New U2 albums are always a celebrated affair. While nobody knows whether U2’s long-awaited The Songs of Ascent will arrive this year, it’s possible, if you believe frontman Bono.
“We’re working on three albums at the moment and we haven’t decided what order we’re going to put them out but The Songs of Ascent have the kind of beautiful intimacy that we’re speaking of now,” Bono said in a post on U2.com last year. “They fit into this moment, the mode of some of these artists that I was hanging out with on Christmas Eve.”
Whether or not we get new U2 this year, here are 10 great U2 songs that show off the band’s spunky Irish post-punk roots and show the chaps at their best.
“Beautiful Day,” from All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
Writing a happy rock song can be a daunting task, but U2 pulls it off with “Beautiful Day.” The song is a tribute to all the simple pleasures in life, told through Bono’s descriptive lyrics and the band’s anthemic, powerful sonics. From the opening reverberating electric piano to the closing, fading guitar lines, “Beautiful Day” makes one feel grateful for life’s blessings.
“I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For,” from The Joshua Tree (1987)
Who can’t relate to the experience of finally reaching a major goal, but feeling like something is still missing? U2 captures that sentiment in their anthem “I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For,” thanks to Bono’s longing lyrics and the Edge’s soulful, spiritual guitar playing.
“Mysterious Ways,” from Achtung Baby (1991)
“Mysterious Ways” is one of U2’s greatest love songs. The rock track features a dance-happy beat, the Edge’s funk-driven guitar hooks and Bono’s chivalrous lyrics.
“New Year’s Day,” from War (1983)
“New Year’s Day” marked a breakthrough for U2, since it was the band’s first single to chart in the U.S. Coming off that initial success, the song helped shaped U2’s direction as a socially-minded rock band, as the song was actually about the first non–communist party-controlled trade union in Poland. Musically, it follows U2’s traditions of warm, sweeping guitar lines and near-spiritual lyrics.
“One,” from Achtung Baby (1991)
“One” is one of U2’s most celebrated songs, presenting heartfelt vocals, relatable lyrics and big, grandiose instrumentation. The song was first released to support AIDS charities, although it was originally written about the band’s splintering relationships at the time. Regardless, it’s a U2 classic.
“Pride (In the Name of Love),” from The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
U2’s “Pride in the Name of Love” pays homage to the late, great Martin Luther King Jr., and in addition to the emotive lyrics, the Edge’s guitar work really makes the song soar. The track boasts one of the Edge’s most famous guitar solos, painting a sonic of hope and optimism, while Bono’s lyrics (“Free at last/They took your life/They could not take your pride”) are simply inspiring.
“Sunday Bloody Sunday,” from War (1983)
The Edge’s guitar soloing really stands out on “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” as it breaks through the song’s steady, march-like vibe with moving, sweeping lines. War, in general, highlights the Edge’s guitar work, and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a stand-out.
“Walk On,” from All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
Like many of U2’s songs, “Walk On” takes on a socially-conscious aura, as the track was inspired by Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest in Burma from 1989 to 2010. The song won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 2002, thanks in no small part of Bono’s poignant lyrics and the Edge’s guitar lines that sing and soar.
“Where the Streets Have No Name,” from The Joshua Tree (1987)
The Joshua Tree was a breakthrough album for U2. The album was U2’s first No. 1 release and thrust the guys into the rock ‘n’ roll spotlight. “Where the Streets Have No Name” gets the set off to a strong start, with sparkling textures and an epic presentation.
“With or Without You,” from The Joshua Tree (1987)
“With or Without You” brings it all together for U2: Bono’s divine vocals, the Edge’s elevated guitar lines and the band’s overall angelic aura. It’s one of U2’s biggest hits and represents the moment when U2 went from being a great rock ‘n’ roll band to one of the most influential groups on the planet.
Learn more about The Edge’s guitar sound here.