The Zodiac of Achtung Baby

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September 2, 2013 by NowhereButPop

By Andrew Doscas

A self explanatory guide to how U2’s 1991 magnum opus Achtung Baby and astrology go hand in hand.  The twelve songs on the album somehow perfectly describes all twelve zodiac signs and the personalities of those born under each sign.  It might be crazy…but it’s not wrong.

Aries-“Zoo Station”

It should come as no surprise that the very first sign of the zodiac equates to the very first track on the album.  Aries are known as the leaders of the zodiac, and “Zoo Station sets the tone for the rest of Achtung Baby.  Aries are known to be fiery, energetic, passionate, and arrogant.  They are also known to be very creative, outgoing, and open to new things.  “Zoo Station” is all of these things.  This is the first time that U2 used the word “baby” in any of their songs, and the electric buzz sound of the Edge’s guitar along with a grooving rhythm introduced to a more energetic and self-assured U2 without sacrificing any of the fiery passion that we had been accustomed to.  The mantra of Aries is “I am the best, but I am humble” the mantra of “Zoo Station” is “We are the best, and we’ll prove it”.

Taurus-“One”

Words used to describe Taurus are “practical”, “cautious” and “stubborn”; these are words that also describe the first ballad on the album “One”.  “One” is the first sound of familiarity on the album, and even though the song is about a relationship that isn’t as ideal as it is upsetting, the gestation of the album is what makes this the Taurus equivalent.  During the production of the album that band was split on the musical direction of the album.  Bono and the Edge wanted to experiment with electronica and rock sounds, and the other two guys that no one ever remembers wanted to continue with what they were doing.  They were the cautious and practical ones, while Bono and the Edge were the stubborn and forceful ones who wanted their way.  This break in camp almost led the band to call it quits in 1990.  The saving grace was “One” which rectified both conflicting sides of the band, who each represented conflicting sides of Taurus’ personality.  There is the need for security and stern decision making, that has to be tempered with a laid back and compromising composure.  “One” does all of that while unconsciously making that big decision to stay together as a band.  “One” is the practical and secure answer to the band’s conflicts, and that is exactly what the song is, and what it sounds like.

Gemini-“The Fly”

Gemini is all about change, stimulation, and duality, and no other song on the album expresses these concepts as originally or explicitly as the first single of the album, “The Fly” which was the public’s first taste of the new U2.  As Bono once perfectly summarized “The Fly is the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree”.  “The Fly” is all about change and excitement, as the blistering buzzsaw guitar sounds reverberate off a bouncing bass line and a tumbling drum beat.  The last thing we heard from U2 prior to “The Fly” was “Desire” a roots rock song, sung as if Bono were preaching.  “The Fly”, an edgier song with a dance beat and an electronica guitar, is told from the perspective of “a bullshit philosopher”, a parody of Bono himself.  “The Fly” is the sum totality of U2’s musical curiosity that whetted our excitement, but at the same time had us scratching our heads wondering when exactly the band did this 180.

Cancer-“Love is Blindness

It goes without saying that moodiest and emotional of the zodiac associates itself with the moodiest and brooding track on Achtung Baby.  Cancer’s theme is “I am lovable as well as loving”, essentially, “I love being in love”.  This is exactly what “Love is Blindness” is all about-except that it portrays this in the worst possible way.  People are so desperate to be in love that they will blind themselves to think that anything is true love.  Cancer loves nurturing and taking care of others and “Love is Blindness” characterizes that as a sort of desperation.  The ruling planet of Cancer is the moon, obviously representing night time; sure enough, “Love is Blindness” is a nighttime song, evident in lines like “won’t you wrap the night around me” which reaffirm the dark emotionally brooding nature that comes out at night.  If zodiac signs could be characterized by guitar solos, the guitar solo for Cancer would be the one found in this very song.

Leo-“Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”

Just as Cancer and “Love is Blindness” associate themselves with the Moon and darkness, Leo and “Ultraviolet” associate themselves with the sun and light.  Leo’s ruling planet is the sun which is symbolic of light and energy, which is exactly what the song associates love with.  The point of the view of the song is for someone to provide love and light their way for them.  It’s the last song on the album that generates positivity, just as Leo tends to draw people to them with their energy and positivity.  Being a fire sign Leo just burns with no sense of rhyme or reason and “Ultraviolet” burns just as brightly for love and guidance.  As people gravitate to the light of Leo, so too does the song pine for someone who’s light he can wrap his love around.

Virgo-“Acrobat”

Prior to Achtung Baby, U2, and Bono in particular were seen as pretentious and highly critical of everything around them.  Many consider Virgo to be the critics of the zodiac.  For Virgo the very first line of the song “Don’t believe what you hear, don’t believe what you see” stands in direct defiance of this earth sign, as they apparently lay their reality in what they can discern from their environment.  Virgo tends to have an uncanny eye for details and problem solving and “Acrobat” is a detailed solution to the criticism the band was receiving for being too self-righteous and pretentious.  However, “Acrobat” is an introspective song aimed at Bono himself; it’s a song aimed at how he is perceived in the media is nothing but his own doing, even if it is a false perception.  It’s been said that Virgos are so highly critical because they are innately critical of themselves.  For this reason if no other, “Acrobat” serves as the Virgo of Achtung Baby.

Libra-“Even Better than the Real Thing”

“Give me one more chance, and you’ll be satisfied”.  This is the first lyric of the song and it might as well be the mantra of Libra.  Libra, the people pleaser is a social butterfly that seeks to find a balance between the self and others.  “Even Better than the Real Thing” is the sound of the new U2 asking for their fans and critics to trust them with this experiment of new musical direction.  They’re balancing their new electronic-rock sound on one scale, with the weight of asking for “half a chance to ride on the waves that you bring”.  It’s a plea for acceptance without compromising themselves since they do it in a way that is sonically similar to the rest of the album.  Libra is all about balance, and “Even Better than the Real Thing” is a song all about balance.  Balancing the old and new, balancing perception with reality, balancing acceptance with experimentation, U2 was trying to find the happy medium between themselves and everyone else.

Scorpio-“So Cruel”

Scorpios are said to be the most vindictive and cruelest of the zodiac, and with that in mind “So Cruel” is the cruelest song on the album.  It deals with the Edge’s divorce and how his ex wife is so cruel.  For all intents and purposes she expresses the traits of Scorpio.  She is secretive, cold and distant.  She keeps everyone at arm’s length but it makes people want to be closer to her as evident in the line “The men who love you, you hate the most”.  Scorpios are associated with secrets that can lead to isolation and this is exactly how the Edge felt during his divorce.  There was this huge distance with his wife, but their divorce was no secret as everyone from their home town knew about it, on top of the rest of the world due to his celebrity status.  The outing of a private matter led to a depressing isolationism that is captured in “So Cruel” where this woman is portrayed as possessing the darker characteristics of Scorpio: secretive, isolated, cruel, and ruthless.

Sagittarius-“Trying to Throw Your Arms Around the World”

One of the few times on this list that the numbers match up, Sagittarius is the ninth zodiac sign, and “Trying to Throw Your Arms Around the World” is the ninth song on the album.  More than that however, both are considered the most jovial and optimistic.  Sagittarius are governed by Jupiter (Jove) and “Trying to Throw Your Arms Around the World” is a song about a drunken stupor where you care about everyone in the world.  The song is very much about going out and enjoying the company of others, which is the motto of Sagittarius, who hates being confined or tied down.  I don’t know what the lyrics “and a woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle” have to do with the song, but it conveys that’s feeling of not wanting to be tied down or forced into something that is anathema to Sagittarius.

Capricorn-“Mysterious Ways”

First of all I have no idea what the hell a water goat is, besides the fact that it is what a Capricorn is.  It’s never made sense to me and it probably never will.  I can get behind a centaur, but a half goat/half leviathan is just baffling.   Anyway…Capricorn tends to be very career driven and attracted to stability and strong foundations.  If anything they can be accused of all work and no play.  They are much grounded in what they can see, hear and touch, being sensual in nature.  I’m fairly certain that the main character in “Mysterious Ways” is a Capricorn because of his sheer fascination with whomever this woman who “moves in mysterious ways”.  Such a sense of wonder and amazement can only come about from blinding yourself to it, as Capricorns have been accused of doing.  They can be so obsessed with work or with material things that they forget the ephemeral, and the abstract.  Lines like “Let her talk about the things you can’t explain, to touch is to heal, to hurt is to steal” speaks to the sensual and realist nature of Capricorns.  She who moves in mysterious ways is telling his Capricorn that it’s ok to “take a dive with your sister in the rain” and have “your sister the moon let her pale light in to fill up the room”.  Let go of what you stubbornly hold on to and experience the mystery of the abstract, the chaos, and the undefined.  This is a song written specifically for Capricorn to loosen up.

Aquarius-“Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horse”

This one gave me the most trouble, but from what I could discern Aquarius are the starving artists of the zodiac.  They are the ones with the crazy ideas and extravagant notions that can be off putting to others.  Now, even though “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” is none of these things, like Aquarius is occupies a weird space in its grouping.  Aquarius the water bearer reigns from January 20-February 18, typically the coldest time of the year.  Although he is the water bearer, when the water has turned to ice, he is also an air sign.  Likewise “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” takes its name from a Rolling Stones song, and the most sonically similar to their previous works than any other song on the album.  It comes off the heels of the sexy sounding “Until the End of the World” and is followed by “So Cruel”, a B-version of “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”.  Both almost seem to throw everything else off place, but upon review, Aquarius gives the zodiac a complex and eccentric soul, while “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” gives Achtung Baby a personal pensiveness that we had been unaccustomed to prior.

Pisces-“Until the End of the World”

The most spiritual and emotional of zodiac is paired with the most spiritual and emotional complex song on the album.  Even though “Until the End of the World” sounds like a conversation between two jaded former lovers, the song is actually about the betrayal of Jesus Christ and is told from the point of view of Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed him.  Pisces are thought to be the most empathetic and compassionate of the twelve signs, which contradicts the events described in “Until the End of the World”.  Judas betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver as the lines “I took the money, I spiked your drink, you miss too much these days if you stop to think”, but the last part of the line also speaks to the tendency of Pisces to stop and think about the world, which inevitably will upset them.  The compassion and sympathy comes in the final verse told “In my dreams I was drowning in sorrow, my sorrows they learned to swim… waves of regret and waves of joy I reached out for the one I’d try to destroy”.  Judas expresses regret and remorse for his crime to which Jesus says he will wait until the end of the world for him.  It seems as though Jesus would wait eons for Judas to redeem himself.  This holy sympathy and forgiveness is an exaggerated ideal that Pisces are said to possess.  Like “Love is Blindness” there is an unquantifiable emotional aspect to the song that doesn’t lend itself to any other songs on the album.  Even though they’re all emotional those two songs in particular stand a bit above the other ones.  Just as Pisces is a little more emotional than the other zodiac signs which tend to be emotions, and not emotional.

Just to be absolutely clear, I now much more about Achtung Baby than I do about astrology.  In fact everything I know about astrology comes from ill-fated attempts to impress three different girls over the course of the past six years.  My motives are not entirely pure, but my thoughts are.  If it’s any consolation, my heart is where it’s always been, but my head is somewhere in between.

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One thought on “The Zodiac of Achtung Baby

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