Week 87: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2

As I was going through this list the other day, I came to the shocking realization that it didn’t include a single song from the 1980s. It was an embarrassing discovery; I was a child in the eighties. How could I neglect the decade that raised me? Determined to correct this oversight, I started a search for some beautiful eighties music.

But the longer I looked, the more I felt that “beautiful” wasn’t a word that came to mind as I listened to Europe, The Bangles, and A-Ha. Now don’t get me wrong- those bands are all awesome, and a lot of my favourite music is from that era. But what I began to realize was that while popular music in the eighties was a lot of things (danceable, catchy, campy, happy) it was rarely beautiful. Beauty is a subjective thing, of course, but from my point of view, most bands that tried to sound beautiful in the eighties just ended up sounding cheezy. For example, this. Or this. Or perhaps this.

Finally, just as I was thinking to myself that I was never going to find what I was looking for…I found what I was looking for.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. It’s got just enough eighties in it. The melody is catchy without being annoying, the groove is upbeat without being too bouncy, and the lyrics are optimistic without being mindlessly happy.

2. The Edge’s signature guitar delay. Nobody in the history of rock has built a career from a single guitar effect quite like The Edge (aka Dave Evans). While other guitarists in the 1980s were trying to play as many notes as possible, Evans went simple. No big wanky solos, just simple echoing riffs through a carefully constructed delay effect.

3. The video was shot in Las Vegas. There’s something great about watching the band wander the flashy Vegas strip, singing a song about being lost. To me it reflects the fact that while they rose to fame in the eighties, they weren’t about the big hair, makeup, and showiness that characterized so many other bands of the time. I guess that’s why, 25 years later, u2 is still at it while others have been forgotten.

Recommended listening activity:

Hunting down a VHS copy of your favourite movie.

Buy it here.

p.s. Did I overlook your favourite beautiful 80s song? Let me know: beautifulsongoftheweek@gmail.com