Top 20 U2 Songs

The American Songwriter compiled what he considers to be The Top 20 U2 Songs, but you know these lists, they always cry for clearance. Here are my own essential 20 U2 songs, rated in descending order, which in some combination make their way onto playlists and CDs. Note that in many cases I prefer a live version over the original studio (or put them on equal standing). There’s nothing from Zooropa or Pop (the band’s nadir period), nor much from the most recent albums. Songs from Boy, War, The Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, Achtung Baby, and All That You Can’t Leave Behind reign supreme here.

1. Ultraviolet (Studio, 1991, or Live, Sheffield, 2009)
2. Bad (Studio, 1984)
3. Where the Streets Have No Name (Live, Slane Castle, 2001)
4. The Fly (Studio, 1991, or Live, Boston, 2001)
5. Drowning Man (Studio, 1983)
6. Until the End of the World (Studio, 1991)
7. Kite (Live, Slane Castle, 2001)
8. With or Without You (Live, Denver, 1987)
9. Beautiful Day (Live, Slane Castle, 2001)
10. New Year’s Day (Studio, 1983)
11. Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out of (Live, Slane Castle, 2001)
12. Red Hill Mining Town (Studio, 1987)
13. Out of Control (Live, Slane Castle, 2001)
14. City of Blinding Lights (Studio, 2004)
15. A Sort of Homecoming (Live, London, 1985)
16. Mysterious Ways (Studio, 1991)
17. Sunday Bloody Sunday (Live, Denver, 1987, or Live, Slane Castle, 2001)
18. Pride (Studio, 1984)
19. Running to Stand Still (Studio, 1987, or Live, Tempe, 1987)
20. All I Want is You (Studio, 1987, or Live, Slane Castle, 2001)

I was quite pleased to see Red Hill Mining Town in The American Songwriter’s choices. Along with Drowning Man, Ultraviolet, and A Sort of Homecoming, they are underrated songs, almost never played live, and I don’t know why.

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10 thoughts on “Top 20 U2 Songs

  1. You're in good company, but my blood congeals whenever I hear songs like Stay, Numb, and Lemon. I think Zooropa failed where Achtung Baby completely succeeded in “burning down the Joshua Tree” and pushing in new directions.

  2. Unless my brain's misfiring I can only see one song from Boy here, so hardly predominating.

    Nitpick over, how can you have ignored the raw energy of their second album entirely.

    Generally I prefer the earlier to the later U2, when energy rather than bombast was the key tone

  3. Interesting list, Sam; our similarities and differences are indeed interesting. And I'm glad to see your lack of enthusiasm for Zooropa!

    With regards to I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, that was a strong favorite of mine back in the '80s but for some reason it hasn't aged well. I still like it, but along with Bullet the Blue Sky would probably rate it among the most overrated U2 songs.

  4. Bullet the blue sky is one of the very few that I've never really liked; I can just about “appreciate” it, if you understand me, just not like it. Whereas Still Haven't Found I went off for a long time and hardly ever listened to it, but I've recently gone back to it. Says something about my spiritual journey I guess 🙂

  5. The “Sweetest Thing” was always among my favourite U2 songs, but that was when it was a Joshua Tree B-side (before it was redone and rereleased).

    I agree that live versions are sometimes or often better than studio ones with U2.

    Thanks for the list

    Phil

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