The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #191: Bad by U2 (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song and going until I reach Song . When you see the song title listed as something like: Song (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #191: Bad by U2.

“Bad” is a song from U2’s fourth studio album called, “The Unforgettable Fire”. In keeping with the tradition of all great bands, “The Unforgettable Fire” was the album that was their great leap forward in terms of the maturity and complexity of the songs they were creating. Prior to this album, U2 were known for songs such as “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”, “Gloria”, “I Will Follow”, “11 O’Clock, Tick Tock” and others of that ilk. Those songs were louder and, not necessarily strident but, definitely, in-your-face rockers. On “The Unforgettable Fire”, the band members were older, they had seen the world beyond their Dublin roots and they were having life experiences that were helping them to realize that life was a bit more nuanced than they first may have realized. As such, U2 created an album of songs that were played more slowly and were built around themes that they explored in greater depth. Songs such as “A Sort of Homecoming”, “Pride (in the Name of Love)” and the title track, “The Unforgettable Fire” all spoke to an awakening within the band; a burgeoning spirituality, almost. One of the songs that best reflected this older, wiser incarnation of U2 was a song about death called, “Bad”.

One of the life experiences that we all encounter, at one point or another in our lives, is the loss of someone close to our hearts. As children, when we first deal with death, the hurt tends to be very personal and ego-centric i.e., “I miss my Grandma! Why is my Grandma gone from me!?” As we age, our view of the void created by the death of someone special becomes broader in scope. We ask questions about the circumstances that brought about the death of the one we cared about and, as well, we acknowledge the personal void but, also, understand that the loss we feel is not just ours alone to bear… is a shared loss with others who are also hurting. This realization is the beginning of empathy; on a deep and resonating scale. It is this sort of powerful awakening that forms the foundation of the song, “Bad”.

On the surface, “Bad” deals with the loss of someone who was a good friend of the band. That young man died of a heroin overdose in Dublin. “Bad” explores the concept of addiction (to drugs, to money, to fame) and does so in a series of ascending verses that all build in intensity. Fans of the band tend to point to Bono’s performance on “Bad” as being his finest because of the emotional energy he invests into the lyrics. The rest of the band (Adam Clayton on bass, the Edge on lead guitar and Larry Mullen on drums) play subtle notes and remain in the background; emerging only with the lyrics require their support. Overall, “Bad” was unlike any song that U2 had released prior to this album. It is much richer, musically-speaking, than their previous work and helped paved the way for their next album, the award-winning, “Joshua Tree”.

So, without further ado, here is U2 with “Bad” from their fourth album, “The Unforgettable Fire”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Bad” by U2, can be found here.

The link to the official website for U2, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for playing the best music from the world corners of the world. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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