I often think about Bono’s comment that it is easy to dial up anger or sadness or any one of the other “negative” emotions when writing music, but that real joy…that’s not so easy. Still, over the years, U2 has managed to capture that elusive feeling in several great recordings. “Rejoice,” from U2’s sophomore album October, is an example of one of the band’s successful attempts to capture joy. Personally, I have always felt that “Rejoice” would have been a great choice for a single from October, but what do I know?
I know that “Rejoice” is great rock ‘n’ roll from the very first note, with Edge’s guitar ringing out a riff that sounds like pure ecstasy. Seriously, every time I hear the intro to this song, I imagine leaping up as high as I can, with my arms outstretched in the air, and kicking my heels together. The bass riff is great, also…it adds a sense of momentum, even propulsion to the song, and the result is a winner from an early album that lots of U2 fans have discounted.
Lyrically, “Rejoice” is all about dealing with hardship with a positive attitude. “I can’t change the world, but I can change the world in me if I rejoice.” I know, readers are probably thinking “Yeah, but years later, Bono would come back and say ‘I can change the world, but I can’t change the world in me.'” I say that there is some truth in both statements. By keeping a positive attitude, by rejoicing in all things, we may not “change the world in [ourselves]” but we can control the world inside each of us, and that may be even more important. We often hear that we should only attempt to control those things that are within our sphere of influence, and our own personal attitude is the number one thing within that realm. Of course, it is much harder to change the world, but Bono has shown us all that it is possible to do just that…we all have the opportunity just by signing up for ONE.org, for instance, or buying (RED) products. Changing who we are inside, that is also difficult. I’ve heard it said that people don’t change, in fact. I don’t know if I buy that it can’t happen, but it is extremely difficult. The point is, we can control our own attitudes, and we can, through hard work and determination, even change the world, but changing who we are at the core is much more problematic.
“Rejoice” was played at a majority of dates on the October Tour, but never before or since that excursion into the wild. Of all the songs that U2 could revive, this one is pretty high on my wish-list. I honestly believe that that classic, urgent-sounding riff at the end would win over even the harshest critics, and there is no denying that the hardcore fans would be losing control in the crowd at the first note. It might even be said that, if U2 were to play “Rejoice” at an upcoming concert, that the emotion of joy would be extremely easy to conjure up that day, after all.