After having so much fun compiling the list of the Best R.E.M. songs, I had to take a stab at doing the same for U2. I polled our Twitter followers and my fanatical friends, who then suggested more than 50 different songs, including just about every cut from War, Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. All five of the first tracks off Joshua Tree made this list, but it also draws from nearly every era—from Boy all the way up to Atomic Bomb (and an argument could be made for No Line on the Horizon’s “Magnificent” or “White as Snow”).
Here are the 20 best U2 songs of all time:
20. “Miss Sarajevo” (Original Soundtracks)
Part of the Original SoundtracksPavoratti, allowing Bono a rare moment of understated vocals.
19. “Vertigo” (How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb)
It’s hard to separate the music from the dancing rainbow silhouettes, but “Vertigo” is just a monstrously catchy tune.
18. “The Unforgettable Fire” (The Unforgettable Fire)
With the commercial success of Warand they lured Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois to produce The Unforgettable Fire. The spacious title track proved that to be a great decision.
17. “Angel of Harlem” (Rattle and Hum)
It’s easy to write off Rattle and Hum as an unfortunate post-Joshua Tree hiccup, but the album has quite a few forgotten gems like this horn-filled tribute to Billie Holiday.
16. “I Will Follow” (Boy)
The only song the band has performed on every tour, their first hit single “I Will Follow” is about unconditional love. How punk does
15. “Bullet the Blue Sky” (Joshua Tree)
Bono growls the lyrics of Joshua Tree’s fourth track, and The Edge’s guitar screeches like a siren. As the song breaks down, Bono turns it into a poetry slam.
14. “40” (War)
Bloody Sunday” they ask “How long to sing this song?” In the closer, Bono declares “I will sing, sing a new song” before returning bringing that original question into a new context.
13. “Acrobat” (Achtung Baby)
If “I Still Haven’t Found What I’ve Looking For” was a lament about not having all the answers, “Acrobat” is an angrier response to those who might try to shove false ones in your face.
12. “Stay (Faraway, So Close)” (Zooropa)
I don’t have a lot of love for Zooropa, but this song is an understated treasure in an album of excess.
11. “All I Want Is You” (Rattle and Hum)
Another bright spot on Rattle and Hum is closer “All I Want Is You.” An epic affair clocking in at over six minutes with The Edge’s rambling guitar playing off the orchestral strings.
10. “New Year’s Day” (War)
wailing guitars or Bono’s pleading vocals, Clayton’s bass line communicates the piss and vinegar of “New Year’s Day.”
9. “Running To Stand Still” (Joshua Tree)
It almost doesn’t matter how bad your voice is; there are no better lyrics to sing along to at the top of your lungs than “You’ve got to cry without weeping/Talk without speaking/Scream without raising your voice.”
8. “Beautiful Day” (All That You Can’t Leave Behind)
Forget that it’s been co-opted by every single political candidate from the Peoria city council race all the way up to Indecision 2008. This song was carefully crafted to fill every nook and cranny in the world’s largest stadiums and fundraising dinners.
7. “Bad” (The Unforgettable Fire)
The Eno/Lanois dreamy atmospherics also worked particularly well on “Bad,” a song about heroin addiction.
6. “With Or Without You” (Joshua Tree)
Again, Eno and Lanois’ ethereal sound collage transforms a straight-forward love song into the sound of a heart breaking.
5. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (Joshua Tree)
Spiritual longing has rarely been captured so well in a pop song.
4. “One” (Achtung Baby)
Appropriately enough, “One” is the song that famously held the band together after creative differences were causing tension.
3. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (War)
One of the most instantly recognizable drum beats kicks off this masterful protest record like a call to arms. It’s an album about war, and the Irish band writes what they know.
2. “Where the Streets Have No Name” (Joshua Tree)
Ireland. With a full minute of Brian Eno atmospherics and nearly another minute of instrumental build, Bono’s stadium-rock pleading feels perfect.
1. “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” (The Unforgettable Fire)
goodness in the face of terrible evil. The Edge’s guitar and Bono’s vocals battle for the greatest heights. A perfect tribute for MLK.