U2 Set to Release ‘Songs of Surrender’ Album in March, With 40 Remakes of Older Songs

UPDATED: Musical artists covering themselves is hardly an unknown concept these days, but U2 is still going about it in an unusual way, having recut 40 of the band’s catalog songs for a new album due March 17, titled “Songs of Surrender.” After teasing information about the album to fans on Monday and Tuesday, the group officially announced the project— with a full track list and information about different vinyl, digital and CD configurations — on Wednesday. (Scroll down for the complete listing of songs.)

They’re not subtitling the album “U2’s Versions,” and the band isn’t involved in any contractual dispute that’s caused them to record soundalike tracks. Instead, the Edge is saying, the four members wanted to “bring these songs back with us to the present day and give them the benefit, or otherwise, of a 21st century re-imagining.”

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Per Wednesday’s formal announcement, the full 40-song album will be available in digital format, as a deluxe hardback double-CD and a numbered four-LP vinyl edition, the latter two physical packages being billed as limited editions. There will also be an abridged two-LP edition with 16 of the tracks and a single CD with 20 of the songs. Pre-orders are available here.

With the deluxe four-LP and four-CD editions, each of the discs is being themed to one of the group’s four members, with attendant sleeve art to match. The Edge is being billed as the writer of the package’s liner notes, on top of being the producer and compiler for the set, while Bono is credited with “new lyrics.”

The long-expected project had been mentioned in interviews, and in the postscript to Bono’s recent memoir, which also bears the title “Surrender” and has 40 chapters named after U2 songs. Some fans had expected Bono’s book and the album to be issued jointly, but when that tome came out in early November with no album in sight, it was clear that was not happening.

Then hand-numbered photocopies of a letter handwritten by the Edge started showing up in fans’ (physical) mailboxes the last few days. In that letter, the band’s guitarist explained the intention behind the new album. “The fact is that most of our work was written and recorded when we were a bunch of very young men. Those songs mean something quite different to us now. Some have grown with us. Some we have outgrown. But we have not lost sight of what propelled us to write those songs in the first place. The essence of those songs is still in us, but how to reconnect with that essence when we have moved on, and grown so much?”

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He continued, “Music allows you to time travel and so we started to imagine what it would be like to bring these songs back with us to the present day and give them the benefit or otherwise, of a 21st century re-imagining. What started as an experiment quickly became a personal obsession as so many early U2 songs yielded to a new interpretation. Intimacy replaced post-punk urgency. New keys. New chords. New tempos and new lyrics arrived. It turns out that a great song is kind of indestructible. Once we surrendered our reverence for the original version each song started to open up to a new authentic voice of this time, of the people we are, and particularly the singer Bono has become. … I hope you like our new direction.”

Fans were quickly able to piece together what they believed to be the track list for “Songs of Surrender,” based on clues laden in U2’s Spotify listings. According to U2songs.com, a Morse code rendering of the album title that was found at the top of the Edge’s letter to fans is also included in a video snippet that has been embedded in exactly 40 tracks by the band, strongly suggesting that those will be the 40 tracks remade for “Songs of Surrender.”

It had been expected that the 40 songs Bono used as chapter titles in his book would align with the 40 songs on the album, but it did not turn out to be quite that exact a correlation. There are 28 tracks that appear as chapter titles that are indeed included on the new album, but 12 picks differ from the memoir to the album.

As U2songs.com noted, of the 40 self-covers on the new album, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” is the prior album that is best represented, with five remakes, followed by “The Joshua Tree,” “Achtung Baby” and “Songs of Experience” with four each, three apiece from “Boy,” “War,” “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” and “Songs of Innocence,” two each from “The Unforgettable Fire,” “Rattle and Hum” and “Zooropa,” one from “Pop,” and four non-album tracks. No songs have been recut from “October,” “No Line on the Horizon” or the Passengers side project, according to the listing.

Bono mentioned the album in his “Surrender” memoir, published in November, writing: “During lockdown we were able to reimagine 40 U2 tracks for the ‘Songs of Surrender’ collection, which gave me a chance to live inside those songs again as I wrote this memoir. It also meant I could deal with something that’s been nagging me for some time. The lyrics on a few songs that I’ve always felt were never quite written. They are now. (I think.)”

Bono did short U.S. and European solo tours behind his book, consisting of mostly spoken-word text from the memoir and some musical performance elements, in November and December. He has announced an additional 11-date residency at New York’s Beacon Theatre in April and May. Variety cited his Los Angeles show at the Orpheum as one of the best concerts of the year, calling the show “‘Bruce Springsteen on Broadway’ meets an acrobat’s act, figuratively and almost literally.”

U2 was celebrated in December at the Kennedy Center Honors. In an interview with the Washington Post prior to that ceremony, drummer Larry Mullen Jr. said he did not expect the group to tour in 2023, citing surgery he requires as one reason for that. A new studio album has been in the works for some time, but interviews with the band members for the Post story suggested that it is not yet near completion.

The full track list for the new release, in its 4-LP vinyl configuration:

Side 1 – The Edge

1.         One

2.         Where The Streets Have No Name

3.         Stories For Boys

4.         11 O’Clock Tick Tock

5.         Out Of Control

6.        Beautiful Day

7.         Bad

8.        Every Breaking Wave

9.         Walk On (Ukraine)

10.       Pride (In The Name Of Love)

Side 2 – Larry

1.         Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses

2.         Get Out Of Your Own Way

3.         Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of

4.         Red Hill Mining Town

5.         Ordinary Love

6.         Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own

7.         Invisible

8.         Dirty Day

9.         The Miracle Of Joey Ramone

10.       City Of Blinding Lights

Side 3 – Adam

1.         Vertigo

2.         I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For

3.        Electrical Storm

4.        The Fly

5.         If God Will Send His Angels

6.         Desire

7.         Until The End Of The World

8.         Song For Someone

9.         All I Want Is You

10.       Peace On Earth

Side 4 – Bono

1.         With Or Without You

2.        Stay

3.         Sunday Bloody Sunday

4.         Lights Of Home

5.         Cedarwood Road

6.         I Will Follow

7.         Two Hearts Beat As One

8.        Miracle Drug

9.         The Little Things That Give You Away

10.       40

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