Know Your Bonoisms, Part 13: Classic Bono Lyrics on Songs of Innocence

These days, keeping up with all Bono’s radio interviews is practically a full-time job. Just when you think you’re up on all of them, someone tweets you that you haven’t lived as a U2 fan until you hear the Dave Fanning interview. So you listen, and of course it’s superb because it’s nine times longer, he’s not telling the same joke about Lemmy from Motorhead for the 12th time, and the man is defending the new album, the Apple deal and what he had for breakfast like his life depends on it. Wow. And now you’re caught up, right? Wrong. Crap, this is exhausting. And now that you hear Bono refer to his own daughter as “Eve Hewson” and you hear yourself say out loud to no one in particular, “That was weird,” you realize you’re hitting your limit and it’s time to give the interviews a rest.

It’s okay; I’m with you. Let’s just forget about them for a while and get back to the reason we’re all fans to begin with: duh, the music (specifically, the lyrics). Here are the lyrics from Songs of Innocence that I truly believe stand out as legit Bonoisms:

“If the door is open it isn’t theft. You can’t return to where you’ve never left.” Truthfully, 75% of “Cedarwood Road” is comprised of some pretty incredible Bonoisms – but this one is classic Bono, because it meets two important criteria for great U2 lyrics: 1.) impeccable rhyming, and 2.) unapologetic nostalgia. True, nostalgia is technically a theme of the entire album – but he encapsulates it perfectly in this lyric.

“The ache in my heart is so much a part of who I am.” Alright, so maybe this “Iris” lyric isn’t what we traditionally think of as a Bonoism in that it isn’t cloaked in any metaphors or irony. But the man himself might say that it is, because as he told Dave Fanning (again with the interviews!), “I don’t write for everyone first; I write for myself first, because I have to write to unlock something: an honesty, a truthfulness. I can only hope that will connect with someone else. Iris has made me cringe…it couldn’t be more personal.” Tears, right? Heck yeah! (Which is also what I say out loud to no one in particular every time I see the Apple commercial.)

“Somebody stepped inside your soul; little by little they robbed and stole, ‘til someone else was in control.” Ooh, controversy! Bono didn’t sing this lyric. Lykke Li did, and yeah I totally knew who she was before September 9, 2014; did she sing “Someone Like You” or “Royals”? Oh, really? Oops. So why should this be a Bonoism? Because he wrote it, and it’s about the most Bono a U2 lyric could possibly be. First of all, it has what is quite possibly his favorite word. What is it? Um, the goal is…Next, it refers to stealing: also a very common U2 theme. How different would some of the most beloved U2 lyrics be without it? Try it:

  • “To touch is to heal, to hurt is to”…pickpocket someone?
  • “Some pray for, others” – commit larceny?
  • “Like a preacher burglarizing hearts at a traveling show” – um, no.

See what I mean? Stealing is a central theme for Bono.

If you can pencil it in between your family responsibilities, your career and listening to the next Bono radio interview, listen for the Songs of Innocence lyrics that raise your antenna and make you say out loud to no one in particular, “Classic Bono!” Then, tweet them to me @U2lyricsDaily1

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U2 community builder, actualist, sometimes full of anger and grieving. Contact: IG @brookwf, X @U2radiobrook.

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