"Atomic City" - U2

Single

Track Listing:

Background Information

“Atomic City” is a single released by U2 in conjunction with the band’s forty U2:UV shows at Sphere in Vegas. The song was initially released as a digital single on September 29, 2023, the same day the Vegas shows opened, and the band debuted the song live in concert the same day. “Atomic City” has been played at each show of the residency. The first releases were of the studio version of the song, on September 29. Two physical formats containing the same track were released on December 15, 2023, a special one-sided transparent photoluminescent 7-Inch and a CD single. (Both had originally been announced for a December 29 release date, but later moved ahead. Due to the tight turnaround time between finishing the single and release, the physical items were not available the same day as the digital release.) The 7-Inch was widely available in stores, but the CD single was only available online via storefronts associated with Universal Records, or U2.com.

A remix of the song by Mike WiLL Made-It was released as a digital single on December 13. The song is remixed by Michael Len Williams II, known professionally as Mike WiLL Made-It. He is an American record producer and rapper, and had previously worked with U2 on Kendrick Lamar’s track, “XXX”. Although initially digital only, the remix will be released on 10-inch vinyl for Record Store Day 2024. Two additional remixes by David Guetta were released on February 5, 2024, the day after U2 performed the song on the Grammy Awards. This included the David Guetta Remix and the David Guetta Extended Remix. This single has the “Death Star” cover, only this time in blue and green. The digital single comes in a number of configurations:

  • Two track digital single with the Guetta Mixes only (Regular resolution, or High Resolution audio)
  • Three track digital single with the Guetta Mixes and the single version of “Atomic City” (iTunes, Tidal)
  • Three track digital single with the Guetta Mixes and the video of “Atomic City” (Apple Music, YouTube Music)

On February 15, 2024, the list of releases for Record Store Day was announced and a 10-inch vinyl version of “Atomic City” is on the list. This version will be on transparent red vinyl, and will feature a live version of “Atomic City” on the A-Side, and the Mike WiLL Made-It remix on the B-Side. The single is limited to 3000 copies in the US, and an unknown quantity outside of the US. It will be packed with a large poster.

The song has made an impact in the charts, allowing U2 to take the lead with the most number ones on Billboard‘s Adult Alternative Airplay chart. It also gave U2 their first number one on the Alternative Digital Song Sales chart on Billboard. The song has been issued to radio in a number of digital formats.

“Atomic City” is a one-off single similar to “Invisible”, released between albums, but not necessarily tied to any other project such as an album or a soundtrack. As such it may not reflect the direction of U2’s new album, expected in late 2024. Although the Edge teased in an interview it may indeed make the eventual album that they are still recording. The single is celebrating the city of Las Vegas. “Atomic City” is a nickname given to the city by the Chamber of Commerce in the 1940s, chosen to make Las Vegas look like the city of the future, and to draw in tourist attention. In the 1950s, nearby atomic bomb testing drew in spectators, and calendars were printed advertising the best locations to watch the explosions as well as planned dates and times. In 1956 Elvis Presley appeared in a nightly residency at The New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, billed as “America’s only atomic-powered singer”. The Killers have recently given a nod to this part of Vegas’ past with their 2012 single “Miss Atomic Bomb”. It isn’t U2’s first mention of “atomic” in their lyrics either, with the word appearing in “The Wanderer” and “Fast Cars”, as well as earlier songs “A Celebration” and “Seconds”. There was also the album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

Fans first learned of the song title when U2 debuted the song in a video shoot in the streets of Las Vegas on September 16, 2023. The video, filmed by Ben Kutchins, sees U2 travel by flatbed, arriving at the Plaza Hotel, where they give a mini concert at the entrance to the hotel. The Plaza Hotel has a place in the history of the city of Las Vegas. Prior to the construction of the hotel, it was the location of the first train station in Las Vegas, built in 1906. So the video was filmed at the location many tourists coming to Vegas would see first upon arrival, although it’s quite different looking today. Footage was also filmed inside Sphere for the video, including scenes of Larry Mullen performing on stage. More details on the video shoot are available in our video archive. Multiple edits of the video have been released using alternate promotional mixes of the song.

Bono introduced the song while performing during a recent video shoot, “This is the world premiere of ‘Atomic City’ a rock ‘n’ roll 45-inch tradition of late 70’s post punk if you are interested…Blondie, The Clash” and he jokes that the band will take it from everywhere. Gavin Friday shares, “feel like I’m 18 and I’m going back to the record store to buy that 7-inch single.” Gavin Friday talks about how there is a hint of nostalgia in the song, but it’s kind of like how everyone today looks like The Virgin Prunes, “It’s future nostalgia, it’s today”. Gavin praises Adam Clayton’s “right-in-your-face” bass solo and mentions that Lillywhite has mixed in the big drums. Dave Fanning mentions that the song is a love letter to post-punk.

The song was recorded in August and September 2023 with Steve Lillywhite and Jacknife Lee acting as producers. The band worked on the song initially in the South of France, before moving to studios in Los Angeles. The song features Larry Mullen on drums, which appears to be his first recorded work with the band since having surgery earlier in the year. Mullen was present with the band in Las Vegas for the video shoot for the song as well. Although recovered enough to perform in the video shoot and work in studio, Mullen will still be missing the upcoming shows at the Sphere as he continues to recover. The single is the band’s first single of new material since “Your Song Saved My Life“.

Liner Notes

Atomic City:
Lyrics by Bono. Music by U2, Debbie Harry & Giorgio Morodor.
Vocals: Bono & The Edge. Backing Vocals: The Edge & Jacknife Lee. Guitar: The Edge. Bass: Adam Clayton. Drums: Larry Mullen Jr.
Produced by Jacknife Lee & Steve Lillywhite. Engineered by Jacknife Lee and CJ Eiriksson. Additional Engineering by Duncan Stewart. Mixed by Tom Elmhirst. Mix Assitant: Adam Hong. Mastered by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Studios.

Atomic City (Mike-WiLL Made It Remix):
Lyrics by Bono. Music by U2, Debbie Harry and Giorgio Moroder.
Vocals: Bono and The Edge. Backing Vocals: The Edge and Jacknife Lee.
Guitar: The Edge. Bass Guitar: Adam Clayton. Drums: Larry Mullen, Jr. Programming, Keyboards, Producer, Studio Personnel, Engineer: Jacknife Lee.
Produced by Jacknife Lee and Steve Lillywhite. Engineered by Jacknife Lee and CJ Eiriksson. Additional Engineering by Duncan Stewart.
Remixed by Mike-WiLL Made It. Assistant Mixer: Dillon Brophy. Mastering Engineer: Jess Jackson.

Artwork

Creative Director – Gavin Friday
Art Direction & Design – Shaughn McGrath
Cover Band Photograph by Sam Jones.
Back Cover Photograph: Don English / Las Vegas News Bureau – At the Nevada Test Site on June 24th 1957.

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