Site Updates: Lyrics Refresh Part I

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2020-05-31)

While we have a bit of quiet time between tours and between albums, we’re taking the time to work on the site you are visiting. Some updates are part of the master plan that we have been following for years. Others are a fresh coat of paint and some new functionality as we discover ourselves what this site we have built can really do. One of our oldest sections is the lyrics archive, started in 1997 as part of the discography. You can find transcriptions of most songs U2 have been involved in over the years. These are not just a reprint of what is in lyric booklets, we listen, and we transcribe what we hear. In early 2005, we were granted a provisional license by Universal Music to allow us to print these lyrics, which we maintain to this day.

We’ve been doing a lot of work on the lyrics. And we’ve made the first couple of upgrades public and are excited to share.

Starting last week, all of the lyrics which don’t have an image already tied to them, now have a word map. Harry Kantas worked to develop the functionality, and when you go into these pages you’ll see a map of all the words of a song to the right of the lyrics. The biggest words are repeated most frequently, the smaller words are those repeated less frequently in the lyrics. It’s a great way to get a sense of what words are used most in any song. And they are really fun to look at. Not every song gets one of these word maps, we’ve kept our images of Bono’s written lyrics that we have had on the site since its earliest versions, but these word maps will fill in everywhere else.

Also starting last week, we’ve started to embed music into the lyrics entries themselves. So when you are in a lyric entry you will be able to hear the song that is playing. At the top of these pages, you’ll see a box labeled “Listen” usually with the cover of an album or a single that the mix is featured on. If you click the play button in the center of the box, you’ll be able to stream from YouTube, the official audio of the track.

We are happy to share that nearly 500 lyric entries have been updated with audio. Unfortunately though, not every lyric entry will have audio. We are choosing to use only the audio that is provided to YouTube by the record labels, which means every artists gets paid for each stream done via our page. We are not including any pirated copies, and have done our due diligence to ensure that the tracks we have used have been provided legitimately to YouTube in each case. We hope it’s an added bonus to the entries where you find music. The music added is not just from U2. A wide selection of U2’s solo work has also been included from work with Alice Cooper, R.E.M., and Michael Hutchence, even the tracks Bono and The Edge contributed to the Spider-Man musical. We’ve also included as many of U2’s album tracks and singles as possible, as well as appearances on compilations throughout the years.

Want to see? The entries below have both features in place right now:

Of course you can also reach our lyrics in a variety of ways. The “Songs“ link at the top of each page takes you to an alphabetic listing of all of the songs. (Be warned, it’s a bit slow, we’re working on it!) And if you are in any discography entry, you can click on the name of any song in the main track listing to get access to the lyrics for that song.

Due to region restrictions, we are unable to share all of the tracks that are found on YouTube. The second disc of the deluxe version of The Unforgettable Fire, and the full All That You Can’t Leave Behind, No Line on the Horizon and Songs of Innocence are all subject to regional encoding. Which means the version that plays in North America is not the version that is played in Europe, etc. We don’t want to leave a large chunk of our audience behind by choosing one region over another, so until there is a region free version of these items, they will not appear in the site until we are able to get past this. We have gone through and checked the tracks we have added, and most are available in multiple countries.

This is only a beginning. In the next few weeks we’ll be introducing new navigation to help you find the songs you are interested in even easier. Among those efforts we’re happy to say the “Songs” section will be getting a major boost in speed in the coming weeks. We’re also very happy to report that our lyric specialist, Mike Long, has come out of semi-retirement for a little bit to help us with proof reading, and clean up in this section. Mike built the lyric archive into what it is now when we moved over to our new home here at, and we appreciate the support once again.

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