CD Review of 18 Singles by U2

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18 Singles
starstarstarstarno star Label: Interscope
Released: 2006
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ALSO: See John's alternate tracklist for this compilation at EatSleepDrink Music.

It’s always fun to review hits compilations because it’s not really about what’s on the disc as much as it’s about what’s not on the disc, which can lead to all sorts of lively discussion and second-guessing. With the release of 18 Singles, U2 is hoping to have the same success that the Fab Four had with The Beatles 1, which compiled most of the band’s #1 songs (either in the U.S. or U.K.) on a single disc. While 18 Singles has loads of great, recognizable tracks, it doesn’t have the same aural impact as The Beatles 1. To a certain degree, that’s to be expected. U2 is a great band, but they’re just not in the same league as the Beatles. However, the group could have made a better showing had they tweaked 18 Singles here and there.

First, lose the new tracks. U2 is joined by Green Day as they cover the Skids’ “The Saints Are Coming,” a collaboration inspired by the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina. While the song itself is OK, it doesn’t really belong with all the other hits on the disc. The liner notes say that the proceeds from the track will go to benefit the musicians affected by Katrina, making one wonder if they might generate more sales if the song were only available for download.

The other new track, “Window in the Skies,” was produced with the same feel as How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. While it certainly doesn’t offend, it really doesn’t move the listener, either. Now that we’re in the era of the digital downloads, it doesn’t make as much sense to throw a couple of new tracks on a compilation disc to try to get the hardcore fans to buy it. They’ll just go buy the new tracks separately, so why not use the extra space for a couple of well-deserving leftovers?

After perusing a list of the band’s hits, ten songs jump out as absolute must-haves for a collection such as this: “Angel of Harlem,” “Beautiful Day,” “Desire,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Mysterious Ways,” “One,” “Pride (In The Name of Love),” “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “With or Without You.” 18 Singles contains nine of those ten songs, with the exception being “Angel of Harlem.” Of all the possible quibbles with the tracklist, that’s by far the most egregious error.

There are six post-millennium songs, including four (yes, four) from All That You Can’t Leave Behind. While the aforementioned “Beautiful Day” certainly belongs, “Walk On,” “Elevation” and “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” probably don’t. Not when “Bad,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,” “I Will Follow” and “All I Want Is You” were excluded. “Bad” is especially important because it marked the genesis of The Joshua Tree sound a full three years before the release of that epic album.

For a more complete 18-song playlist that accurately depicts the band’s work, head on over to and take a look. While there is a lot of great music on 18 Singles, it will mainly appeal to newbies and the laziest of radio listeners, as there are just too many exclusions for even casual fans to overlook. The band’s two previous “best of” packages (1980-1990 and 1990-2000) are able to go into a little more detail and are definitely worthwhile purchases. But in this day of legal downloads and custom playlists, it’s simply better to do it yourself.

~John Paulsen