Rachel’s first look at U2’s California

It’s funny to me that just a little over a year ago, I looked at the list of titles on Songs of Innocence and freaked out over a little song called “California (There Is No End To Love).” I knew as soon as I saw that title that I was going to like this strange new album.

The first time I listened to the song, I was a little anxious, because I wanted so badly to like the song and I was afraid that I’d think it was terrible. But then I heard the ethereal male voices. At that point, the voices were still nameless and faceless creatures to me, because I’d never bothered to look at photos or read the liner notes (but that particular journey is a story for a later date). The nameless, faceless ethereal voices on the tape—er, digital recording—were chanting something. Something that sounded like the Beach Boys, but not quite…

Then I realized what they were saying and I basically went into paroxysms of delight because these magical people were singing about the setting of my favorite detective show. (I know, I am such a nerd.) My favorite detective show, you see, is Psych, which takes place in Santa Barbara, California. As soon as the song was over, my mama turned to me and said something that summed up my view on the song perfectly: that it could be my favorite character’s theme song.

And that was the day I went from being someone who really liked U2 to being someone who loves U2. True story.

I’ve heard in my travels that a lot of people dislike this song because, apparently, it doesn’t really express what California is actually like. I’ve heard people make similar complaints about the song “Miami” (although that one may have more to do with Pop than the song itself…but since I haven’t fully worked my way through Pop yet, I can’t really offer an opinion). Anyway, since I’ve never been to California, I can’t really support or refute that view. But I can say that for a lot of people, California is a symbol.

To those of us who have never actually been to California and can only dream of going, the Golden State has kind of an idealized appearance. Even though logically, most people know that California is probably just a regular place with regular problems, the image of Hollywood glamor and flash still burns pretty bright. Most Americans probably figure that if you can make it in California, you can make it just about anywhere, and I think that sentiment is expressed in this song.

The lyrics sound to me like a description of the hard work it took to get U2 to “break through” in California—in America—and also an expression of the excitement of finding themselves there and realizing how far they’d come. But beyond that, I think the song is really an expression of the joy of reaching that “mountaintop” moment, when you’ve overcome a struggle and you thought you couldn’t make it through…but you did, and a new day dawns.

“The weight that drags your heart down” is what took U2 to California and beyond, and everyone has that one thing that pushes them and serves as a catalyst to make them stronger. The song mentions that “words can scare a thought away,” and the tears of joy in the first verse are contrasted with the tears of doubt and fear in the second verse. There are times when the weight seems to be too much to handle, and it seems too difficult to push through and make it to the next day.

But even though there is grief and pain and struggling, and even though the next day is uncertain, the dawn will come. “Like it always does.”
Despite the grief, despite it all, there is beauty in the world. Blood orange sunsets. Beautiful beaches. Amazing cities. Shining seas. There’s still hope, and the reward is worth the effort.

California has historically been a symbol of hope and a better life for millions of people around the world, and in this song, California is kind of used as a metaphor for all the beautiful things in life that are to come if we can hold on.

And the most beautiful thing about it all is that, truly, there is no end to love. Love is infinite, around the world, and whether in times of grief or in times of excitement, love surrounds us all. Love shines through even in the darkest times.

“I’ve seen for myself there’s no end to grief. That’s how I know and why I need to know that there is no end to love.”

Of course, even if there is no end to love, some good things must come to an end. But even if some of our hopes and dreams are temporary, and even if our time in the “mountaintop moment” doesn’t last forever, the good times that we have in life are worth all the effort it took to make them happen. “Stolen days you don’t give back. Stolen days are just enough.”

I guess that what I’m trying to say is that, even though happiness takes a lot of work to find and keep, happiness is attainable and within reach, and love is always there throughout the journey. Even if that weight in your heart doesn’t lead you to California or any other famous pop-culture-ridden place, the journey will take you where you need to be.

…Now, if you need me, I’m just going to be looking around for pineapples and trying to pretend that I don’t secretly wonder if Bono is a Psych fan.

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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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