Skip to main content

24 by U2

"12 by..." aims to summarize an artist's career in 12 songs. This one features...

I know, I know. The general guidelines I follow for picking artists for the 12 by... feature are as follows: 1) they don't have a greatest hits album already and 2) no one could make a case for much more than 12 classic songs by that artist. A feature on U2 obviously breaks both of those rules, but with good reason. For one, it's nice to change things up once in awhile. For another, I saw the fun U23D concert film this weekend and that got my mental cogs turning. And finally, despite the surest bet any band could ask for, U2 whiffed all three of their best of packages. Those should have been classic greatest hits albums, yet they were hampered by non-chronological sequencing, remixes and odd song choices. I'm here to rectify. 

1. "I Will Follow" (from Boy, 1980) 
Is that the guitar riff from Guitar by Prince that I hear? What strikes me about this early highlight is how generic Paul Hewson's voice sounds, like he's imitating Peter Murphy. 

2. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (from War, 1983) Take a military marching beat, guitar harmonics, plus lyrical and vocal passion from Bono and you have the band's first bona fide classic. 

3. "New Year's Day" (from War, 1983) 
Though they hadn't reached their defining moment, they were certainly creating a rough draft of it. Rare for U2 in that the piano is more memorable than the guitar, this one features spirited background vocals and an undeniable sense of motion. 

4. "Bad" (from The Unforgettable Fire, 1984) 
This song is a slow burn ballad. My only problem with it is that it's hard to remember from its title. "Wide Awake" or "I'm Not Sleeping" would have been better. Plus, it wouldn't make me think of Michael Jackson dancing in a subway in leather. 

5. "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" (from The Unforgettable Fire, 1984)
It always gives me chills, the fact that these Irish boys embraced such an American figure as Martin Luther King Jr. Obviously his message of peace and freedom rang far beyond the U.S. geographical landmarks he listed in his famous speech. 

6. "The Unforgettable Fire" (from The Unforgettable Fire, 1984) A ballad that shows early signs of their later experimentation. Plus, you gotta love it when Bono unleashes the falsetto. 

7. "Where The Streets Have No Name" (from The Joshua Tree, 1987) 
This is the signature U2 sound. You know, that sweeping, epic, break-free-of-your-earthly-bonds sound. 

8. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" (from The Joshua Tree, 1987) 
See above. 

9. "With Or Without You" (from The Joshua Tree, 1987) 
"An immaculate performance with a great lyric, but I always wonder about the switch from third person ("on a bed of nails she makes me wait") to second person ("And you give yourself away") on the chorus. Is the song about two different people? 

10. "Desire" (from Rattle & Hum, 1988) 
One doesn't tend to think of U2 as blues-based, but they pull off a respectable and energetic imitation. 

11. "All I Want Is You" (from Rattle & Hum, 1988) 
Their most unabashed love song, and probably the best they've recorded.

12. "Even Better Than The Real Thing" (from Achtung Baby, 1991) 
A hypnotic rocker. This was a U2 we hadn't heard before, but were obviously ready to embrace. 

13. "One" (from Achtung Baby, 1991) 
Is it about a failing relationship, the band itself, peace on Earth, or all three? Does it even matter? 

14. "Mysterious Ways" (from Achtung Baby, 1991) 
Perhaps winking at their Christian upbringing, this song is either a) comparing a beautiful woman to God or b) calling God a beautiful woman. No matter which it is, the line "if you wanna kiss the sky better learn how to kneel" manages to be Biblical and cool all at once. 

15. "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" (from Batman Forever, 1995) 
Here's a nugget from the band's time in the wilderness. It sounds bit fuzzier and dirtier than most of their songs, but unlike the Zooropa fare that preceded it, it doesn't ignore melody and structure. 

16. "Miss Sarajevo" (from Original Soundtracks 1, 1995) 
While I admit it barely grabbed me in its recorded version, I had a whole new appreciation of this song after seeing them do it live in the movie. Even better, there's a live version available for download. 

17. "Dischotheque" (from Pop, 1997) This song will forever remind me of the first time I successfully connected my Discman to my car stereo. This was the first tune I played. Ignore the remix on Best Of 1990 - 2000, which takes out the stompy "oohh"s from the ending. 

18. "If God Will Send His Angels" (from Pop, 1997) 
A gospel song with an electronic tinge. Great line: "It's the stuff of country songs." 

19. "Sweetest Thing" (from Best Of 1980 - 1990, 1998) 
This was actually a dusted off 1987 B-Side, which was re-recorded and became a big hit. Though that means chronologically it belongs much higher, but considering its time in the public consciousness and (strangely) its musical and lyrical content, it fits much better with the band's latter day work. 

20. "Beautiful Day" (from All That You Can't Leave Behind, 2001) 
I'm still reeling a little bit from it being overplayed, but you couldn't ask for a better "comeback" song. 

21. "Elevation" (from All That You Can't Leave Behind, 2001) 
Sure it sounds like Bono grabbed a rhyming dictionary and wrote the lyrics in 5 minutes, but the energy more than makes up for it. 

22. "Walk On" (from All That You Can't Leave Behind, 2001) 
A motivational speech set to music. Gets me every time. 

23. "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" (from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, 2005) Bono's offers a complex tribute to his father, avoiding laudatory clich├ęs and instead focusing on the difficulty of their relationship and his father's stubborn nature. He also admits his debt: "You're the reason that I sing." 

24. "City Of Blinding Lights" (from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, 2005) 
Edge breaks out the piano again for this sweepingly romantic song that harks back to the band's early days.


Allen Lulu said…
I missed this the first time around. Thanks for it.
I have always TRIED to get in to U2 and then I each album would just crush itself under the weight of self importance. So, I just never got it.
And this mix reminds me why they are one of the greatest bands that ever existed in the pantheon of Rock and Roll.

Popular posts from this blog

12 by Weezer

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... I decided to take an unconventional route for this 12 by, and pretend Weezer have already released a "greatest hits." Here's what I think that would look like:  1) "Buddy Holly", 2) "Undone - the Sweater Song", 3) "My Name Is Jonas", 4) "The Good Life", 5) "El Scorcho", 6) "Hash Pipe", 7) "Island in the Sun", 8) "Dope Nose", 9) "Keep Fishin'", 10) "Beverly Hills", 11) "We Are All On Drugs", 12) "Pork and Beans".  Here's a different take: 1. " Say It Ain't So"  (from Weezer , 1994)  A little bit heavy, a little bit catchy, quiet-loud dynamics. So basically, it's Pixies lite. The song is interesting lyrically because it's basically nonsense until the "Dear daddy..." bridge, which lets out a t

12 by Jenny Lewis

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... Completely separate from Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis has put together an impressive oeuvre that is very difficult to winnow down to just 12 songs (if you include her work with Rilo Kiley, fuhgeddaboudit). But I've made what I feel is a valiant attempt. Because I admire Jenny's lyrics so much, I'm going to limit my commentary to a favorite couplet from the song. (If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen along here .) 1. "Rise Up With Fists!!!" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "But you can wake up younger, under the knife / And you can wake up sounder, if you get analyzed." 2. "Melt Your Heart" (from  Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "It's like a valentine from your mother / It's bound to melt your heart." 3. "Born Secular" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "God works in mysterious ways / And God give

12 by Vicious Vicious

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... If you need a reference point for the work of Vicious Vicious mastermind Erik Appelwick, the most appropriate would be Beck. Like Mr. Hansen, Minnesota-based Appelwick has the ability to navigate between making you laugh and making you cry and making you want to dance, and embraces genres from country to R& B to folk to pop.  I've included songs from the two albums Appelwick did under the name Tropical Depression, because honestly there's not a lot of difference between that and Vicious Vicious.  I very literally  wrote the book  on Appelwick, so please feel confident you are hearing from an authority here.  If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen to an alternate version of list here  (sadly, not all of VV's music is on the service). 1. "Shake That Ass on the Dance Floor" (from Blood + Clover , 2003) A loungy, laconic come-on