"[T]he lyrics aren't literature; they are only part of the story."
U2 Lists: Top 10 End Of The World Songs
December 20, 2012
[Ed. note: This is the 45th in a "U2 Lists" series, where @U2 staffers pick a topic and share their personal rankings on something U2-related.]
Are you ready for the end of the world? The apocalypse, a common theme about the planet's final demise in literature, art and entertainment, is once again upon us. Recent books and movies have popularized the ancient Mayan prophecy that our world will end on Dec. 21, 2012. Though the Mayans were primarily talking about the end of their calendar (not the destruction of Earth), this prediction has lots of people talking.
U2 have written a pile of apocalyptic songs over three decades. While the last two albums, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and No Line On The Horizon, are clearly grounded in the here-and-now, and challenge the listener to make a positive change in the world, other albums are more end-of-the-world focused.
All That You Can't Leave Behind reminds the listener of intangible relationships, rewards and desires that aren't of this world. Pop, Zooropa and Achtung Baby seem to be conversations with the "other side," filled with dark and ominous characters, at times bluntly and painfully reflecting the failures and sufferings of this physical existence. The Joshua Tree and The Unforgettable Fire remind us of reunions, relationships, departures and arrivals, and all the stuff of dreams yet to be realized. The early works, War, October and Boy, lay the groundwork for some pretty serious thought on the coming apocalypse, be it political, cultural or theological -- we can almost hear the band counting down the "Seconds."
The following is a list of my Top 10 U2 songs for the end of the world. I'm sure plenty of others could be added, but these are some that get me thinking and moving.
10. "Until The End Of The World," Achtung Baby (1991)
This classic parable of good versus evil is a great way to open the playlist. If you've been to a concert and stood near the stage, you know you could almost feel the end coming. This is one of my all-time favorite songs performed live.
Waves of regret and waves of joy / I reached out for the one I tried to destroy
9. "Stateless," The Million Dollar Hotel (2000)
From The Million Dollar Hotel soundtrack, this song always reminds me of how fragile life is. It's so easy to slip away from this spinning planet. "There is no tomorrow, only tonight." I'm very grateful for each and every day.
I've got no home in this world / Just gravity, luck, and time
8. "A Sort Of Homecoming," The Unforgettable Fire (1984)
This surreal story of a desperate wanderer reminds me that our journey through this life is often filled with uncertainty and pain. The hope lies in a distant place of light, joy and reunion. I often long for a home that I have not yet found.
And you know it's time to go / Through the sleet and driving snow
7. "Last Night On Earth," Pop (1997)
No end-of-the-world list would be complete without this zombie apocalyptic thriller, best seen in the music video. Goofy, cool and ahead of its time, this is the archetypal nightmare so familiar to many souls. And I crack up every time I watch Bono jump over the barricade and try to be tough in this one.
She feels the ground is giving way / But she thinks we're better off that way
6. "Get On Your Boots," No Line On The Horizon (2009)
In this song, set at some kind of evil fairground reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes," we get a glimpse of a world that has the potential to destroy itself over and over again. We are constantly caught between the beauty of life and the evil of self-annihilation. Don't forget how beautiful you are.
The future needs a big kiss / Winds blow with a twist
5. "When The Stars Go Blue," first appeared as a live performance by Bono and the Corrs for the MTV special "Live in Dublin" (2002)
One theory suggests that the universe will end as violently as it began, but first, very slowly, the stars will all burn out and fade away. I had to throw this song in because of the hopeless romantic in me. I can't imagine eternity without my wife beside me.
Where do you go when you're lonely / Where do you go when you're blue
4. "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight," No Line On The Horizon (2009) (The live U2360 remix of course!)
If Dec. 20 is to be the last night on the planet, this will be our official party song.
It's not a hill, it's a mountain / As you start out the climb
3. "Walk On," All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
Have you ever seen a hearse with luggage racks? I doubt it. "You can't take it with you." I don't have any tattoos, but if I did, U2's suitcase with a heart would be my choice of ink.
You're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
2. "Where the Streets Have No Name," The Joshua Tree (1987)
The quintessential U2 song of hope in the midst of despair, this is another reminder that something better awaits.
Where the streets have no name / Where the streets have no name
1. "Elevation," All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
"I and I" is a Rastafarian term signifying the oneness of the human and the divine and is used in place of "you and I" or "we." I think it functions much the same as the phrase "no line on the horizon." In this song of cosmic proportions, Bono, standing under the spaceship at the Rose Bowl, introduces the tune, "Ready to get off the ground? Get ready for some lift-off. Going up!"
You elevate my soul / I've lost all self-control
The tragedy of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., this last week weighs heavy on all of our hearts and minds. For 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Dec. 14, 2012, was literally the end of the world. There is no sense to be made of such a horrible act of violence. U2's cover of Greg Lake's song is an appropriate prayer this Christmas season for all families that have been touched by such unspeakable tragedy.
I wish you a hopeful Christmas / I wish you a brave new year
(c) @U2/Neufeld, 2012.