"Atomic City" - U2


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 digital only, including the studio version of the song, on September 29, 2023. A second digital release featured a remix of the song by Mike WiLL Made-It on December 13, 2023. Mike WiLL Made-It is an American producer who previously worked with U2 on Kendrick Lamar’s “XXX”. A third digital release featured two remixes by David Guetta on February 5, 2024, the day after U2 performed the song at the Grammy Awards. The first release featured the band in front of a Sphere, the second had the sphere in purple but no band, and the third featured the sphere in blues and green, again without the band. This third digital single comes in three 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)

Another digital single was released on June 21, 2024, this time with a remix by Tiësto. This single was aimed towards streaming services. In the limited digital storefronts that had the single for sale, the song was a single track single. On streaming services the release is a two-track release, which includes the original studio version of the track. It appears that on Apple, U2 have released the song only via their streaming service, Apple Music, and it is not yet available on iTunes. A high resolution version was available as well as standard quality, and this time the cover art is tinted green.

The first physical release was initially announced for a December 29 release date, but was later moved up to December 15, 2023. Two formats were available, both including the standard studio mix of the song. The single was released as a 7-Inch single and a CD single at that time. (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.) While the 7-Inch was widely available, the CD single was only available online through Universal Records associated shops, and U2.com. The 7-Inch was a one-sided transparent photoluminescent record with the “U2:UV” logo etched into the B-Side.

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, 2700 copies in the UK, 300 copies in Ireland, 200 copies in Italy and 250 copies in Spain, and an unknown quantity outside of these regions. It will be packed with a large poster. The live version of “Atomic City” was recorded on November 3, 2023. The Record Store Day release is pressed in Germany and sold worldwide. This was a widespread release with copies being available in store on release day in Canada, Japan, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Denmark, Mexico, Malaysia, France, Germany, The Netherlands, USA, UK and Ireland, as well as many others.

Shaughn McGrath spoke about the main single cover, saying it “The single’s cover with its over-saturated, blown out, gritty appearance is another nod in that direction and especially Television’s 1976 release ‘Marquee Moon’. The Marquee Moon cover photograph, taken by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, with its saturated black, high contrast and odd colouring is the result of a happy accident with a colour photocopier. It’s always been a sleeve that I’ve admired.” Of the back cover of the 7-Inch single he shares, “The photograph on the single’s back cover is of an atomic bomb test at the Nevada test site on June 24th 1957, taken by Nevada photographer Don English. During this testing era, film crews, photographers and reporters from all over the nation and beyond would gather near Frenchman Flat to observe and record these astonishing spectacles. The upcoming tests became special events, with Las Vegas becoming the place to come to for the fascinated public’s bomb-viewing vacation packages!” Behind the band is a sphere shape which can be seen clearer in the artwork released with the digital remixes. McGrath shares, “The cover motif is of a pseudo post apocalyptic sphere that has in the manner of all good atomic-age B movies, grown monstrously and iridescently large as a backdrop to the Las Vegas cityscape!” The 10-inch for Record Store Day takes inspiration from a different album, Elvis’ live album from 1968, simply called Elvis which served as a soundtrack to a TV special of the same name. The black background and red text likely draws from there. The black and white photos of the band were originally two photographs, with Bono being added to the photograph of the other three members. Both band photos were taken on November 1, 2023, while the back cover image of the band was taken on September 30. (All three exterior images are by Rich Fury, the poster inside is taken October 14, 2023 by Ross Stewart.)

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 original version of “Atomic City” 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.

Atomic City (Tiësto 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.
Remixed by Tiësto.

Atomic City (Live at Sphere, Las Vegas):
Lyrics by Bono. Music by U2, Debbie Harry and Giorgio Moroder.
Vocals: Bono. Guitar and Backing Vocals: The Edge. Bass: Adam Clayton. Drums: Bram Van Den Berg.
Mixed and Engineered by Duncan Stewart. Mastered by Scott Sedillo.


Original Single:
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.

Record Store Day Single:
Creative Director: Gavin Friday.
Sleeve Photography by Rich Fury.
Art Direction and Design: Shaughn McGrath.
Creative Director: Gavin Friday.

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