U2’s NLOTH spiritual resonances (part 2)
Here are some more random thoughts.
In tone, this is the most explicitly biblical song on the album. It is a psalm, nothing less. Beth has a nice observation on how Bono sings this, contra those who are perceive it as really arrogant. But taken in its biblical context, it is clear that when Bono sings I was born to sing for you, he can’t be referring to the U2 fanclub. He is singing primarily for an audience of one: God. It’s a song of throbbing praise, driven mainly by an insistent rhythm section (Adam seems to be working really hard on this album!). But despite the stadium feel of the song (which was evident when they sang it on the BBC roof last week), it remains intensely personal. That’s not to say it is exclusive though: it draws those close by to join in the magnifying at the end (the ‘you’ in the final choruses seems to be different from the object of praise – it is a fellow worshipper being drawn in to join the praise of ‘the Magnificent’).
I was born to be with you;… to sing for you… this is the heart of existence and purpose. How can this be anything other than God? ≈ (amongst many) Psalm 139 (esp vv13-16); Psalm 61:8: I will sing praise to your name and fulfil my vows day after day.
in this space and time, after that and ever after I haven’t had a clue it’s about life in the here and now – and beyond. But there are limits to how much we know about that ≈ Ps 61:8 again; note that in John 17:2-3 eternal life starts now…
Only love can leave such a mark But only love can heal such a scar living a life of love for God IS costly – it leaves a heart black and blue (and looks & feels like foolishness at times) – but God’s love can heal that – which reminds me of one of my favourite books on ministry by our dear friend Marjorie Foyle: Honourably Wounded. ≈ Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8.
i didn’t have a choice but to lift you up and sing whatever song youw anted me to – now that is clearly psalmic – ≈ Psalm 63:4 & Psalm 134:2. and then there’s the first bit – is that what it looks like? Surely not? Election perhaps?!
I give you back my voice – the archetypal response of the one who knows from where we have everything in the first place ≈ King David’s response to God in 1 Chronicles 29:14.
From the womb my first cry it was a joyful noise – it’s that birth theme again – Bono gets born a lot on this album. But the cry of a new life is wonderfully, one of joy! ≈ the King James version of Psalm 66:1; 98:4, 100:1 (etc).
Justified till we die, you and I will magnify oh, the magnificent – justification! it’s everywhere in Paul – but it’s also everywhere in Psalms (i.e. righteousness language) ≈ so how about Psalm 35:27 (in KJV); cf. Psalm 64:10, 97:12, 140:13 etc etc
There is something reminiscent of the good old days of October in this song – Gloria anyone?
This is a suggestive song but seems quite opaque and nebulous. Being in Fez, the ancient pre-colonial capital of Morocco, of course rebooted the album writing process. It seems that the band went there after Bono was invited to be involved in a world festival of sacred music that takes place there. That in itself is intriguing – and there is a sense of slightly (Sufi?) trancelike meandering as the song opens – which gets interrupted a couple of times by a couple of abrupt reboots. But somehow, these interruptions never allow the building pace to be derailed. (I couldn’t help be reminded of a faux-James Bond mission soundtrack in the introduction – a bit derivative perhaps – but that is wiped away once the song proper gets under way).
During the intro, we hear echoes of a north african market square, mixed in with the final refrain from Get on your boots (let me in the sound). If i’m right about this being a resonance of the sound of amazing, divine grace, then it is interesting to find that even in Fez.
Bono’s singing is drawn out and even – almost a trance in itself – each word getting equal weight, as he makes the journey home across the Straights of Gibraltar and the Atlantic until reaching Africa’s shores. As far as I can tell, this is the only Africa moment on the album. Is it about setting sail leaving cars and engines behind, reaching Africa which is the true home of the heart. Having lived in East Africa, i can relate to that a bit – there is something elemental about the continent.
But as you can tell, i’m groping in the dark on this one – but gripped by the song.