Listen to the Best U2 Songs
Best U2 Songs of All Time
“I want to run, I want to hide / I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside.” With its tortuously slow buildup, this song soon soars, epitomizing the full spirit of U2. Inspired by the idea of breaking down social barriers with a yearning for worldwide equality, it is the potential in the lyrics of what could be that give it a heft under its wings.
The sharp snare drum is so intense you can almost smell the gun smoke. Without a doubt the band’s most political post-punk anthem, the song was the band’s response to the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972, when the British Army shot and killed 14 unarmed civilian protesters in the Northern Irish town of Derry. The song is an angst-ridden, take-to-the-streets howl with one core message: No more war.
A twangy guitar plucked in the intro leads you through a couple’s tale of heroin addiction, as they search for a score in 1980s Dublin. “Suffer the needle chill / She’s running to stand still.” The song’s ebb and flow is crafted perfectly between Larry Mullen Jr.’s drum beat and Bono’s soft-spoken vocals that bring it to an uneasy, listless calm.
Cold and ashen with the Edge’s icy piano lead, this War track combats bleakness with a hope for rebirth (“I will begin again”). Adam Clayton’s bass line ties it all together for a wintery track lyrically inspired by the Polish Solidarity movement of the early ’80s, but applicable to any challenge that requires rising above.
U2’s sound took a turn in the ’90s as the band brought in electronic music and industrial pop influences. Basically, they brought the funk. With its themes of love and romance, “Mysterious Ways” could be considered a dance track with its heavy bass and rhythmic percussion. Add in the Edge’s tricked-out guitar riffs, there’s no denying the song has major sex appeal.
After the band’s musical experimentation in the ’90s, All That You Can’t Leave Behind was not only a throwback to the band’s early roots, but a therapeutic soundtrack in the wake of 9/11. The triumphant comeback album’s songs served as anthems for peace and tried to make sense of our new reality. None of those tunes resonated more than “Walk On,” which centers on shedding baggage. “And I know it aches / And your heart it breaks / And you can only take so much / Walk on.” If the album was said to be about acknowledging the band's past, it was the timing of its release that gave us such comfort for the future.
Written about the families affected by the mineworkers’ strike in 1984 when the British government closed a number of UK coal mines, this song honed in on blue collar hardships after the bottom line wins. The beauty is in the buildup to the chorus throughout the tune, as it lulls along and picks up ever-so-slightly to culminate in a bellow rooted in suffering. “I’m hanging on / You're all that's left to hold on to / I'm still waiting.”
Steeped in the band’s Catholic and Protestant backgrounds—which also happens to include a Latin chorus (Gloria in te domine / Gloria exultate)—“Gloria” has a fast tempo and aggressive guitar work that picks you apart. The end is delivered like a sermon high on the mountaintop, giving us a front row pew to some of the band’s best early work.
“Early morning, April 4 / Shots ring out in the Memphis sky / Free at last, they took your life / They could not take your pride.” Just as important today as it was when it was released in 1984, “Pride” tackles civil rights and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The band pairs that message with a thundering bassline, an instantly recognizable intro and Edge’s pointed, frantic guitar—and the result is arguably one of its biggest hits.
Led by Edge’s chimey guitar and an organ riff that repeats throughout the song, “Bad” hits its stride via Mullen’s drum work, which results in a rousing finale as Bono hits the song’s high point: “I'm wide awake, I'm wide awake / Wide awake / I'm not sleeping / Oh, no, no, no.”