Irish rock band U2 started out as part of the post-punk era but evolved and redefined themselves throughout the years to become the international sensation that force-downloaded their music onto your iTunes account that one time. While that was hilariously weird, they were an iconic band, selling well over 150 million records worldwide and winning 22 Grammy awards. In this article, we’ll go over 25 of U2’s absolute best songs.
1. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
I Still Haven’t Found My Way is generally regarded as U2’s best song. It was the second release from their The Joshua Tree album in 1987, becoming their second number-one in a row and peaking at number six on the UK charts. It consistently ranks on lists of the best singles of all time and was chosen by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
One was a tipping point for U2. It originated as the band struggled over their direction and were on the verge of breaking up, but an improvisational session resulted in this track. Inspired by German Reunification—they were in Berlin—and their own unity after coming back together, they wrote the song mostly about themselves. It wound up being released as a benefit single, with the proceeds dedicated to AIDS research.
This song was an immediate success, taking the top spot on the Irish charts, US Album Rock charts, and Canadian RPM Top Singles. The group has often used the track to promote social causes in the years since.
3. Beautiful Day
Beautiful Day is undoubtedly one of U2’s biggest hits, immediately finding success for the band commercially and taking a large part of the credit for the All That You Can’t Leave Behind album going multi-platinum. It was the lead track and first song released from the album, becoming their 14th number-one song in their native Ireland. In 2001, the track won three Grammy Awards, namely Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
4. Sunday Bloody Sunday
Potentially U2’s most political song, Sunday Bloody Sunday tackles the horror of political violence and government violence against protestors. It discusses an incident in Derry, which involved British troops shooting and killing unarmed civilians. One of their signature songs, it is hailed as one of the best-ever protest tracks, and despite controversy caused by early performances, has gone on to be named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
5. Pride (In the Name of Love)
Pride wasn’t particularly successful with the critics, but it still became a beloved U2 track among fans and is now one of their most popular songs. Originally written about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the track had to be updated to reflect some historical inaccuracies. Looking back though, multiple big publications have named it to their lists of the greatest songs of all time, including Rolling Stone and Spin magazines.
Bad made it to number 19 on some US charts, which is surprising since it wasn’t released as a single. The song’s popularity saw it see enough play on the radio alone to make it onto the charts. Originating from a guitar riff by The Edge during a jam session, it took a total of three takes to complete, and there are additional versions of the track out there by Bono.
7. I Will Follow
I Will Follow is the one and only U2 song that has been performed on every single one of their tours since they released their first album. Only Pride (In The Name Of Love) has been performed by the band more times in concert. It’s been issued five times in total, paying tribute to Bono’s mother who died when he was only 14 years old.
8. Where The Streets Have No Name
The opening track of the legendary The Joshua Tree album, Where The Streets Have No Name challenges the idea that you can assume a person’s religion and income based on the street they live on. It peaked at number 13 in the US and number four in the UK and has remained a staple of their concert repertoire since the song debuted in 1987. Its music video won a Grammy Award for Best Performance Music Video.
9. With Or Without You
Another amazing song from The Joshua Tree album, With Or Without You was the album’s lead single in 1987 and became U2’s first number-one hit in both the US and Canada. For three weeks, it sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 and received rave reviews from critics at the time. Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time lists this at number 131.
10. Until the End of the World
After discussing the band’s involvement in producing music for the film Until The End of The World, this single started to take shape. It follows the story of Jesus and Judas from the New Testament, with verses containing conversations not in the bible in it. It was released as a promotional single in the US, peaking within the top five of both the Modern Rock Tracks and Album Rock Tracks charts almost immediately.
11. New Year’s Day
Serving as the lead single for the 1983 album War, New Year’s Day became U2’s first UK hit single, making it to number 10 on that chart. In the US, the song peaked at number 53 on the Hot 100, but it ranked well on other European charts and gave them their first international hit track. It’s included on Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest songs of all time and the Pitchfork 500.
12. Moment Of Surrender
The third song of U2’s 2009 album No Line On The Horizon, Moment Of Surrender was one of the first times the band experimented with what they called “future hymns.” It discusses the crisis of faith a drug addict is having, featuring gospel-style vocal performances in the choruses. While it was never released as a single, the track was named the best song of 2009 by Rolling Stone magazine and was ranked 160th on their 2010 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
13. Even Better Than The Real Thing
Even Better Than The Real Thing started out as a demo that didn’t end up making it onto the Rattle And Hum live album from the band, instead, it was held back and polished for the Achtung Baby album. It was one of U2’s only singles in that stage of their career to not break into the UK Top 10, though it peaked at number 12 in the UK. A remix of the track by DJ Paul Oakenfold peaked at number eight a few months later, and the song was performed at every concert of the Zoo TV and PopMart Tours.
14. Staring At The Sun
Staring At The Sun was the most glaringly brilliant song from U2’s Pop album in 1997. It peaked at number three in the UK and topped two US charts in the Modern Rock Tracks and Adult Alternative Songs charts. It asks one of the most essential questions of the Christian faith, God is good, but is he listening to us?
Also coming from the 1997 Pop album, Please became the fourth single that was released from said album in September of 1997. Just like Sunday Bloody Sunday, the song is about the troubled nature of politics in Northern Ireland.
16. Bullet The Blue Sky
Bullet The Blue Sky is another of the band’s most political songs. It’s inspired by a trip to Nicaragua and El Salvador by Bono, who became enraged at how the poorest citizens of the country were impacted by US military intervention in the countries. It’s one of their most heavily critical tracks when it comes to political conflicts and violence.
17. Every Breaking Wave
According to Bono, Every Breaking Wave is about the difficulty of completely giving yourself over to another person. It served as the second single release from the band’s Songs Of Innocence album, though it was originally intended for their 2009 No Line On The Horizon album instead.
18. Mysterious Ways
Mysterious Ways is one of U2’s funkier tracks, featuring a fresh guitar hook, danceable beat, and some mystical lyrics about love and women from Bono. It made it to the number-one spot in Ireland, topped the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and Album Rock Tracks charts, and hit number nine on the Hot 100. Many critics called it the standout song of the Achtung Baby album, and it showed their evolution as they began to experiment a bit with their music and sound.
19. Walk On
Walk On is another political entry in U2’s catalog, being written about the democratic struggle in Burma and the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi from 1989 to 2010. In 2002, this track won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year, making them the only artist to win that award in two separate years for songs from the same album.
Desire was easily one of the best tracks from U2’s Rattle And Hum album in 1988, becoming their first number-one single in the UK and Australia while reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. It was the first song in US history to top both the Modern Rock Tracks and Mainstream Rock Tracks charts simultaneously and won the band the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
21. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
This one came from the Batman Forever soundtrack album in 1995, becoming a number-one single in Ireland and seven other countries. It took the second spot on the UK Singles Charts and number 16 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me garnered two Grammy Award nominations, for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Gloria may have been one of U2’s lowest-charting singles on the UK charts, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of their best songs. Pulling together choral-style music, the chorus features Latin lyrics from a well-known Christian hymn. Critically, the track was praised as they were pulling every element together in a beautiful way; it just didn’t do great commercially.
23. Out Of Control
Out Of Control made it to the top of the Irish charts, but it was a long time coming for U2. It was one of their earliest songs when they were still trying to find a style in the studio, appearing on the A-side of the U2 album 3, their Irish-only EP release.
24. A Sort Of Homecoming
A Sort Of Homecoming appears on the 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire and has a live version on their Wide Awake In America EP in 1985. It epitomized U2 as they changed their sound, away from the harder rock of War and into something more atmospheric and broad.
25. All I Want Is You
The final track of the Rattle And Hum album made it to number four on the UK charts, number two in Australia, and number 83 on the US charts. Entertainment Weekly ranked All I Want Is You at number nine on their 2004 list of the 50 Greatest Love Songs. It served as a part of the soundtrack for the film Reality Bites in 1994.
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