In The Name Of Love

Looking back over blog stats recently gave me an idea – perhaps the most popular songs (judged by how many views they’ve received) could form the tracklisting for a proper, career-wide U2 retrospective. The rules were simple for this exercise: barring anomalies, the studio versions of the most popular songs, as noted before, are taken for up to a duration of 80 minutes (the limit of a single CD), allowing for a somewhat shallow but wide-reaching Best Of, or at least something that’d beat U218. The songs are ordered, preferably, in a manner that flows, not necessarily by popularity or chronology.

Incredibly, it didn’t achieve any of that.  As for the aforementioned anomalies, they are as follows: “Driving To Midnight Mass” was excluded because, for some bizarre and inexplicable reason, it has over quadruple the number of views of any other song (and over double any page, including “About”). “Get On Your Boots” was also excluded, because my timing conveniently allowed it to turn up exactly when people would be searching for it, which can’t be said for the songs below. You might claim that earlier posts have more of an advantage, but this doesn’t always appear to be the case. Anyway, here’s the resulting wreckage that U2009 readers have unconsciously picked, as of January 31st, 2009:

In The Name of Love: The Best of U2, 1978-2008

Rejoice
Not the worst song that could have come from October, but hardly the best either.  In any event, it’s the only time that U2’s first two albums get an appearance.

A Celebration
There’s one thing to be said for this: the band would never put this on a compilation. Our (admittedly imaginary) Best Of would at least appeal to completists.

Drowning Man
The first ballad for the album, it’s an odd choice coming from War. Nonetheless, it’s not that bad a choice either.

A Man And A Woman
And the first recent choice is….a terrible one. Easily the dud off Bomb, I just don’t see how or why this should appear. But it does.

Yahweh
Similarly, Bomb has a lot more going for it than this. But there’s no more from this album – no “Vertigo”, no “City of Blinding Lights”, no “Love And Peace”.

When I Look At The World
Completing the trilogy of appalling 2000s-U2 choices, this has a nice flurry of guitars before becoming a fairly bog standard ballad, with said flurry disappearing. Why? We can only lament that flurry, gone forever unless we tediously rewind.

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
At long last, something that has actually got a chance of turning up on a real Best Of, and indeed has on the two occasions it’s had the opportunity to. Sheesh, I’m no fan, but it’s top-tier canon now. Has to be here, and although Joshua Tree only gets this one song, it’s not a bad appearance.

Love Rescue Me
A damn good song from Rattle and Hum, albeit not the obvious choice. I have to hand this to the readers, this is quite a classy choice…

The Sweetest Thing
…this is less so. It’s a nice song, but nice isn’t really “best of”.

A Room At The Heartbreak Hotel
Perhaps one of the odder choices for a compilation, there’s really no way I, you, U2, Principle Management or Universal Records would really consciously put this on a single-disc Best Of, and that’s not just for the b-side thing. In any event, “Love Rescue Me” surely does the whole blues-gospel-rootsy thingy better, which means it’s time for the disc to change direction.

Pop Muzik (PopMart Mix)
And to think I complained about the last song…

Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
Not the worst choice for Achtung Baby (next song is), but it is nonetheless a representative song.

So Cruel
This disc already has too many ballads, and none of them are “One”. Quite simply, this doesn’t help.

The Playboy Mansion
The 13th song here not to turn up on the main disc of an actual U2 compilation, it does showcase an interesting side of the band that very much was present during large parts of the 1993-1998 period. More deserving of a place than many songs here.

Discotheque
Oh Yes.

For the record, there’s 15 tracks, one each from October, War, The Joshua Tree, Rattle and Hum and All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Two songs each come from Achtung Baby, Pop and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, and two songs each are either b-sides or non-album singles. There’s nothing from Boy, The Unforgettable Fire or Zooropa. So the underlying issues of U218 wouldn’t really be solved with this release, and a whole crop of new ones would turn up. Incidentally, six songs each come from the 1980s and 1990s, and three from the first half of this decade.

So what are we to conclude from this? Not a lot, if we’re honest – only that there’s amusement to be had from playing around with almost-certainly unrepresentative samples, and overall we can hope that this sampling really is unrepresentative. Because if it isn’t, then the conclusion is that the public as a whole can only be trusted to come up with something as shoddy and subpar as a Wal-Mart exclusive. And that would be scary.

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