange shift musically for the band that we weren't sure where to put it on our list. The tracks, which incorporated electronica, samples and loops, weren't bad per se, but they were a clear departure from the guitar-heavy riffs of U2's earlier albums. Songs like "Discotheque" and "Mofo" made listeners feel like they were in the middle of a wild rave, or on drugs, or maybe both. Critical reception was generally favorable, but overall sales (from release through today) remain on the lower end of the spectrum — meaning fans just weren't ready for (or just didn't like) U2's new musical direction.
No. 10: "Boy"
Don't hate us for ranking U2's debut album, "Boy," at No. 10. While many fans consider "Boy" to be one of the band's finest albums, others believe U2 was still finding its sound and hadn't yet developed its signature style of politically charged, religion-inspired, heart-stopping ballads that left listeners breathless. The songs on the album, like "I Will Follow" and "Into the Heart," did display some of the iconic guitar melodies full of rich emotion that U2 became famous for. We're not saying this album wasn't amazing, because it was. We're just saying future albums were even better.
No. 9: "No Line on the Horizon"
When U2 dropped "No Line on the Horizon" in 2009, fans were ready for something new. It had been five long years since the band's last album release, meaning expectations were sky high. While the album debuted at No. 1 in over 30 countries (including the U.S. and the U.K.), album sales weren't as high as projected. U2 claimed they were "experimenting" with new sounds and ideas, with Bono saying he'd "grown tired" of writing songs from his own point of view, and therefore was writing songs from the perspective of imaginary characters including drug addicts, soldiers and traffic cops. The band spent a good portion of its time writing and recording in Morocco and hoped that all the energy they put into capturing the new environment and new sounds would be something fans understood. Even though album sales were lower than they'd hoped for, the album, which included tracks like "Magnificent," "I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight" and "Unknown Caller," was nominated for a Grammy for best rock album with "Go Crazy" also earning a nod for best rock performance by a group.
No. 8: "Zooropa"
It's fitting that U2's 1993 album, "Zooropa," is No. 8 on our list as it was also the eighth studio album the band released. Some of its songs include the title track, "Numb" and "The Wanderer" (which awesomely featured country music star Johnny Cash). It's clear from listening to "Zooropa" that U2 was willing and ready to experiment with their sound again. The music was far more playful than anything they'd produced before, with tinkering ballads and crystalline melodies that felt both childlike and psychedelic. The album peaked at No. 1 in multiple countries, including the U.S., where it went double platinum.
No. 7: "The Unforgettable Fire"
U2's 1984 album, "The Unforgettable Fire," was laden with heart and included hit songs like "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and "Bad," which was about a struggling heroin addict. The album was a musical departure from the band's previous hard-hitting rock album, "War," and included softer songs meant to stir listeners with emotion. Two tracks on the album, "MLK" and "Pride (In the Name of Love)," were inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. The album peaked at No. 12 in the U.S. but hit No. 1 in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Although the now-iconic song "Pride (In the Name of Love)" only managed to reach No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time, it later became one of the band's most recognized musical accomplishments.
No. 6: "War"
If you're an '80s baby, chances are your first memories of U2 include songs from 1983's "War." It was the band's third album but the first to delve into politics (something U2 would later come to be known for) and included songs like "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "New Year's Day," which have become a part of U2's canon. The album was widely considered to be one of their strongest and went quadruple platinum in America. Insanely, the Grammys failed to recognize this masterful work, but fans and music critics alike noted the power it brought to the airwaves.
No. 5: "Rattle and Hum"
As we climb to the top five albums U2's ever made, it gets harder and harder to rank them. The band's 1988 release, "Rattle and Hum," was its sixth studio effort and featured an unusual mix of live songs from earlier albums, new music (like "Angel of Harlem" and "Desire") and several covers of songs written by some of their musical influences, including Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Mick Jagger and more. The excitement didn't stop there either. In addition to the album, "Rattle and Hum" was accompanied by a film (called a "rockumentary") of the same name that was released the same month. While the movie itself received many negative reviews (critics called it "pretentious" and "calculated in its supposed spontaneity"), the album was a massive success, dominating the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart for six weeks and going five-times platinum in the U.S. It also earned three Grammy nominations.
No. 4: "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb"
The 2004 album "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" was U2's 11th studio album. Bono claimed he wanted to check in with himself and reestablish why he wanted to be in a rock band, which sent him down a musical road of listening to his favorite singers and bands for inspiration. The result? A more contemporary album than before with radio-friendly hits like "Vertigo" and "Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own." The album peaked at No. 1 in numerous countries and went triple platinum in the U.S. It earned them eight Grammy Awards including album of the year.
No. 3: "Achtung Baby"
U2's 1991 album, "Achtung Baby," is a testament to the band's dedication to each other. During recording in Berlin, they nearly disbanded as members fought over the direction of the album and its songs, finally coming together with the track "One," which later became the album's third single. Other hits on "Achtung Baby" include "The Fly" and "Mysterious Ways." Critics widely praised the band's efforts, noting it was darker and more "disruptive" than anything they'd produced in the past, yet still deeply satisfying. The album peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for two Grammys, ultimately winning best rock performance by a duo or group. It went on to go octuple platinum (which is a fancy way of saying it sold over eight million copies).
No. 2: "All That You Can't Leave Behind"
If we're completely honest, U2's turn of the century album, "All That You Can't Leave Behind," was a serious contender for No. 1 on our list. It was the band's 10th studio album and included Grammy-winning songs like "Beautiful Day" and "Walk On," which are currently still in rotation on many of our favorite playlists. The music, according to U2, was their way of "reapplying for the job of best band in the world" after the less than stellar reception of "Pop" in 1997. Although the album never climbed higher than No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S., it did go quadruple platinum and won seven Grammys. It also has the distinction of being the only album ever to produce multiple tracks that took home the record of the year Grammy ("Beautiful Day" did it in 2001 and "Walk On" did it in 2002).
No. 1: "The Joshua Tree"
Last but certainly not least is U2's defining contribution to the world of music and our pick for No. 1 — their 1987 album, "The Joshua Tree." It was the band's fifth studio album but was the one that launched them into the realm of superstardom. The album contains many of the biggest hits U2 is still known for today including "With or Without You," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Where the Streets Have No Name." The album received massive acclaim, with critics calling it their "big one" and "their most challenging work to date." "Joshua Tree" became the fastest selling album in British history and produced U2's first No. 1 hits in the U.S. It also landed the band its first-ever Grammy nominations and wins (including for album of the year). Over time, "The Joshua Tree" became one of the best selling albums in history with over 25 million in sales worldwide.