Has U2's 21st century releases done irreparable damage to their legacy?

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The Fly
Mar 16, 2021
Let's say if U2 have retired after All That You Can't Leave Behind, how would their legacy & public perception be effected, or similarly - had they retired after POP?

It actually would've been quite fitting in hindsight - As ATYCLB was their maiden record with regards to the band looking back (for the 1st time) in maturity, since all the bad members crossed 40 during the process of recording the album. Adam had just finished rehab & all the band members had since become fathers during that period.

All That You Can't Leave Behind is a better album about experience than Songs of Experience. Musically & lyrically that album has so many better, more direct songs about life experience than Songs of Experience. The entire record is about resilience, growth, and reflection, but those themes are especially apparent in tracks like 'Walk On', 'Stuck in a Moment', 'Kite' and 'Grace'. There are songs that address the state of the world ('When I Look at The World', 'New York') and those about seizing life before it's too late ('Beautiful Day, 'Elevation').

ATYCLB really caught Bono in a moment of true, genuine reflection. It was also a vulnerable moment, coming off of POP, and with his vocal issues & throat surgery making for a pretty challenging period within his career. He had to re-learn how to sing during this time.

That 'looking back' approach worked as a one-off, it got them back their relevance & the title of biggest band in the world again. But dubbling-down on this approach & the success that stemmed from ATYCLB proved to be the 'beginning of the end' one could perhaps argue.

One safe, 'back to basics', adult contemporary album after POP was acceptable for most U2 fans as it achieved what it set out to, make U2 relevant again, but for many fans HTDAAB was a bridge too far & that's when the tide started to turn. And with that release & corresponding tour it seemed like the U2 hate train/machine really started to take off during that period..

That lingering after-taste that originated circa HTDAAB-era still endures for many music critics today.
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So I've made two threads and I'd like this one deleted, thanks, haha..
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