I’m going to spill a secret right now. When I ranked every U2 song for this project, I came up with four songs that I rated a perfect 10. If you know anything about U2, you can almost certainly name three of them. Heck, my mother could probably name three of them (uhhh, maybe not her. She might recognize the names if I told her them). Those three are I think the most popular U2 songs among the die-hard and casual fans alike. But the fourth, while most folks would know the song, they would also be surprised that Walk On would be among the elite.
I don’t know what it is about Walk On that grabbed me and never let go. It is musically fantastic, lyrically fantastic, there is nothing I don’t like about this song. It has clear and distinct roles for each of the four band members. I could not imagine this song missing any of their parts or any of them being different and not feeling like something was wrong. Adam once again provides the footing for the whole song, driving on with intensity, moving it slow and quick. Larry follows that in many ways, but also steps out and pushes in parts (listen to the version from U22, about the 6:35 mark it’s like a fast-beating heart racing the song along before he falls back into the crashing cymbals) . Edge does everything up front, from the chiming quiet to the loud anthemic punch. And Bono is at his rolling best, writing and singing lyrics that are perhaps his best work since The Joshua Tree.
The song is an anthem to everything. It’s about love. It’s about hanging on in the face of trouble. It’s about Aung San Suu Kyi (I have her picture, I took it out). It is, as Bono sings in many of the live versions, a message of love. It gives us the title of the album. It tells us that no matter what happens, how dark it gets, you can get up and walk on, face your challenges and defeat them. “Home, hard to know what it is if you’ve never had one”, that’s a gut punch to those of us who’ve never had to face situations that millions around the world face daily. The ending, with the "all that"s, is wonderful, pulling you along on a string to hear the different words. I love listening to the end, so many different lyrics Bono has put in there over the years, trying to hear and know each one of them. The change of the music just as that begins to what feels like it should be a chant and response is yet another example of their switching up songs to grab at you.
But what brings it to the top is the emotion. It’s hard to put into words the emotion that Walk On brings out in me. I saw U2 live twice in November 2001, just after 9/11, and the feeling of togetherness was intense. They had just done One, with the scroll of names from the twin towers, and the whole crowd was in tears. And then to bring out this song, this prayer, this anthem, this ode to the feeling that we were all feeling at the time, well, I can’t put it in words. I am not a very religious person, but those moments, in that song, were probably the most intensely religious I have ever felt in my life. As I write this I am thinking back to that and the emotion is definitely welling up again. I often get that feeling just listening to live versions of the song. I can guarantee you that when I am at a U2 concert and see that song played live I will be jumping and singing and crying and laughing and having the most joyful feeling I ever have.
I can’t think of any other song that grabs me like Walk On does. For that reason it elevates to the top of the U2 catalog to be one of the 10s.
My rating for Walk On: 10 / 10