U2: Grace

U2’s first album of this decade, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, was in many ways a return to the classic U2 sound of the 1980s. During the ’90s, the band satirized the whole rock star motif with Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop. Outrageous, over-the-top personas and glitzy, kitsch tours (see: PopMart) were the vehicles U2 used to critique an entire decade of excess, greed, consumerism, and decadence.

But with the dawning of a new millennium came a reinvented U2…all over again. The experimentalism of the ’90s yielded a return back to the bands simple rock roots. In a very real way, All That You Can’t Leave Behind was the re-embrace of the U2 sound of The Joshua Tree and The Unfotgettable Fire: a guitar, three chords, and the truth.

The last song on the album has always been one of my favorites. “Grace” is such a beautiful, lilting soliloquy on the reverberations of grace in a world gone mad:

It’s a name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything

I love this song because the music is the message. Gentle synthesizers cresting and receding around Bono’s softly spoken tenor. I love this song because it sweeps me up and takes me back to those moments when “you can hear the strings”, when (to borrow N.T. Wright’s beautiful phrase) the world has been put to rights, if only for a moment. I love this song because it reminds me of grace’s beauty and simplicity.

Grace finds goodness in everything. Indeed.

I know it won’t be on the playlist tomorrow night, but any discussion of my favorite U2 songs has to include “Grace”.

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