U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (1987)
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a song by Irish rock band U2. It is the second track from their 1987 album The Joshua Tree and was released as the album’s second single in May 1987. The song was a hit, becoming the band’s second consecutive number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 while peaking at number six on the UK Singles Chart.
The song originated from a demo the band recorded on which drummer Larry Mullen Jr. played a unique rhythm pattern. Like much of The Joshua Tree, the song was inspired by the group’s interest in American music. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” exhibits influences from gospel music and its lyrics describe spiritual yearning. Lead singer Bono’s vocals are in high register and lead guitarist the Edge plays a chiming arpeggio. Adding to the gospel qualities of the song are choir-like backing vocals provided by the Edge and producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois.
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was critically acclaimed and received two nominations at the 30th Annual Grammy Awards in 1988, for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. It has subsequently become one of the group’s most well-known songs and has been performed on many of their concert tours. The track has appeared on several of their compilations and concert films. Many critics and publications have ranked “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” among the greatest tracks in music history including Rolling Stone which ranked the song at number 93 of its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
Initially, “Red Hill Mining Town” was planned for release as the second single. However, Bono was unable to sing the song during pre-tour rehearsals and the band were reportedly unhappy with the video shot by Neil Jordan, so “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” became a late choice for the second single. The single was released in May 1987. On the US Billboard Hot 100, the song debuted at number 51 on 13 June 1987. After nearly 2 months on the chart, the song reached number one on 8 August 1987, becoming the band’s second consecutive number-one hit in the United States. The song spent two weeks in the top spot, and remained on the chart for 17 weeks. On other Billboard charts, the song peaked at number 16 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and number two on the Album Rock Tracks chart. The song also topped the Irish Singles Chart, while peaking at number six on the Canadian RPM Top 100 and the UK Singles Chart. In New Zealand, the song peaked at number two on the RIANZ Top 40 Singles Chart, while reaching number six on the Dutch Top 40 and number 11 on the Swedish Singles Chart.
The music video for the song was filmed on Fremont Street in Las Vegas on 12 April 1987 following their Joshua Tree Tour concert in that city. It features the band members wandering around while the Edge plays an acoustic guitar. The music video was later re-released on The U218 Videos compilation DVD. Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas’s official event organization, credits the group’s video with improving the city’s image among musicians. “The whole perception of Vegas changed with that video,” Christenson said, adding, “Now all the big names come here, some of them five, six times a year.”
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” received widespread critical acclaim. Hot Press journalist Bill Graham described the song as on the one-hand as a “smart job of pop handwork, pretty standard American radio rock-ballad fare” but that “the band’s rhythms are far more supple and cultivated than your average bouffant HM band of that period”. The Sunday Independent suggested that the song was proof the band could be commercially accessible without resorting to rock clichés. NME remarked that the song showed that the band cared about something, which made them “special”. The Rocket noted that Bono’s lyrics about needing personal spirituality resulted in a “unique marriage of American gospel and Gaelic soul” and that the “human perspective he brings to this sentiment rings far truer than the rantings of, say, the born-again Bob Dylan”. Several publications, including The Bergen Record and The Boston Globe, called the track “hypnotic” and interpreted it as depicting the band on a spiritual quest. The song finished in 18th place on the “Best Singles” list from The Village Voice’s 1987 Pazz & Jop critics’ poll.