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20 Years of Achtung Baby: Radio Airplay in the U.S.


Twenty years after its release, Achtung Baby remains a popular album on U.S. radio stations. Over the past 12 months, every song on the album except one has been played on U.S. commercial radio. And if that's not enough to show how popular the album still is, consider this: A handful of Achtung Baby's b-sides also made fairly regular appearances on radio airwaves, as did a few remixes and live versions, too.

Just as we did with the October album last month, @U2 has reviewed airplay statistics for U2 songs over the past 12 months on commercial U.S. stations that are tracked by one of the country's primary airplay monitoring services. The data we've seen doesn't cover every station in the U.S. -- non-commercial and college stations, for example, aren't included.  And as was the case last month, we're not allowed to share exact airplay counts, but we can write about them in general and relative terms. So, with that in mind, let's look at Achtung Baby's radio airplay during the past year.

Achtung Baby Songs Played on U.S. Radio (Past 12 Months)

Here's the full list of Achtung Baby songs that were played on commercial U.S. radio over the past year, listed with their ranking among all U2 songs getting radio airplay. In other words … yes, "Mysterious Ways" was the fifth most-played U2 song overall.

5. "Mysterious Ways"
6. "One"
17. "Even Better Than The Real Thing"
20. "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses"
35. "Until The End Of The World"
43. "The Fly"
47. "Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World"
74. "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)"
78. "Zoo Station"
100. "So Cruel"
147. "Acrobat"

Poor "The Fly." It was the lead single from Achtung Baby, but was the least-played of all the singles from that album and was played only a couple of times more per month than "Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World."

Still, that's better than "Love Is Blindness" -- the only Achtung Baby song that didn't get a single "spin" on the tracked radio stations in the report we saw.

Although we can't share exact numbers, we can report that "Mysterious Ways" and "One" were both played more than 10x more often than "Even Better Than The Real Thing," the next most-played Achtung Baby song on the list. But even if you add the airplay counts for "Mysterious Ways" and "One" together, you still don't have as many "spins" as the No. 1 most popular U2 radio song: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." (More on that below.)

Other Achtung Baby-era Songs Getting Airplay

As I said in the intro, it's not just the dozen songs on Achtung Baby that got radio airplay over the past 12 months. You could've heard several live versions and remixes from the album, too. Here's that list, again with the airplay rankings among all U2 songs on the airplay list.

60. Mysterious Ways (remix)
64. Paint It Black
86. Mysterious Ways (live)
104. One (live)
111. Satellite Of Love
125. Salomé
132. Fortunate Son
145. Night And Day
173. Even Better Than The Real Thing (remix)

There's no indication about which remix or which live versions of those songs were played on radio, unfortunately.

Is Achtung Baby U2's Most Popular Album on U.S. Radio?

As the first list above shows, four Achtung Baby songs are among the top 20 U2 tunes played on U.S. commercial radio; two of those are in the top six. Pretty impressive, but it's not enough to make Achtung Baby the most popular U2 album on U.S. radio.

That honor belongs to The Joshua Tree. Every song on that album (and a few b-sides and live versions) was played on radio in the past 12 months. The Joshua Tree has five songs in the top 20, compared to Achtung Baby's four. It also has the top two songs overall: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "With Or Without You."

So, Achtung Baby will have to settle for being U2's second-most popular U2 album among U.S. radio stations. It's alright, it's alright, it's alright....

(c) @U2, 2011.