Single Review: U2 “Beautiful Day”

Beautiful Day
Album: All That You Can’t Leave Behind
Year: 2000

Bono aspires to view life as a gift and appreciates its little exquisite details in the radiant “Beautiful Day.”

Mirthful guitars and hushed strings begin the single, setting an early morning tone. It’s as though the sun is rising. Bono thinks people have the potential to overcome adversity. However, it’s often getting through the minor aggravations in life: overbooked hotels, traffic jams, etc. Bono’s friend believed he had made a right decision by starting over in a town. (“The heart is a bloom, shoots up through stony ground/But there’s no room, no space to rent in this town/
You’re out of luck and the reason that you had to care/The traffic is stuck and you’re not moving anywhere/You thought you’d found a friend to take you out of this place/
Someone you could lend a hand in return for grace.”)

Bono proclaims his friend’s advice: it’s great to be alive despite life’s pratfalls. “Day” can be heard shouted in the background, adding to his excitement. (“It’s a beautiful day, the sky falls/And you feel like it’s a beautiful day/It’s a beautiful day/Don’t let it get away.”)

His friend’s life is rather muddled. He doesn’t know what direction to head in. His can’t articulate what he wants to say to his girlfriend. He likes living in the suburbs even if nothing amazing happens there. He’s experienced many things and made mistakes. (“You’re on the road but you’ve got no destination/You’re in the mud, in the maze of her imagination/You love this town even if it doesn’t ring true/You’ve been all over and it’s been all over you.”)

In the bridge, Bono asks his friend to explain his laid-back philosophy to him. He wants to be as mellow as his friend. (“Touch me, take me to that other place/Teach me, I know I’m not a hopeless case.”)

The guitars cheep and warble, imitating nature sounds as Bono’s friend doles out his advice: it’s the details you pass by and do not take in. The world is full of forests and oceans to view. There are faraway places to visit and learn about. There’s the natural beauty such as snow-capped mountains and tuna scattering in oceans. There are cultures and rituals people are not familiar with and expose themselves to. There are skies full of rich color and animals to observe. (“See the world in green and blue/See China right in front of you/See the canyons broken by cloud/See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out/See the bedouin fires at night/See the oil fields at first light/See the bird with a leaf in her mouth/After the flood all the colours came out.”)

“Day” can be heard shouted again in the background a few beats before Bono starts the chorus. After learning from his friend, he reflects on it. He will visit and watch the things his friend mentioned. (“It was a beautiful day/A beautiful day/Don’t let it get away.”)

The bridge is repeated again. But this time, Bono needs his friend to get through to him. (“Touch me, take me to that other place/Reach me, I know Iím not a hopeless case.”)

His friend adds the possessions he doesn’t have won’t matter. He will learn but only after absorbing himself in the places and things to do. He then proclaims at the end it was a wonderful day. (“What you don’t have you don’t need it now/What you don’t know you can feel it somehow/What you don’t have you don’t need it now/You don’t need it now, you don’t need it now/Beautiful day.”)

A sleepy guitar ends the single, signaling nightfall.

The ethereal “Beautiful Day’s” viewpoint is presented in its instrumentation even more so than the lyrics. The single opens as though it were morning and people were waking up. It takes on a metaphorical meaning for Bono. He’s awakening to a new philosophy and wishes to change his pessimistic attitude

The album may not be U2’s most notable but “Beautiful Day” spins the inspirational genre into something intelligent and not cloying.

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