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Verse Chorus Verse: U2 – “Magnificent”

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A song for every occasion.  That is my belief.  I've always been inclined to believe things, even if it was that there was nothing to believe in or that everything sucked righteously.  Believing… that's what I do.  Today's belief?  A song for every occasion.  Today's song?  "Magnificent" by U2.  The occasion?  I got some pretty nice seats for U2's concert in Atlanta on October 6 and I'm feeling magnificent about it.

Since my midnight run to acquire No Line On The Horizon when it was released, I haven't listened to it as much as I anticipated, at least not all the way through.  Individual tracks have been listened to on repeat, in particular the incredible "Cedars of Lebanon."  "Magnificent" has been a favorite since the first listen, but my ears really opened up to it in an unexpected place and way.

11 and I saw Coldplay in Birmingham in May.  While waiting for them to take the stage, "Magnificent" was played loudly over the PA.  It sounded so big and so good at the higher decibels and in the wide open space of that amphitheater.  I thought I'd missed my chance to see U2 at that point and I remember thinking that was a shame because there was something about "Magnificent" that seemed ready to ignite in a live setting.  I'll let you know October 7th after the show in the Georgia Dome.

"Magnificent" is one of those tracks that demonstrates what U2 can be at their best.  I'm not saying it's their best song but it gathers elements of their best work.  The beat-oriented work of Zooropa (and Pop, but I choose to pretend Pop doesn't exist) is represented here.  The Edge gets to layer different guitar effects, some of which recall past eras and others created just for this moment.  The main melodic figure has a bit of the ringing tone of "Where The Streets Have No Name."  I'm not sure if Daniel Lanois played the slide solo near the song's end or if that is Edge, but it has the lyrical quality of a great George Harrison lick.

As for Bono, he's not got quite the same vocal strength as in his youth but he's still got plenty of muscle and has actually become a better vocalist.  He never sounds like he can't pull the song off and his ability to alter his attack is important but there are moments during "Magnificent" I wish he could summon his voice from years ago and just let it rip.

As for the subject of the song, there are multiple ways it can be interpreted.  Bono is good at leaving himself an out in his songs.  Many of them have a literal meaning or significance but he often keeps the lyrics just opaque enough that he can change his mind later.  He has never been shy about acknowledging his faith in his lyrics and it is entirely possible to read these lyrics and find and find that in there.  It's also possible to come at it from a different direction and come to a different conclusion.  I'll let you make that call yourself.

It's time now for me to start mentally preparing myself for the show that is to come.  U2, Atlanta, October 6.  Magnificent.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • You’re a funny guy, Phillip. I think I have a handle on what he’s talking about. That which is understood need not be explained.

  • A favorite blog of mine, Mockingbird, has a report from the Boston show.

    I don’t mean to start an argument over the lyrics, though. You enjoy the music, I’ll enjoy what I know the lyrics mean. 😉

  • This will be my first (and I’ll bet only) stadium show.

  • dang, i would have loved to have seen U2 in boston, but not even the boss can make me buy a ticket to a stadium show.

  • Josh Hathaway

    Thanks, Phillip. I guess you really can take a Calvinist view of it. I think he’d suggest we’re taking that line too literally and that there are other softer readings, but you’re just screwing around with it so I won’t embarrass myself by playing the role of theologian. I had to have spellcheck help me spell theologian, for crying out loud.

    I love the song and the music and I’m bursting with excitement about this show.

  • I tease that this is not only a Christian song, but a Calvinist song. “I was born, I was born to sing for you // I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up // And sing whatever song you wanted me to.”

    But to be sure, other lyrics suggest a different meaning. Specifically, “Justified until we die…” since God — the most likely person to Whom Bono is singing — won’t die. Er, again.

    Anyway, it’s a magnificent, delightful song, and I’m glad you’re going to make the tour after all!