"This image of 'the unforgettable fire' applied not only to the nuclear winterscape of 'A Sort of Homecoming,' but also the unforgettable fire of a man like Martin Luther King, or the consuming fire which is heroin."
U2 Lists: Top 10 U2 Songs for Falling in Love
September 15, 2015
[Ed. note: This is the 63rd in a "U2 Lists" series, where @U2 staffers pick a topic and share their personal rankings on something U2-related.]
U2 has always been known as a serious band with a catalog of songs about important things. Sure, the group has sidetracked with moments of silliness (PopMart lemon, anyone?), but when most people think of their music, it’s the heavy stuff that probably comes to mind. The songs about Irish troubles or American injustices.
They’re also not so famous for love songs. Die-hard fans have a tough time choosing that “first dance” U2 tune for their weddings — in fact, many of their masterpieces create the perfect playlist for breakup wallowing. It’s like all these years, Bono wanted to write an epic ballad, but was too burdened by the bigger things in life to keep the lyrics light.
The good news — for all my fellow romantics out there — is that if you dig deep enough, you’ll find a remarkable number of songs that inspire love, from the heart-fluttering first flush all the way to the most sacred of commitments.
Recently enamored with a new object of affection, I was delighted to realize I could take my favorite band with me on the journey. This list has served as my soundtrack of sentiment as I've fallen deeper into the spell he's cast over me.
So when you suspect that you may have “the one” in your sights, be sure to have these songs handy to play along with your relationship milestones. Bonus points if he or she is a U2 fan; that means you’re already meditating on the same frequency.
10. Sweetest Thing
Perhaps the most obvious choice, Bono’s tribute to wife Ali projects a light aura beneath layered lyrics about their “stormy kind of love.” The taps on the piano playful as the sweet story develops. The blue-eyed boy meets a brown-eyed girl and they’re sure to have blue skies up ahead. This song is a great hand-holding, aren’t-we-lucky-we-found-each-other sort of ditty.
9. Love You Like Mad
An obscure track from the Unreleased & Rare album, this little-known gem takes a raw stab at conveying how it feels to get it wrong so many times before you get it right. With lines like:
Nothing was taking
No one was waking
It’s clear that the narrator feels he’s met his match. The old saying rings true: when you know, you know.
Though he found something in his previous loves, the difference is that in this woman, he finds everything. An often-forgotten, rock-heavy tune you’ll find yourself humming along to at will, even if the lyrics are admittedly basic.
8. Two Hearts Beat As One
Written by Bono on his honeymoon, this upbeat classic finds its singer struggling to convey the depth of his feelings to his partner:
I don’t know how to say
The affection is there, but like any new love, sometimes it’s hard to actually get it all out. In those moments of overwhelming emotion, the easy solution sometimes lies on the other side of the relationship.
I don’t get the answers right
He may be a fool, but he’s a fool for her and that’s something. Learning how to communicate with your love is key to future fulfillment, and this simple song conveys that in an infectious way.
With this track, it’s all about getting lost in the mood. When you’re falling for someone, and you have that perpetual dopamine rush that makes you feel like you’re floating with happiness, it’s nice to be swept away by sound as well. To carry that intoxicating haze right out through your tingling fingertips.
The hypnotic-like state of this brief interlude from The Unforgettable Fire may remind you of the moment you realized your crush, or what it first felt like to melt into their arms. Involuntary euphoria.
6. In A Little While
In the early days of a relationship, it’s hard to be away from a new love — even separated by sleep — especially for those who are a long distance apart. You just want to hear from them; that phone call, that text, that old-fashioned-letter-in-the-mailbox. Anything that will send your heart beating into a frenzy because you know that they miss you as much as you miss them.
Though this song is about a hangover apology, it doubles as the perfect romantic outreach. The strain in Bono’s voice, primally capturing the longing one feels for their absent loved one, is unparalleled. Slow down my beating heart, for sure.
5. If You Wear That Velvet Dress (Jools Holland version)
Anyone who reads my writing about U2 will know that I’m not a fan of the album Pop, but I do concede that the alternate versions of select songs hold merit. This rendition of “Velvet Dress” is the perfect example.
The ivories tickle with a sensual intro that can send chills up your spine if you’re not careful. An unashamedly jazzy number, featuring some of the deepest Bono croons on record, it’s ideal for a candle-lit slow dance with your love. And ladies, the sexy velvet dress is mandatory.
4. Be There
In 1977, Billy Joel captured perhaps the most romantic phrase ever uttered via song title when he released “Just The Way You Are”. It was about loving his wife for who she was, not anything she should try to be. Not to be outdone, U2 wrote a love song with a similar message in the '80s. Unfortunately, casual fans have probably never heard it, and die-hard fans may have trouble remembering it because it wasn’t officially released. Still, through bootlegs and scratchy YouTube videos, we can hear the selfless cries of a man who loves his girl with his whole heart.
There’s a beautiful transition that happens in a relationship where you realize your feelings have progressed from initial attraction to something concrete. When you worry for your loved one’s well-being, when you hurt when they hurt, when their happiness brings you happiness. When your instinct is to take care of them, perhaps even before you take care of yourself. This song is a great illustration of that progression — and a sweet reminder of what really matters.
3. Window In The Skies
Though this uplifting, Beatles-esque song is more about the power of love in a broader sense, it echoes the vibrations that emit from the joys of being in romantic love. When you have someone in your corner — really on your side — you feel like you can take on the world. Your days become brighter, and your problems become smaller. Your partner turns your life right-side up just by being there.
As Bono rhapsodizes about how wonderful love is, it’s not hard to nod along in cheerful agreement.
2. Electrical Storm (William Orbit Mix)
Holding a special connection with someone that feels like nothing you’ve felt before is a once-in-a-lifetime privilege to experience. It’s like succumbing to an addiction to the best drug in the world. You surrender to your trust in the other person. You let it go, and that connection carries you.
When the infatuation reveals itself, your lover is in your mind “all of the time,” so the lyrics here say it all. In addition to the words, there’s a tension to this song that builds and rises just as the storm of emotions in an intense love affair. As your relationship morphs into an obsession and you want to scream (whether out of joy or frustration, depending on the day), this song is the perfect release.
If the sky can crack, there must be some way back to love and only love.
1. Salomé (Zooromancer Remix)
Once the spell of love has been cast, a certain trance overtakes you. This version of the Achtung-era rarity represents such a state with its pulsating dance beat paired with Bono’s “desperation” voice pleading for his Baby not to go. As he begs that he has to get her, the beat goes on like a heart pounding out of his chest. The way you radiate at the height of electricity in a relationship, when it’s a steady current pumping through your bloodstream. A seduction you can’t help but submit to because of its intense power.
The song is quiet and loud and sensual and steamy. It invites and awakens passion in the most primitive way, deep from the soul, where love lives.
(c) @U2/Kokkoris, 2015.