Sound — 7
Why would U2 release another "Best of" album? Was it because their "The Best of 1980-1990" did so well? Did they think they were falling out of favor? Was it a marketing ploy? Or was it simply just something to do? Maybe a little bit of everything. After the positive attention "The Best of 1980-1990," U2 thought they could risk it again. They were starting to slow down a little. The momentum gained from "The Joshua Tree" and sustained through "Achtung Baby" was beginning to wane, noticeably during "Zooropa" and "Pop." Although these were good albums in themselves, they fell far from being close to the caliber of earlier U2 albums. So U2 decided to attempt to re-vamp their game by releasing another "Best of" album.
This marketing can have it's downsides, though. Unlike their previous album, "The Best of 1980-1990," which was a hit in both the US and UK, "The Best of 1990-2000" failed to reach over #30 on the US Billboard 200, topping out at #34, unlike the #2 its predecessor received. It did do well in the UK, however, reaching #2. Likewise, it only grossed $3,000,000 in Europe. So was U2 washed up? Or did the fans not seem to like it as well? Neither, as it seems. With hit songs like "Beautiful Day," "One," and "Even Better Than the Real Thing," it was far from boring. And U2 was even farther from being washed up. They would go on to produce show-stopping albums like "No Line on the Horizon" and "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" (c'mon, who doesn't like "Vertigo"?). So the real reason it didn't do as well as "The Best of 1980-1990" is because it wasn't new. It had been done before, by the same band, which can be a turn off for some people. So, although not as popular, it definitely had some bite to it.
"Beautiful Day" is on the album, so it has to be decent, right? Nearly everyone who knows U2 has heard and loves "Beautiful Day," U2's iconic anthem. And what's not to love? Edge's thought-out riffs, Larry's pounding drums, Adam's pulsating bass, and Bono's soaring vocals make it a hit fro the ages. Likewise, "One" is a masterpiece of music, bringing everything U2 is into one song. Sure, there are some songs that don't really capture the listener, such as "Staring at the Sun" and "Numb," but even these songs seem like works of art when played along with the previously mentioned hits. And "Mysterious Ways"? Edge takes his guitar into a whole new spectrum with his synth-like rhythm, while Adam pumps out his deep, even tone. Bono works his lyrical magic, and the song is made.
So is it really "The Best of 1990-2000"? There are great songs on the album, sure, but there are still great songs that were left out. Where is "Love Is Blindness" and "So Cruel"? What about "Mofo"? While still a good album, it's not complete like "The Best of 1980-1990."
Lyrics — 7
Bono, Bono, Bono. If ever there was an album that showcases a singer, this is the one. While "Until the End of the World" and "Mysterious Ways" stand out a bit with their licks and fills provided by Edge, they seem just a bit light on the lyrics. In "Until the End of the World," Bono tells the story of Jesus and Judas, but the lyrics can be weak. "In the garden I was playing the tart..." Come one Bono, what does that even mean? However, these small oddities are pushed out of the spectrum by the raw, awesome power of the lyrics in "One," which take over the entire album. No one can deny that Bono has a great deal of talent after having heard his genius word choice and word placement. His lyrics seem to take on a fragility, like the slightest change of wording could crack the entire song. "We get to carry each other..." could be "We HAVE to carry each other...," which would show sullen and reluctant resignation on the singers' part. This makes the song seem even more personal, as if a battle cry for everyone wishing for peace. "You gave me nothing, now it's all I've got..." No explanation needed here, Bono just outlined exactly what it feels like to be rejected.
But enough with "One." Although more than a great song, maybe a perfect song, there are other songs on the album that come close. Bono writes pure poetry in "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," but his vocals get off a bit in "Gone," seeming forced, and not the smooth, even flow of other songs, like "Electrical Storm" or "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)." And Bono seems to over do the drawn out wails a little bit, too. So while the lyrics are great, and the singing is good, neither are perfect. But perfection is nearly impossible to attain. Bono comes close, but not close enough.
Overall Impression — 8
How does one go about comparing an album that is a handful of albums combined? One must review the songs on the album, and rate it from there. While the songs are great, and the delivery is great, it's just not U2's best. Some songs impress, some songs almost depress. Now, it's hard to write an album at all, let alone a "Best Of," but it is U2's slowing down that really hurt them in "The Best of 1990-2000." They didn't have great hits from "Zooropa" or "Pop." So they depended heavily on a handful of songs to sell the album. However, "The Best of 1990-2000" was a turning point for U2. While not adored, fans liked it, and U2 began picking up speed again. Just in time to release a brand new album, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." So, while not their greatest album ever, "The Best of 1990-2000" gave U2 enough fuel to plunge back into the world of rock & roll.