Listing your top 10 U2 songs is kind of like listing your top 10 vegetables. Everyone usually has the same thing on their list, and well, nobody really cares.
That being said, I’ll go ahead and list my top 10 U2 songs anyway. And with me, It’s even worse: I’m a fan of their classic sound: Soaring anthems with the signature Edge guitar, circa 1985-1987. That’s like telling you what my favorite green vegetables are. The only thing worse would be if I said “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was the greatest song ever written (which was what I professed back in 1986).
There are few surprises on this list. I just like looking at it in a Hornby-esque way.
“With or Without You” (The Joshua Tree, 1987). One of the most overplayed songs in recent rock history. But I will boldly defend it as the greatest song ever recorded. It’s classic U2 at their creative peak – the Edge’s guitar, Adam Clayton’s droning, predictable bass, Larry Mullen’s tom-toms sounding like a beating heart, and Bono, ever the melodramatic preening protagonist, at his best.
“Bad” (The Unforgettable Fire, 1984). I tagged this song as my favorite at the height of the media hype that surrounded “Pride (In the Name of Love).” But I think this song has withstood the test of time more than “Pride.” It’s very similar to “With or Without You,” starting softly with a simple chord progression, then building to an enormous crescendo before settling down again.
“Ultra Violet (Light My Way)” (Achtung Baby, 1991). I was extremely disappointed with Achtung Baby when it first came out; I was expecting The Joshua Tree II. But amid the pop sellout of “Mysterious Ways” and “One,” I found this jewel toward the end and enjoyed one last fling with the past before they got really weird.
“All I Want Is You” (Rattle and Hum, 1988). Like “Ultra Violet,” this was the one redeeming track on Rattle and Hum, a mediocre soundtrack from a good documentary. Bono is somewhat subdued, but I like the Edge’s simple riff and Van Dyke Parks’ orchestral arrangement.
“The Unforgettable Fire” (The Unforgettable Fire, 1984). Usually an overlooked track from this album, it captures the essence of this album – an atmospheric, Eno-enduced sound collage.
“Where the Streets Have No Name” (The Joshua Tree, 1987). A co-worker described this as the most overplayed U2 song ever. But I still get goosebumps when I hear it.
“I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” (No Line on the Horizon, 2009). In my earlier review of No Line on the Horizon, I proclaimed my instant love of this song – so much so that it has vaulted into my Top 10. This is U2 going retro on themselves.
“Pride (In the Name of Love)” (The Unforgettable Fire, 1984). If I didn’t include “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “New Year’s Day,” I had to put at least one of their political anthems in the list.
“The Fly” (Achtung Baby, 1991). The first song I heard from Achtung Baby, it has the techno vibe but still retains the classic sound.
“40” (Under a Blood Red Sky, 1983). Anyone who ever went to a U2 concert in the 1980s still remembers singing this while filing out of the arena after the lights had come on.
And for those who are interested, my Top 10 vegetables: