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As a pop star I have two instincts. I want to have fun. And I want to change the world. -- Bono

@U2 Lists: Top 10 U2 Songs for Activists



[Ed. note: This is the 76th in a "U2 Lists" series, where @U2 staffers pick a topic and share their personal rankings on something U2-related.]

I have written before about how I found my passion for activism through my love of U2. Thanks to them, I have been an activist for the ONE Campaign for three years and am planning on pursuing a career in policy and advocacy once I graduate from college. While I love almost all U2’s discography, some songs definitely get my activist’s heart going. Here are my Top 10 U2 songs that have helped me with the joys and defeats of being an activist. Maybe they’ll inspire you as well to get out there and change something yourself.

1. “When I Look At The World”

So I try to be like you / try to feel it like you do / But without you it's no use

Every activist I know has role models: the people, whether we know them personally or not, we look up to when our work gets hard. Mine is, of course, Bono, but also my campus manager at ONE. Activism is hard and we can’t do it alone. This song reminds me of that.

2. “Crumbs From Your Table”

Where you live should not decide / whether you live or whether you die

That line alone is enough for me to classify this as an “activist” U2 song. I use it constantly when I am talking about foreign aid because it’s such a poignant point. The bitterness in the song also makes it relatable as an activist. There are days when you are so frustrated with the state of the world you just want to scream, and this is the song I use for that.

3. “Wave Of Sorrow (Birdland)”

I cry every time I hear this song. The line that will forever get me is You walked through the night to get to today / to bring your children to give them away. You can hear the emotion in Bono’s voice when he recalls that first trip to Ethiopia he made with Ali, and the raw emotion in this song reminds me exactly why I became an activist.

4. “Invisible”

At times I feel invisible in my work. It sometimes feels like all my efforts do not matter and nothing is going to change. It’s infuriating. This song is a reminder that you can stand up and say that you are not invisible, and you and your voice matter.

5. “One”

The most cliché song to put on this list (though, fun fact, ONE is not named for the song), but it had to be done. “One” is a song about unity and love, which is what I believe all activists strive for. The line that stands out the most to me is love is a temple / love the higher law. Every activist should be doing what they do out of a place of love.

6. “Ordinary Love”

We can’t reach any higher/ if we can’t feel ordinary love

Speaking of loving other, “Ordinary Love” captures this feeling perfectly. We can’t strive for lofty ideals like justice and equality if we first do not know how to love each other. I constantly play this song as a reminder of that.

7. “Beautiful Day”

It's a beautiful day / don't let it get away

You need a song to celebrate to, and this is it! There is nothing better than experiencing a “win” as an activist, whether that is getting someone to sign something, having a great meeting with a politician, or getting a bill passed. You feel like you are on top of the world and can do anything. "Beautiful Day" is such a hopeful song and conveys this feeling perfectly.

8. “Miss Sarajevo”

Is there a time for keeping your distance / A time to turn your eyes away
Is there a time for keeping your head down / For getting on with the day

Confession: I never really liked this song until I heard it live during the last tour. The visuals the band paired with it radically changed the meaning of the song for me and I have never heard it the same since. Now when I listen to it, especially the opening lines, I feel like this song conveys a dark feeling all activists feel. Sometimes you don’t want to do this work anymore and just go about your life. Yet something always calls you back.

9. “Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World”

How far are you gonna go / Before you lose your way back home

Yes, this song is about a drunk stumble home, but recently I have been hearing it differently. I picture someone wandering, trying to help the world in some way, even when it’s not working. It’s a light song that makes you feel good even when everything you are doing is going wrong.

10. “Walk On”

What you got they can't steal it / No they can't even feel it

This is the song you need when it’s the end of the day, every little thing you have done as an activist has gone wrong, and you need something to give you hope. “Walk On” is the ultimate pep talk of a song. It reminds me that the best way to deal with defeat is to move on and focus on the next task, a vital skill I have learned as an activist.

© @U2/Saunders, 2018