U2 Elevation

After my debut post for U2 Radio, I realized two things. One was that I really, really love doing this. Writing about great music is just an awesome feeling!
The other thing I realized was that I really needed to find a way to make the second post even better than the first one.
I spent a long time agonizing over which song to cover next, until I found myself snowed in for an entire week. On our first day venturing out into the Real World again, my brother, who had dibs on the car radio, chose a U2 song as our first selection for restarting our lives. Because, of course, nothing other than U2 would fit.

The song he chose was Elevation, and it was perfect. After being cooped up for seven days, like a mole in a hole, getting out of the house felt like flying, especially with such a happy and upbeat number in the background.U2-Elevation_(CD_Single)-F

In my last post, I more or less promised to figure out at least one meaning behind the lyric “I and I in the sky,” and I think I’ve got that unraveled. But first things first!

The first verse sounds to me like a search for enlightenment. The line “I need you to elevate me here” reflects that pretty clearly. The last line of the verse, “The goal is elevation,” confirms this.
The lines “High, higher than the sun” and “you shoot me from a gun” seem to reflect the idea that knowledge is power. An enlightened person can be a dangerous weapon, and I have to wonder if the image of a weapon is a throwback to the Armor of God image from Ephesians 6: 10-18. If you know who you are and what you believe, it’s harder to hurt you, but you can make a big difference if you try.
Or, perhaps the image of the gun is like a gun being shot into the air, the way somebody shoots upward to get someone’s attention or to start a race. The shooting image does call to mind a bullet being pushed “higher than the sun” at a high rate of speed, so this could be another way of calling to mind the theme of elevation.

Now, as for the chorus…

I think the chorus fits with the theme of enlightenment, but not necessarily outward enlightenment. The chorus seems to be about knowing yourself.

The mole image definitely reflects the search for one’s inner self, and looking deeply at one’s behaviors and motives for understanding. Sometimes, it takes a lot of self-control to fully explore yourself, and sometimes, knowing yourself can give you a greater degree of control over your thoughts and actions. Even though this process often takes place in isolation, like a solitary mole working away beneath the earth, it can still be a fun experience! After all, “excavation” sounds like a pretty interesting activity, particularly if you’re a burrowing rodent. I’m an introvert, so I do spend a lot of time burrowing into my psyche, and into other people’s psyches, and into random rock lyrics, too!

That brings us to what I promised earlier.

I think that “I & I in the sky” is either spending time getting to know oneself (or “excavating,” which sounds much cooler), or spending time with your “other half,” your soulmate, that person who is guiding you into this elevated, euphoric state.

The first theory—getting to know yourself—seems to be backed up by the theme of enlightenment that we see earlier in the song.
It also reminds me of this quote from Bono reported by Rolling Stone in 1993: “The truth is that you are many people at the same time, and you don’t have to choose.”

That is my favorite Bono quote of all time, because it really is true. People are never just one thing or one personality; we all change and we all put on different masks to play different roles. I’ve always kind of felt like I contradict myself in a lot of ways, like I’m a child of two worlds. (Star Trek reference, anyone?) So I think that “I & I in the sky” is a way to say that you’re reconciling this, a way to be at peace with all parts of yourself. It’s about all the different masks you have to wear, the way Bono got to know The Fly and Mr. MacPhisto during ZooTV.

Now for theory #2: that the song is addressing one’s “other half.” This theory is supported by the imagery of lips and hips from the first verse, and also by the way the song is addressed to “you.” The person in the song is asking “you”—presumably a loved one—to “explain all these controls” and help in the search for knowledge. The loved one definitely plays an active part in this; the song even says “you elevate my soul.”
Since a loved one is in many ways a part of you, it makes sense that saying “I and I” is a way of saying “you and me.”

Next up is the second verse, which has a lot of interesting things going on here.
“A star, lit up like a cigar, strung out like a guitar” opens us up to the second part of the song. I actually looked up the meaning of “strung out” just to be sure, and what I got from Urban Dictionary is that it means being physically weak from long-term drug addiction or high from drug use. I actually did not see that definition coming. I’m a little too pure to be pink!

But now I know that this is another line that gives us plenty of room to play. Before I read the definition of “strung out,” I assumed that the image was a literal star, and that the strings were, well, literal guitar strings. However, I am now more inclined to think that the star is not just a part of the starry sky, because apparently, a cigar is not always just a cigar. In this one, I think the word “star” might actually be used to mean “rock star.” A rock star who is high—not on drugs, as the phrases “strung out” and “lit” imply—but on life itself and on love. I think that fits Bono pretty well.

The next lines, about educating minds and explaining controls, reflect the continuing search for self-knowledge. It reminds me of a teenager saying, “Hey, God, why did you make me so tall? And why am I so clumsy?”
Which brings me to yet another possible meaning: perhaps the loved one in this song is not “you,” but “You,” as in “Thee.” Maybe the song is a dialogue with God. (More on that in a minute.)Poster-Elevation

“I can’t sing, but I’ve got soul.” That line is one of my favorites in this song. Whether God is the addressee of the song or not, God created us all with different talents, and everyone gets a chance to express them in some way. For Bono, it’s onstage. For those who aren’t quite so used to carrying tunes, the opportunity is elsewhere, but everyone has a purpose and a place in the world. Knowing one’s purpose is a crucial part of knowing oneself.

Next is the bridge, or the middle eight. (I’ve heard it both ways.)
Three simple lines:
“Love, lift me up out of these blues.
Won’t you tell me something true?
I believe in you.”

There are two ways to look at this section, too. Either “love” is a term of affection for the loved one mentioned previously, or “Love” is personified. Either the person in the song is saying, “My love, I believe in you,” or the person is saying, “I believe in love.”
Both interpretations of this part are compatible with the idea that God is the loved one in the song. 1 John 4:8 says that God is love.

“I believe in You.”

…. Ooh, ooh ooh… Ooh, ooh ooh…
*slow fade out*

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My friends call me Lieutenant. I'm a Christian, a Trekkie, and a college student with a love of writing, history, pineapples, and literature.

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