Blog

Interpretation of U2 lyrics: All Because of You

Thus begins a humble exegesis of U2’s song lyrics by the most capable of all U2 fans. I will start with the latest works and progress backwards into the eighties. Bono, the lead singer and song writer of U2, will be the subject of exegesis. I will attempt to utilize an authorial intent hermeneutic in my interpretation. While this is not official, I just don’t think it can get any better than this. Humbly, Michael Patton. 


How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb 
“All Because Of You”

Lyrics

I was born a child of grace
Nothing else about the place
Everything was ugly but your beautiful face
And it left me no illusion
I saw you in the curve of the moon
In the shadow cast across my room
You heard me in my tune
When I just heard confusion All because of you
All because of you
All because of you
I am… I am

I like the sound of my own voice
I didn’t give anyone else a choice
An intellectual tortoise
Racing with your bullet train

Some people get squashed crossing the tracks
Some people got high rises on their backs
I’m not broke but you can see the cracks
You can make me perfect again

All because of you
All because of you
All because of you
I am… I am

I’m alive
I’m being born
I just arrived, I’m at the door
Of the place I started out from
And I want back inside

All because of you
All because of you
All because of you
I am


Exegesis

Bono will often use biblical language and theological themes in his music. He will often employ the law of double referent which is frequently found in the Scriptures, especially the Psalms (Bono’s favorite book). In other words, many of his songs have double meanings tied to the subjects or main characters. The double meaning referents in Bono’s lyrics are almost always God and a loved one (usually a romantic relationship). For our purpose, we will focus on the theological side of U2’s songs. 

I was born a child of grace
Nothing else about the place
Everything was ugly but your beautiful face
And it left me no illusion


Notice, the referent to “you” in “your beautiful face” is God. This will become apparent later. We must also suspect that the “you” can refer to a loved one as a second meaning. 

“I was born a child of grace”: Grace is a common theme that Bono began employing regularly with the album All You Can’t Leave Behind and finds is continuation in the present album. Being born a child of grace is Bono’s way of expressing early reliance upon God. In other words, Bono believes that God’s undeserved favor has been with him from the very beginning of his life.

“Nothing else about the place”: This carries on the theme of grace, giving more definition to Bono’s concept of God’s undeserved favor. There was nothing worthy about Bono that caused God to look with favor upon him.

“Everything was ugly but your beautiful face”: This expresses both the glory of God’s presence that is described as beautiful. Bono sees himself as “ugly.” We can see allusions to Bono’s perceived depravity and the consequent hideousness of people in comparison to God (see Eze. 16:22).

I saw you in the curve of the moon
In the shadow cast across my room
You heard me in my tune
When I just heard confusion

This section must be taken together to understand it fully. It may speak of the difficulty that Bono had in adolescence recognizing God. God is a shadow and a curve which implies obscurity. But, once again, the theme of grace is applied as God sees us differently than we perceive ourselves since, in his grace, He looks at what can be, not what is. His grace has a plan for the confusion of our lives. He sees Bono as he could be in his “tune.” While Bono sees himself as worthless and unusable, God sees only what He is going to bring about in Bono.

Chorus 

All because of you
All because of you
All because of you
I am… I am

Here is the key to the entire song. Interestingly, the double entendre (double referent) in this case is Bono and God. “All because of you” continues the theme of grace. Bono sees his life and any successes to be the result of God, not his own self-will and action that have produced nothing but ugliness. The “I am” here refers to Bono as it completes that thought of “all because of You.” All because of God, Bono is what he is. But we must not miss the cleaver doxilogical inclusion of praise to God. This chorus could just as well be translated, “All because of you Yahweh.” Yahweh is the divine name for God given to Moses in Exodus 3:14 called the tetragrammaton. Exodus 3:13-14 13 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

It is also the name the Christ uses for himself in John 8:58. “Yahweh” is also that name given to the final track in this album. Bono, in poetic fashion, sings a praise to Yahweh giving Him credit for turning his life from a state of worthlessness, to one used and loved by the great I AM.

I like the sound of my own voice
I didn’t give anyone else a choice
An intellectual tortoise
Racing with your bullet train

“I like the sound of my own voice”: This does not mean that Bono likes his lyrical voice in a prideful sense as might first be thought. It seems to be a self-condemnation. In this sense liking “the sound of my own voice” is a pejorative reference to himself implying contempt or disapproval at his lack of humility. He doesn’t give others a chance to express themselves because he is self enamored with his own opinions and contribution to whatever dialog in which he is involved.

An intellectual tortoise: This should be understood as a parallel to the previous words giving further explanation of his intellectual arrogance as compared to God’s infinity. God’s understanding is compared to a bullet train, while his own is like that of a tortoise. Bono realizes that in all his self expression and opinionated exclusivity, he only sees in a mirror dimly (1 Cor. 13:12). In this sense, Bono is acknowledging his finitude before the Infinite God. There is an implied confession and plea for mercy in this statement.

Some people get squashed crossing the tracks
Some people got high rises on their backs
I’m not broke but you can see the cracks
You can make me perfect again

Bono recognizes here that his pride is being broken. Some people are “squashed” (a good thing?), and some people attempt to carry their own burden. This burden is probably that of self-reliance and pride (the subject of Bono’s self-condemnation) which is as enormous as a high rise building (allusion to Pilgrim’s Progress?). Bono seems to be saying that the burdens of this life have not crushed him, but are taking their toll.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  

He can see the cracks being produced by his self-reliance. He recognizes his need and dependence on God. God’s ability to “fix” that which is broken comes through grace. This is the solution to Bono’s self-confessed problems. Grace is needed to make him perfect again. Interestingly, this may evidence a belief in imputed righteousness. God comes and “makes” (passive on Bono’s part) Bono perfect again. God can redeem Bono.

I’m alive
I’m being born
I just arrived, I’m at the door
Of the place I started out from
And I want back inside

“I’m alive, I’m being born”: Now for the culmination of the process of grace that began at birth. Bono has recognized the glory of God and his own inadequacy. He has called upon God to transform him from a broken, self-reliant, intellectual lightweight to perfection. The transformation process has both already taken place (“I’m alive”) and is continuing in Bono’s life (“I’m being born”). He is alive in the since that his relationship with God has been restored (John 3:16) and he is being born in the sense that God is in the process of transforming him into his likeness (Gal. 4:19). 

“I just arrived, I’m at the door”: This is an interesting allusion back to a previous dilemma that Bono expressed earlier in his life. Whereas in a previous album Zooropa, “The Wanderer” (Bono) has left out the back door (of God’s house) and says he will be back soon, now he has arrived back at the door (front door?). Bono sees himself as the prodigal son who has returned to his father–the place he started out from as expressed at the beginning of the song (Lk. 15:3-32). Again, an appeal to God’s grace.

Through the stages of Bono’s life, he sees himself as completely dependent upon God’s grace. As Bono moves through the stages of his life, he realizes that the grace that has sustained him from the beginning, must bring his cracked soul back to the door of his father.

One Response to “Interpretation of U2 lyrics: All Because of You”

  1. awesome interpretation and it is spot on.
    I was listening to the song today on XM and I thought, there is much more going on here.
    Knowing his music, going back to 40, from Psalms, I figured he was not talking about a woman.
    thanks for doing the work and allowing me and others to revel and enjoy

    Que Dios te bendiga

    Luis
    Mt. Pleasant, Iowa

Leave a Reply