Why is U2’s Boy on my best 1,000 albums ever list?
The first U2 album sounds as fresh and energetic and urgent as ever.
Some stats & info about U2 – Boy
- What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? Rock, Rock Music, Alternative Rock, College Rock, Post-Punk, Pop, Pop Music
- Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking –
- All Music’s rating – 4 out of 5 stars
- When was Boy released? 1980
- My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #850 out of 1,000
U2’s Boy on Spotify
What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?
Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.
But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective take on what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.
What does U2’s Boy mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?
Listening to “I Will Follow” in the 2020s – and this goes for Boy in general – I’m struck by how fresh and energetic and urgent it still sounds. This is a band with massive talent and massive ambitions. They’re still finding their true sea legs here, but in a similar way to The Beatles (and, note, I’m not trying to directly compare U2 as a band to The Beatles here, dig?) the early and relatively simpler material sounds so good and pure and well executed so as to be easily comparable with the very best output of a great majority of the best bands on the planet (so, fine, I’m directly comparing U2 with most of the bands in the world here, which I’m fine with!).
Great point from All Music about how The Edge’s distinctive guitar sound distinguished U2’s sound from its earliest days: “Without the Edge‘s echoed, ringing guitar, U2 would have sounded like a traditional hard rock band, since the rhythm section and Bono treat each song as an anthem.”
The other thing about “I Will Follow” that’s so great is that it sits in a really sweet spot between post-punk, college radio, rock music, and pop that would soon become a dominant strain of popular music and sell many millions of records. Bands ranging from The Police to R.E.M. to INXS to The Clash and countless more were already or would soon be influenced in some way by U2. And the reverse is also true, of course.
If you’re picking up what I’m throwing down at all, I urge you to watch the video for “I Will Follow,” posted above. Just seeing Bono, The Edge (no head covering on our guy in this era!), and crew doing their thing in 1980 – and with a relatively low budget video (which is still exciting as hell, it should be noted) – is quite a kick if you’re any kind of U2 fan.
And how many bands have the cover art of their album plastered in the background throughout an entire music video, by the way?
Adam Clayton’s Irish-tinged funk rock bass stands out on “Twilight,” followed by Bono’s anthemic vocals and a prototypical soaring chorus.
Very few rock bands have the ability to produce propulsive, catchy, and upbeat rock songs that still, well, rock. “A Day Without Me” is a great early deep cut example of how U2 does just that with seeming ease.
Personal stuff that’s somehow related to U2’s Boy
U2 was on my radar from the time I was a very young child: it was by way of MTV’s (very) early era playing videos for “New Year’s Day” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” from 1983’s War LP on mega-repeat. I enjoyed that material well enough – at least as much as a young lad could appreciate that kind of relatively sophisticated music and content – but it wasn’t really until The Joshua Tree when something clicked for me and U2 became a band that I dug and appreciated.
Which is all to say it took me some number of years to go back to U2’s early catalog and spend time with records like War and Boy. U2 is that rare band where there’s truly no “bad albums,” simply ones that appeal more to some versus others, and perhaps some where things work slightly better and more consistently overall.