The Number Ones: U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

In The Number Ones, I ’ thousand review every single # 1 one in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart ’ south beginning, in 1958, and working my direction up into the give .
U2 about depart. concisely after the turn of their second album, 1981 ’ s October, Bono and the Edge talked openly about wanting to leave the band and to devote themselves to less earthly concerns. Three of the four members of U2 were, and are, openly Christian. ( Adam Clayton is the alone holdout. ) At the clock time, all three were heavily involved in a Dublin group called the Shalom Fellowship, and they thought that possibly they should leave music behind and pursue something meaningful alternatively. Their director Paul McGuinness talked them out of it : “ God doesn ’ thymine believe in breaking contracts. ”
If Bono and the Edge were thinking about becoming ministers, then they about surely did a whole draw more for their induce by staying with U2 than they would ’ ve done by leaving. Six years after that crisis of faith, U2 took “ I still Haven ’ t Found What I ’ m Looking For, ” a song that ’ randomness uniquely about religious yearn, to # 1 in America. In the process, U2 established a musical blueprint that a unharmed lot of massively successful Christian rock ‘n’ roll bands would attempt to duplicate over the following 30 years. I ’ molarity not precisely well-versed in the writing style, but I don ’ triiodothyronine think any of U2 ’ s worship-music acolytes have ever come close to the haunted stateliness of “ I distillery Haven ’ thyroxine Found What I ’ megabyte Looking For. ”

“ I still Have ’ t Found What I ’ thousand Looking For ” was U2 ’ s irregular straight # 1 individual. Before “ With Or Without You, ” the band had never been anywhere near the top 10 in America. But after a hale distribute of touring and a series of PR breakthroughs, U2 became quite possibly the biggest rock band on the planet when The Joshua Tree landed. “ I still Haven ’ triiodothyronine Found What I ’ meter Looking For ” came out two months after “ With Or Without You, ” and it found the ring in the lapp screen of contemplative, grandiose mode. America loved that .
The Joshua Tree international relations and security network ’ t a concept album, precisely, but it ’ south built around the theme of America as a huge, mysterious alien farming. Before getting to work on the LP, Bono had immersed himself in ancestral american music, which wasn ’ t a zone he ’ d always explored previously. “ I still Haven ’ metric ton Found What I ’ thousand Looking For ” is U2 ’ mho translation of religious doctrine. Co-producer Daniel Lanois late said that he pushed Bono to see what he could do with gospel, and the isthmus spent time listening to highly old music from people like the Swan Silvertones and Blind Willie Johnson. Gospel had grown and evolved in the years since the ’ 40s and ’ 50s, but U2 were drawn to the beginning .
“ I hush Haven ’ thyroxine Found What I ’ megabyte Looking For ” arrived at # 1 a mere few months after Aretha Franklin and George Michael ’ s “ I Knew You Were Waiting ( For Me ), ” which is more or less a straight-up ’ 80s-style gospel birdcall. U2 weren ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate matter to in that, and “ I calm Haven ’ thyroxine Found What I ’ thousand Looking For ” couldn ’ metric ton be any far removed from that reasoned. “ I Knew You Were Waiting ( For Me ) ” is a song of exultation, of certainty. “ I inactive Haven ’ triiodothyronine Found What I ’ meter Looking For, ” from the title on down, is more about the search for enlightenment, the emptiness that wants to be full. U2 were into the moment of alone contemplation, not the group celebration .
It ’ s credibly besides worth noting that “ I silent Haven ’ triiodothyronine Found What I ’ m Looking For ” made it to # 1 about a year after Mr. Mister ’ s “ Kyrie, ” another vaguely sweeping religious sung from another christian rock band that doesn ’ thyroxine identify as a christian rock band. But “ Kyrie ” sounded very much like a circa-1986 pop-rock song. “ I still Haven ’ t Found What I ’ meter Looking For ” precisely sounds like a U2 sung .
By 1987, white rock bands had been using Black gospel as a dim indicator of authenticity for decades. Two years before “ I still Haven ’ triiodothyronine Found What I ’ megabyte Looking For, ” for case, Foreigner brought in a gospel choir to sing on their ballad “ I Want To Know What Love Is, ” and they took that song to # 1. That ’ s the hacky and obvious way to use gospel in the context of a rock song — though, to be bazaar, it ’ randomness frequently pretty effective, excessively. To their great credit, U2 weren ’ thymine interested in that kind of gospel-rock loanblend, though they did subsequently dip their toes in it. While touring behind The Joshua Tree, for example, U2 played a version of “ I distillery Haven ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate Found What I ’ thousand Looking For ” at Madison Square Garden with Harlem ’ s New Voices Of Freedom choir. U2 included the footage of that rehearsal in their 1988 film Rattle & Hum, and like therefore a lot about that movie, it ’ south equal parts cringey and amazing .

But the version of “ I still Haven ’ metric ton Found What I ’ megabyte Looking For ” from The Joshua Tree, the one that went to # 1, is a draw more thoughtful and inner than that. It ’ s a U2 song through and through, and the Edge ’ s indulgent ripples of guitar leave as much impression as Bono ’ s full-throated bleat. U2 are rightly celebrated for their stadium-status bombast, but “ I calm Haven ’ t Found What I ’ m Looking For ” is a attendant, delicate, about human-sized song. The build up is slow and consider, all texture and glow. There ’ s a moment, about halfway through, where we hear a bunch of different guitar sounds : Rhythmic clicks, soft lament wails, straightforward acoustic strums. In their sum, those guitars make a profoundly comforting auditory landscape — a sound you could crawl inside and fall asleep .
Bono loves to do the prophet-intonation sing-speak thing, but he never does it on “ I still Haven ’ metric ton Found What I ’ megabyte Looking For. ” rather, he sings the wholly song in an upper-register scribble, sounding wracked and wounded. When Bono hits the boastfully notes, he in truth belts them out, but he by and large avoids the look-at-me showboating that he does ( highly well ) on so many other U2 songs. The support vocals on the song — from the Edge, Lanois, and co-producer Brian Eno — might be trying to evoke the sound of a choir, but that ’ s not actually how they work. rather, those voices just add a sort of echoing expansiveness to the song, underlining Bono ’ randomness notes but never overshadowing them .
merely like “ I Knew You Were Waiting ( For Me ), ” the lyrics for “ I still Haven ’ metric ton Found What I ’ meter Looking For ” evoke gamey mountaintops and parlous terrain — criterion gospel tropes. U2 besides evoke temptations, like the burning desire to kiss honey lips or to hold the hand of the satan. Guilt plays heavily on U2 ’ randomness song, excessively : “ You broke the bonds, and you loosed the chains/ Carried the crabbed of my shame/ Of my shame/ You know I believe it. ” As with thus many religious artifacts, those lyrics are open to rendition, but they convey a feeling. That feel is need .
Bono once described “ I still Haven ’ metric ton Found What I ’ megabyte Looking For ” as “ an anthem of doubt more than faith. ” It ’ s not a sung about achieving apparitional fulfillment. It ’ randomness about wanting that fulfillment and not having it. There is religion in the birdcall ; Bono seems to know that the thing he ’ sulfur looking for is out there, that it ’ s a goal deserving seeking. But he actually leans into the password “ still ” on the choir, and possibly there ’ s some frustration there. possibly that frustration — that doubt — is precisely a part of religion. I wouldn ’ t know .
“ I silent Haven ’ triiodothyronine Found What I ’ molarity Looking For ” is a sung that ’ south moved a unharmed fortune of people deeply. I ’ megabyte not in truth one of them. That has more to do with me than the sung itself. I don ’ t have any detail religion, and I don ’ thyroxine feel a whole draw of longing for one, either. But the sung does scratch some kind of subliminal scabies. The lads in U2 are Protestant, not Catholic, but “ I still Haven ’ triiodothyronine Found What I ’ thousand Looking For ” still resonates somewhere on whatever leftover Catholic-guilt frequency I know I ’ ll never shake. It ’ s a beautiful birdcall. I like it a lot. But I ’ ve never heard it as anything more than a beautiful sung .
“ I still Haven ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate Found What I ’ thousand Looking For ” wasn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate conceived as a vehicle for some kind of big spiritual unburden for Bono. alternatively, the drums came first. U2 came up with the furrow for the birdcall at a jam session. The Edge himself wan ’ thyroxine besides into the birdcall ’ s original beat ; he once said it sounded like “ ‘ Eye Of The Tiger ‘ played by a reggae band. ” But the band liked Larry Mullen ’ s barrel knead — the metronomic, muscular, intuitive thump thing that was and is distinctly his. Everything else came out of that. The ring and the producers kept working on the birdcall, overdubbing bits and pieces and ultimately turning it into the grandly swoony thing that we know today .
At foremost, back-to-back ballads weren ’ thymine part of the plan. U2 intended to release “ Red Hill Mining Town ” as the one after “ With Or Without You, ” but they didn ’ metric ton like the sweaty, pretentious video recording that Irish director Neil Jordan, who ’ five hundred already made Mona Lisa and who would belated go on to make The Crying Game, had done for the song. ( Jordan ’ s “ Red Hill Mining Town ” television was buried for years, but it ’ s out in the world now. )

rather, U2 shot a video recording for “ I still Haven ’ t Found What I ’ meter Looking For ” in downtown Las Vegas while touring behind The Joshua Tree. For a quickie-replacement job, that video indisputable is courteous. The Vegas of the late ’ 80s was a grimier, seedier target than it is today, and there ’ s an implicit contrast in setting all that spiritual hanker against a backdrop of all those blinky neon lights. still, there ’ s no sarcasm to that television. ( U2 would learn irony late. ) U2 seem felicitous to be walking around a living slice of american english iconography, and the people who happened to be in Las Vegas that day all seem very psyched to see U2 walking about and filming a television. Bono hi-fives a short child, hugs some girls, and carries himself with the like down-home charm of the politicians that he would soon befriend. He seems like he belongs .
U2 did belong. The Joshua Tree was a eminent, massive accomplishment, both creatively and commercially. At the end of 1987, Billboard declared The Joshua Tree the # 6 album of the year, and it didn ’ metric ton stop sell once the class was over. finally, The Joshua Tree went diamond. ( To date, it ’ s U2 ’ s only diamond album. Achtung Baby is closest, at eight million sold. ) The set started playing stadiums, and they never stopped .
In the years since “ With Or Without You ” and “ I still Haven ’ thyroxine Found What I ’ molarity Looking For ” both reached # 1, U2 have never returned to the top spot on the Hot 100. The adjacent Joshua Tree unmarried, “ Where The Streets Have No diagnose, ” topped out at # 13. Soon subsequently, U2 steered hard into authenticity fetishism on 1988 ’ s widely mocked Rattle & Hum. That album was decidedly a bit much, but it had some bangers. One of those bangers was precede individual “ Desire, ” which peaked at # 3. ( It ’ s a 9. ) “ Desire ” was U2 ’ s last top-five unmarried .

U2 stayed playful and democratic through the ’ 90s, but they weren ’ thyroxine precisely a chart-pop act. The 1991 reinvention victory Achtung Baby yielded a copulate of top-10 singles, “ Mysterious Ways ” and “ One. ” ( “ Mysterious Ways ” peaked at # 9. It ’ s a 10. “ One ” peaked at # 10. It ’ s a 9. ) After that, U2 ’ s only top-10 single was 1997 ’ s “ Discothèque, ” which debuted at # 10 and then promptly fell off the charts. ( It ’ s a 6. )
U2 have continued to move harebrained numbers of concert tickets, but they stopped making hits a long clock time ago. none of the songs from the band ’ s last two albums made the Hot 100 at all. For 2014 ’ second Songs Of Innocence, the ring can blame the bastardly stunt where Apple put the album on everyone ’ south phones without permission, incurring instant and widespread backlash. 2017 ’ s Songs Of Experience doesn ’ metric ton even have that apology.

In a manner, it ’ s noteworthy that U2 ever made any # 1 singles at all. The ring ’ s strengths — boring builds, careful textures, big vibes, messy displays of emotion — aren ’ t necessarily the kinds of things that lend themselves to pop-radio success. Plenty of legit stadium-rock stars never made # 1 hits — or, if they did, they had to consciously crank up their most pop-friendly aspects to do it. U2 were so undeniable that they landed two # 1 singles when they were at their absolute point, and they did it by drawing the populace into what they were doing, not by meeting the sound of the moment .
I ’ ve never truly thought of myself as a U2 fan. My pop-music awakening came during the Achtung Baby era, and I bought and loved that album, equitable as everyone did. When I got my first gear CD player, Zooropa was the beginning compact magnetic disk I bought. But even in those early ’ 90s days, when the band was inactive at or near its creative acme, I placid got a obscure sense that Bono was a gladhanding envelope. I never thought he was cool. I hush don ’ metric ton think he ’ south cool. But writing this column has given me occasion to reexamine what U2 were able to pull off with those two chart-topping singles, and it ’ s a pretty astonishing thing. Those singles continue to reverberate while, say, something like Bob Seger ’ s “ Shakedown ” has absolutely disappeared from the universe. few massive pop singles have endured like those U2 joints .
I ’ five hundred never seen U2 live before 2011, when their giant 360 tour rolled through Chicago for the second time. Some people — friends of friends, people I didn ’ thymine even in truth know — had an extra tag and asked if I wanted to go. They wouldn ’ t take any money, either — a good thing, specially once I learned how much those tickets cost. ( Hundreds ! For a seat means up on the stadium of the stadium ! As person who by and large either gets comped or goes to shows in basements that smell like socks, I was just staggered. ) I never would ’ ve taken the necessity steps to see U2 if person didn ’ t about military unit that ticket into my hand. But that night, touring behind an album that I didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate flush like, U2 were incredible. They made Soldier Field feel a electric as the most jammed-in club. The display felt more like a divine visitation than I wanted to admit. I walked out of there buzzing. U2 had absolutely disintegrated all my agnosticism. They made a believer out of me .
GRADE: 9/10
BONUS BEATS: Dance-pop duet the Chimes had a top-10 UK hit with their 1990 interpretation of “ I still Haven ’ thyroxine Found What I ’ thousand Looking For. ” here ’ s their video for the cut :

( In the US, the Chimes ’ only charting unmarried, 1989 ’ second “ 1-2-3, ” peaked at # 86. )
BONUS BONUS BEATS: In 1991, the San Francisco sound-collage pranksters Negativland released their U2 EP, which combined a wittingly frightful cover of “ I still Haven ’ thymine Found What I ’ meter Looking For ” with leak sound recording of Casey Kasem going on a freaked-out harangue while taping an episode of American Top 40. island Records immediately sued and forced Negativland to pull the EP, which gave the whole thing more notoriety. here ’ s the Negativland take on “ I still Haven ’ thyroxine Found What I ’ megabyte Looking For ” :

BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: The singer Sharli McQueen interpolated “ I still Haven ’ thyroxine Found What I ’ meter Looking For ” on the former Fugees knocker Pras Michel ’ second 2005 single “ Haven ’ thymine Found. ” here ’ s the video :

( Pras Michel ’ s highest-charting single, the 1998 Ol ’ Dirty Bastard/Mya collab “ Ghetto Superstar ( That Is What You Are ), ” peaked at # 15. )
BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: here ’ s U2 performing “ I still Haven ’ t Found What I ’ thousand Looking For ” with their companion big-feelings stadium-rocker Bruce Springsteen at their 2005 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction :

( Bruce Springsteen ’ s highest-charting single, 1984 ’ sulfur “ Dancing In The Dark, ” peaked at # 2. It ’ s an 8. )
BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: here ’ randomness video of Miranda Lambert singing “ I still Haven ’ metric ton Found What I ’ molarity Looking For ” with all the women on one of the shows from one of her 2019 Wildcard enlistment — Maren Morris, Lauren Alaina, Cassadee Pope, Lindsay Ell, and Lambert ’ s Pistol Annies bandmates Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley — and of all of them practicing the song wing :

( Miranda Lambert ’ s highest-charting Hot 100 individual, the 2014 Carrie Underwood couple “ Somethin ’ Bad, ” peaked at # 19. Maren Morris ’ highest-charting single, the 2018 Zedd/Grey collab “ The Middle, ” peaked at # 5. It ’ s a 7. Cassadee Pope ’ s highest-charting single, 2013 ’ s “ Wasting All These Tears, ” peaked at # 37. Lindsay Ell ’ s highest-charting one, the 2019 Brantley Gilbert duet “ What Happens In A Small Town, ” peaked at # 53. Pistol Annies ’ highest-charting single, the goldplate 2011 classic “ Hell On Hells, ” peaked at # 55. The group besides appeared on Blake Shelton ’ s 2013 unmarried “ Boys ‘ Round here, ” which peaked at # 12. That last Miranda Lambert go was therefore great. )
THE NUMBER TWOS: George Michael ’ s crafty, slippery eyebrow-waggle “ I Want Your sex ” peaked at # 2 behind “ I distillery Haven ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate Found What I ’ megabyte Looking For. ” C-c-c-c-come on, it ’ s a 9 .


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