"One Step Closer" is billed in the album with thanks to Noel Gallagher of Oasis. The title of the song comes from a conversation Bono had with Gallagher about Bono's dying father, Bob Hewson. Bono asked, "Do you think he believes in God?" to which Gallagher replied, "Well, he's one step closer to knowing." As with most U2 songs, however, multiple readings are available, with the singer's feeling of being lost, but still drifting towards some kind of understanding, possible at any age. Verdicts varied based on the listener: Bono biographer Mick Wall felt the song was "clearly linked" to Bono's father, and made for "painful if beautiful listening,"Chicago Tribune reviewer Greg Kot did not make the same Bono connection and felt that Lanois' "foggy atmospherics" masked a lack of ideas, while Christianity Today saw it as a "sadly uncertain, yet hopeful" depiction of Bono's father having a crisis of faith.
Through the end of the Vertigo Tour, the song had never been performed in any U2 concert.