U2: The Light and Love of ‘Songs of Experience’

A deep-dive into the stunning lyrics of each powerful track

The first thing I noticed about U2’s new record, Songs of Experience, before even hearing it, was that the song titles were incredible. Each one was poetry, and I knew between the first and last letter of each title, was a river of deep thought. What I didn’t know was the each song contained a theme of love and light. In fact, at least one of these “L” words is placed in each song. Sometimes delicately and sometimes with a barrel of thunder.

In the short film by Matt Mahurin, contained in the liner notes on Apple Music, Bono opens by providing some insight as to what dark corners he dug deep into in creating this record:

“You start at the end. You start with emptiness. You start with nothing. You start with the void… I lost my mother when I was 14. I learned so much from her vanishing. I wish it had never happened. I wish that I had been older. But as a young teenager staring hard into that void, this is where a certain life-force gathered pace in me. Where a certain defiance began. To defy the odds. To defy people’s expectation. To defy death itself. To rob it of it’s power over me or anyone else…Somewhere along the way I discovered joy as an act of defiance. That defiance was the essence of romance.
The album has two love songs with pungent dark clouds crouching over perpetual skies. Beautiful. But flammable.
I won’t dwell in it or on it. I don’t want to name it. I feel fantastic now, stronger than ever.
I had to pull down the blinds on the world. Should I have the background and foreground noises? Turn down the volume of my crowded mind to hear that still soft voice.
I’ve always known that joy can’t be contrived. It’s a wellspring of a life being lived and loved. I went looking for the joy that cannot be manufactured.
We give birth to these songs, but it’s our audience that give life and meaning to them. ” — BONO

Typically in our “Stunning Lyrics” column we isolate the 10 best sets of lyrics within the entire record. They come in all forms — some paragraphs, some a just a few potent words. Songs of Experience is a different beast. I would be doing the point of the record a disservice to not marvel at the mesmerizing lyrics within each song. What a powerful record of art.

Honest. Courageous. Inspiring. And as Bono states towards the end of the short film, “If it’s anywhere interesting, writing will always uncover the writer.”

“Love Is All We Have Left”

Nothing to stop this being the best day ever
Nothing to keep us from where we should be

Don’t close your eyes
Love and love is all we have left

“Lights Of Home” *(co-written with Haim)

I can see the lights in front of me
I believe my best days are ahead

In your eyes I see it
The lights of home

Free yourself to be yourself
If only you could see yourself
If only you could

“You’re The Best Thing About Me”

You’re the best thing about me
The best thing that ever happened

“Get Out Of Your Own Way”

Fight back
Don’t take it lying down
You gotta bite back
The face of liberty’s starting to crack
She had a plan until she got a smack
In the mouth and it all went south

Like freedom
The slaves are looking for someone to lead them
The master’s looking for someone to need him
The promised land is there for those who need it most
And Lincoln’s ghost said

Get out of your own way

“American Soul”

Put your hands in the air
Hold up the sky
It could be too late
But we still gotta try

“Summer Of Love”

When all is lost
We find out what remains
Oh, the same ocean’s crossed
For some it’s pleasure
For some it’s pain

“Red Flag Day”

I will meet you where the waves are breaking

“The Showman (Little More Better)”

It is what it is but it’s not what it seems
This screwed up stuff is the stuff of dreams
I got just enough low self-esteem
To get me where I want to go, oh

The showman gives you front row to his heart
The showman prays his heartache will chart
Making a spectacle of falling apart 
Is just the start of the show

“The Little Things That Give You Away”

The night gave you song
A light had been turned on
You walked out in the world
Like you belong there


The road
No road without a turn
And if there was, the road would be too long
What keeps us standing in this view
Is the view that we can be brand new

Every wave that broke me
Every song that wrote me
Every dawn that woke me
Was to get me home to you, see
Every soul that left me
Every heart that kept me
The strangers that protected me
To bring me back to you
Every magic potion
Every false emotion
How unswerving our devotion
To the lies we know are almost true
Every sweet confusion
Every grand illusion
I will win and call it losing
If the prize is not for you

Photo by: Anton Corbijn

“The Blackout”

When the lights go out
And you throw yourself about
In the darkness where you learn to see
When the lights go out
Don’t you ever doubt
The light that we can really be

“Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way”

When you think you’re done
You’ve just begun

Love is bigger than anything in its way

“13 (There Is A Light)”

If there is a light
We can’t always see
And there is a world
We can’t always be
If there is a dark
That we shouldn’t doubt
And there is a light
Don’t let it go out

’Cause this is a song
A song for someone
Someone like me

Photo by: Sam Jones

*Bonus track (Deluxe edition also includes “Ordinary Love (Extraordinary Mix)” from 2013 film Mandela, plus “Book of Your Heart” and 
“Lights of Home” (St Peter’s String Version).

“Book Of Your Heart”

You can change your name
Or even who you are
That’s the beauty of the scar
That is the contract of the heart

Photo by: Olaf Heine
~ writing will always uncover the writer~

U2’s Songs of Experience is out now. For more information visit U2.com

Catch U2 on the eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE tour starting May 2nd in Tulsa

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