Vertigo (U2 song)

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U2 Vertigo.png
Single by U2
from the album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
B-side "Are You Gonna Wait Forever?"
"Neon Lights"
Released 8 November 2004 (2004-11-08)
Recorded 2003-2004
Studio HQ in Dublin, Ireland, and South of France
Genre Alternative rock
Length 3:11
Label Island, Interscope
Songwriter(s) U2 (music), Bono and The Edge (lyrics)
Producer(s) Steve Lillywhite
U2 singles chronology
"Electrical Storm"
"Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own"
"Electrical Storm"
"Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own"
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb track listing
"Miracle Drug"
Music video
"Vertigo" on YouTube
Audio sample

"Vertigo" is a song by Irish rock band U2, and is the opening track on their 2004 album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. The song was released for airplay as the album's lead single on 24 September 2004, and upon release, it received extensive airplay. It was an international hit, bolstered by its usage in a television advertisement featuring the band for Apple's iPod digital music player. The song lent its name to the band's 2005–2006 Vertigo Tour.

"Vertigo" won Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Best Rock Song, and Best Short Form Music Video in the 47th Annual Grammy Awards Ceremony in 2005.[1]

"Vertigo" ranked #64 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Songs of the Decade (2000 to 2010).[2]


In the case of "Vertigo", I was thinking about this awful nightclub we've all been to. You're supposed to be having a great time and everything's extraordinary around you and the drinks are the price of buying a bar in a Third World country.'re just looking around and you see big, fat Capitalism at the top of its mountain, just about to topple. It's that woozy, sick feeling of realizing that here we are, drinking, eating, polluting, robbing ourselves to death. And in the middle of the club, there's this girl. She has crimson nails. I don't even know if she's beautiful, it doesn't matter but she has a cross around her neck, and the character in this stares at the cross just to steady himself.[3]

— Bono, U2 by U2

During the How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb recording sessions, "Vertigo" was originally recorded as a song called "Full Metal Jacket". Bono said during a webchat that the song was "the mother of all rock 'n' roll tunes. I don't know where it came from but it's a remarkable guitar thing. You want to hear it - it's a reason to make a record. The song is that good!"[4] The title was later changed to "Native Son". The lyrics in this iteration are about a native man who was against his country due to his lack of freedoms, an idea originally inspired by Leonard Peltier.[5][6] The song went through several different musical and lyrical arrangements, but the band struggled to find a version they liked. Steve Lillywhite was brought in to try to find a mix that worked while Bono took a break from the album sessions; on his return, Lillywhite asked him if he would be able to sing the "Native Son" lyrics in front of an audience, and Bono found the experience too uncomfortable. New lyrics were written and Lillywhite helped the band rearrange the song. It was at this point that the song was rewritten into "Vertigo."[7][8] At 3:08 long, "Native Son" is just a few seconds short of the run time of "Vertigo." The track has since been released on the digital album Unreleased and Rare, which was only available through purchasing the entire digital box set, The Complete U2, as well as the album Medium, Rare & Remastered.

U2 performed "Vertigo" in a television commercial for the Apple iPod as part of a cross-marketing plan to promote both the album and Apple's music products (especially the U2 Special Edition iPod and the iTunes Music Store's exclusive digital box set for U2, The Complete U2).[9]

At the beginning of the song, Bono counts off in Spanish "Unos, dos, tres, catorce!"[10] In English, this translates to "some, two, three, fourteen!"[11] When asked about this oddity in an interview for Rolling Stone, Bono replied "there may have been some alcohol involved".[12] Some sources have suggested that as the first words spoken on the album, the lyrical choice was a deliberate nod to Exodus 3:14 (the first Testament (Old) of the Christian Bible, second book, third chapter, fourteenth verse), whereby after Moses asks God's name, God responds "I Am that I Am". This theory is supported by the fact the final track on the How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb album is titled "Yahweh", another name for the Abrahamic god.[13]

The count off was parodied by novelty singer Richard Cheese on his version of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" on his 2005 album Aperitif for Destruction.

A Spanish reply of "¡Hola!" is also heard behind the "Hello, hello" of the refrain, as well as "¿Dónde está?" ("Where is it?" or "Where is he?" depending upon if this is intended as a question to the location of Vertigo or Bono himself) after the line "I'm at a place called Vertigo". The "Hello, hello" line itself is reminiscent of similar lyrics in the song "Stories for Boys" from U2's debut album Boy; in Vertigo Tour concerts, the band frequently included a section of the latter song in their performances of "Vertigo." These concerts have also sometimes featured "Vertigo" played twice, once early in the show and again as a final encore; this also looks back to U2's early days, when they did not have enough songs to fill out an entire performance and had to repeat some at the end.

Chart performance[edit]

Upon release, "Vertigo" debuted at number 18 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and number 46 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the following weeks, the track jumped to number one on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, moved from number 27 to number three on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and from number 35 to number nine on the Adult Top 40. It also debuted at number one on the Hot Digital Tracks chart and, after falling to number 4, returned to the top position. The track later moved into the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 31. It spent 20 weeks on the chart.[14][15] At the time of the song's release, Billboard did not count digital downloads as part of a single's overall sales. "Vertigo" recorded strong digital sales, and had these been incorporated into physical sales and airplay, would have seen a much stronger placing on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

In the United Kingdom, the song moved from BBC Radio 1's B-list in the first week of its airplay release to the A-list in the second week. The song was released commercially on 15 November, and debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, and remained there for one week. In total, it spent nine weeks in the top 40.

In Australia, the track debuted at number five on the ARIA Charts, and was ranked number 38 on Triple J's Hottest 100 of 2004. In the Netherlands, "Vertigo" reached number two on the Mega Top 100.

In Brazil, the single went gold with more than 50,000 downloads.[16]

The digital single holds a Gold status in the United States.

Music video[edit]

The video for the song features U2 performing in a featureless desert as black jet streams emit from behind each band member; on the ground is a huge white bulls-eye symbol used as a motif for the album graphics. The circular platform that the band performs on constantly elevates up and down in a spiral pattern, as the wind blows the band's face. It was directed by the team of Alex & Martin. It was recorded in Punta Del Fangar (Ebro Delta), in Spain.

Cover versions[edit]

Nathaniel Willemse released a cover version of Vertigo as his debut single in 2008, after having performed it on Australian Idol series four in 2006.[17]

Bon Jovi performed a snippet of the song during Bad Medicine on their 2011 Live 2011.[citation needed]

Formats and track listings[edit]

7" and 12" vinyl singles[edit]

CD and DVD singles[edit]


Charts and certifications[edit]


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  2. ^ "Rolling Stone Magazine's 100 Best Songs Of The Decade (2000-2010)". Rolling Stone Magazine, USA. 24 April 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
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  4. ^ "Exclusive: U2 talk about the new album - Music - News - Hot Press". 
  5. ^ Carl Uebelhart. ":: Native Son - HTDAAB Outtake Lyrics by U2 Wanderer.Org ::". Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
  6. ^ "Cross: The Ongoing History of New Music - "Demo Versions: How Song Are Born"". Archived from the original on 22 February 2008. Retrieved 2011-09-21. 
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  9. ^ "Apple iPod U2 Television Advertisement". 10 July 2009. Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  10. ^ "Lyrics: Vertigo". Retrieved 25 June 2010. 
  11. ^ "English Translation of "un" | Collins Spanish English Dictionary". Retrieved 2015-11-08. 
  12. ^ U2 Dissect "Bomb", David Fricke, Rolling Stone, December 2004 Archived 4 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ Walk on: The Spiritual Journey of U2, Second Edition, Relevant Books, 2005.
  14. ^ "U2 Vertigo @ - Songs & Videos from 49 Top 20 & Top 40 Music Charts from 30 Countries". Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  15. ^ Vertigo at AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
  16. ^ "Associayco Brasileira de Produtores de Disco". ABPD. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  17. ^ "Nathaniel Willemse Interview". Retrieved 31 December 2013. Rising star Nathaniel Willemse is set to launch his debut single "Vertigo" in January 2008 ... Nathaniel made "Vertigo" his own when he performed his laid-back soul version of the U2 hit on Australian Idol 2006, 
  18. ^ Vertigo (7" single). U2. United States: Interscope Records. 2004. B0003580-21. 
  19. ^ Vertigo (12" single). U2. United Kingdom: Island Records. 2004. 12IS878 / 986 856-7. 
  20. ^ Vertigo (12" single). U2. United Kingdom: Island Records. 2004. 12IS886 / 987 025-2. 
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  46. ^ a b "U2: Charts & Awards - Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  47. ^ "Certificações de U2". ABPD. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  48. ^ "British single certifications – U2 – Vertigo". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 7 June 2014.  Enter Vertigo in the search field and then press Enter.
  49. ^ "American single certifications – U2 – Vertigo". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 7 June 2014.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Just Lose It" by Eminem
UK number one single
14 November 2004
Succeeded by
"I'll Stand by You" by Girls Aloud
Preceded by
"American Idiot" by Green Day
Billboard Modern Rock Tracks number-one single
6 November 2004
Succeeded by
"Pain" by Jimmy Eat World