The 10 greatest U2 songs
10 May 2019, 14:10 | Updated: 9 March 2023, 12:50
Loving U2 might be hard for some people but here are 10 tracks that could at least make you rethink the band.
U2 have a back catalogue of which they can be proud. Post-punk, stadium anthems, weird euro disco-pop - our 10 selected tracks samples all of those genres and more. So press play, close your eyes, ignore Bono's antics and give them another chance.
The Fly (1991)
It might not be the definitive gateway song to make U2 doubters change their mind - but the video is the definitive one that proves once upon a time, U2 really were cool.
U2 - The Fly Official Video (HD) (FULL VERSION)
Reasons this song should not be as good as it is: the chorus is in Latin, the video sees the band on a barge and the LP it comes from suffers badly from "second album syndrome". But from the very start U2 were an ambitious band and in Gloria there's an early taste of what they could achieve when their songwriting (and basslines) matched that ambition.
U2 - Gloria (1981)
Stay (Faraway, So Close) (1993)
Reckoned by critics, lifetime fans and most of the band to be amongst their best songs. It's moody, atmospheric and has lyrics that perfectly sum up early 1990s U2 obsessions: talk shows, existential angst and vampires.
U2 - Stay Faraway, So Close! (ZOO TV Live in Sydney)
I Fall Down (1981)
U2's singles remain instantly recognisable thanks to their appearance in everything from football highlights shows to that episode of Friends where Ross kissed the girl from the copy place. The band's deep cuts, particularly those from their early years, offer a glimpse of a different type of band they might have evolved into too. I Fall Down is a great example.
I Fall Down ( live from Werchter 1982 )
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me (1995)
There are two things on earth that could survive a nuclear apocalypse: cockroaches and a U2 world tour. This 1995 song, recorded for the soundtrack for the nipple-heavy Batman Forever, is one of U2's most popular live songs. Not surprisingly really: it shows some of the bombast and sneer of U2 in the 1990s, before they got all earnest again.
U2 - Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me (Live)
The Drowning Man (1983)
Remember when U2 sounded like Echo and the Bunnymen?
U2 Drowning Man
The Sweetest Thing (1987)
Re-recorded in 1998 to promote one of the band's greatest hits collections, it shows a side of the band rarely seen: the understated, charming one. The video's a belter too, Bono using stripping firemen, puppets and world champion boxers to apologise to his wife.
U2 - Sweetest Thing (Official Music Video)
Staring At The Sun (1997)
U2 described their 2000s output as "auditioning to be the biggest band in the world again". Which is all well and good, but it also meant blunting some of the sharp edges they'd developed in the 1990s. That's a pity: songs like this one showed they could still meld whopper pop chorus with more interesting production.
U2 - Staring At The Sun (Miami Version) - Alternative Video 1997
Sunday Bloody Sunday (1983)
Charged with emotion, outrage and passion, this is a song about life, death, politics and injustice... and the source of one of the most outrageously brilliant live performances ever caught on tape: Red Rocks, 1983.
U2 - Sunday Bloody Sunday
The second single from Zooropa boasts Brian Eno on backing vocals, Bono's pretty impressive falsetto and some very nice work indeed from the band's rhythm section. Achtung Baby was a real creative rebirth for the band but it's on tracks like Lemon that the real benefits that can be felt as the band spread its wings.
U2 : Lemon (1993) Album Version
The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
Right before U2 went stratospheric, they made an album called The Unforgettable Fire which hinted at what was to come. The single of the same name is still one of their most powerful moments, a fusion of their raw early albums and the more polished, chart-conquering sound that was to come.
U2 - The Unforgettable Fire (1984)