Before their necrophiliac year-end issue, Rolling Stone published a fascinating series of list in which popular and respected musicians gave their personal top 10 favorite songs from their idols, including Win Butler of Arcade Fire on Bruce Springsteen, Bono on David Bowie and Ozzy Osbourne on the Beatles. Inspired by that, here my top 10 favorite songs by my all-time favorite group, U2.
1. “Where the Streets Have No Name,” 2001
This is from a bootleg concert I have from Cleveland on their Elevation tour. This is my favorite song of theirs anyway, since it so vividly describes Bono’s view of heaven. But this version is even better for its intro: “What can I give back to God for the blessings You pour out on me?”
2. “Beautiful Day,” 2000
There’s literally no way you can listen to this and not feel better than you did before you heard it.
3. “Bad,” 1985
Wide Awake in America really proved that they were a force to be reckoned with live. There’s no reason this should have been a hit: it deals with drug addiction and its consequences and yet it’s somewhat hopeful–a breakthrough. It’s them throwing off the shackles of punk and moving toward a mature but stadium-packing sound.
4. “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” 1983
The version at Red Rocks is guaranteed to get your blood pumping. And I love that line toward the end: “And the battle’s just begun/To claim the victory Jesus won.” Straight up spiritual warfare.
5. “Ultraviolet (Light My Way),” 1992
This was a track from Achtung Baby they dug up for their 360º Tour. Just one of the many reasons that’s their best album and why Bono, after 30 years in the game, is still a master showman.
6. “Stay (Faraway, So Close!),” 1993
There have been lots of songs about abusive boyfriends, but this is the gold standard.
7. “Kite,” 2000
They play uplifting arena rockers so often, we tend to forget how melancholy they can be. “I want you to know that you don’t need me anymore”? Man, that’s sad.
8. “A Sort of Homecoming,” 1984
It’s a more concise way of saying “you can’t go home again.” It’s so true. Once you leave and taste what’s out there, it’s always uncertain coming back because part of you wants to hold on but also wants to head out further.
9. “Even Better than the Real Thing (The Perfecto Mix),” 1992
This was the big kick-off for their love affair with club music, I feel. The remix of “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Crazy Tonight” is also killer.
10. “Window in the Skies,” 2007
How good are U2? So good that even the “new single” added to a greatest hits compilation, which is usually terrible, is fantastic. That video, with all the vintage clips, is one of the best I’ve ever seen.