I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Writer(s): Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen (see lyrics here)
Released: May 25, 1987
First Charted: March 28, 1987
Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 12 GR, 11 RR, 16 AC, 2 AR, 1 CO, 6 UK, 6 CN, 17 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.4 UK, 0.43 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 100.0 video, 545.63 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
U2 built a loyal following with their first four albums in the 1980s, but had little success on the pop charts, having only graced the top 40 once with 1984’s “Pride (In the Name of Love).” However, a career-making performance at Live Aid in 1985 and a slot on the Amnesty International 25th anniversary tour in 1986 launched them on to the “impossibly long list of ‘Greatest Rock Band Ever.’” LW
Their multi-platinum 1987 album, The Joshua Tree, cemented that status in some people’s minds with “a heady mix of rock anthems and great musicianship.” LW Within weeks of the album’s release, five songs landed on the mainstream rock chart and the lead single, “With Or Without You,” topped the Billboard Hot 100. One of the tracks to hit the mainstream rock chart was “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” In May, it was released as the second single from the album and followed its predecessor to #1.
The song grew out of a demo initially called “The Weather Girls,” also known as “Desert of Our Love.” The Edge, U2’s guitarist, compared it to “’Eye of the Tiger’ played by a reggae band.’” WK The band did, however, like the original drum part played by Larry Mullen Jr. As Daniel Lanois, one of the album’s producers, said, “We always look for those beats that would qualify as a signature for the song. And that certainly was one of those.” WK
Lyrically, Bono, the band’s lead singer, wanted to explore spiritual doubt. The Edge had written the phrase “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” inspired by Bob Dylan’s “Idiot Wind,” as a possible song title. Bono had been listening to classic gospel recordings by Blind Willie Johnson, the Swan Silvertones, and the Staple Singers SS which led U2 to go for a gospel vibe with the Edge, Lanois, and Brian Eno (the album’s other producer) providing choir-like backing vocals. WK It signalled a change from “the raw anger of their earlier work to a more sophisticated sound.” LW It “epitomizes all that is great about U2.” LW
Bill Graham of Hot Press called the song a “smart job of pop handwork” WK and The Sunday Independent said the song proved the band could be commercially accessible without resorting to rock clichés. WK The Rocket called it a “unique marriage of American gospel and Gaelic Soul…[that] rings far truer than the rantings of, say, the born-again Bob Dylan.” WK Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times called it U2’s “Let It Be,” in reference to the Beatles’ song. WK The song was nominated for Grammys for Record and Song of the Year.
First posted 11/28/2020; last updated 3/31/2023.