U2‘s Achtung Baby album celebrates its 30th anniversary today. Released on November 18, 1991, the album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, and has been certified eight-times platinum by the RIAA.
Achtung Baby was the follow-up to the companion album to the Irish rocker’s 1988 documentary Rattle and Hum. Moving away from the Americana sounds of Rattle and Hum, the band went back to more of an alternative-rock sound for Achtung Baby, while also adding industrial and electronic music elements. The new sound was prevalent in songs like the funk-rock-inflected “Mysterious Ways” and the hip-hop-influenced “The Fly.”
U2 began recording Achtung Baby in Germany’s Hansa Studios just a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Though the band hoped to be inspired by German reunification, Achtung Baby became a very dark and personal album. U2’s members fought throughout the recording sessions, though things started to really come together when they wrote “One,” which has become one of the band’s most well-known songs.
Two singles from the album reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, “Mysterious Ways” and “One,” which peaked at #9 and #10, respectively. Achtung Baby also yielded two other top-40 hits — “Even Better Than the Real Thing” and “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses.”
U2 supported Achtung Baby with the Zoo TV tour, which used elaborate visuals and other multimedia to emphasize the theme of “sensory overload.” Throughout the trek, Bono dressed up as different characters, and the band embraced a more humorous and ironic tone.
Considered by many to be one of U2’s greatest works, Achtung Baby returned the band to critical favor, and paved the way for the group’s continued musical exploration during the 1990s.
Here’s Achtung Baby’s full track list:
“Even Better Than the Real Thing”
“Until the End of the World”
“Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”
“Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World”
“Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”
“Love Is Blindness”
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