Looking back has never been U2’s thing. They were always about the future, or at least the present, craving to be the best and biggest band in the world. But with the release of Songs Of Surrender—a collection of subdued re-recordings of their 40 most celebrated songs—U2 finally have acknowledged that they’ve entered middle age.
The pandemic knocked them off course, but so did age. Now undisputed veterans, they’re dealing with the ramifications of time: Bono published a memoir late last year and Larry Mullen Jr. had to opt out of the band’s forthcoming Las Vegas residency due to health reasons. Songs Of Surrender itself feels like a deliberate holding pattern—a way to buy time while they figure out their next move. Its release also opens the door for us to look back and ruminate on our picks for the 40 essential songs that define U2.