When I Look At The World

If nothing else, U2 do at least come up with great intros. With this number, the set-up is quite simple; just a group of guitars to which I’m pretty sure the only possible adjective is “flurry”. It is a flurry of guitars. It’s almost a shame that it doesn’t continue like that, but all the same, what results isn’t bad. “When I Look At The World” has a lot more dynamic than, and thus works better than, its predecessor “Peace On Earth”, and arguably carries a lot more of a realist message too. Here, Bono isn’t arguing for something as nebulous and probably unachievable as world peace; instead, it seems to be (or at least, can be interpreted as) an answer song to critics, in particular with regards to Bono’s political campaigning.

Naturally, Bono isn’t as crass as to make specific, trolling accusations against specific individuals (for that, you may want to see Guns’N’Roses’ “Get In The Ring“), instead pointing out general insensitivities amongst what appears to be a singular “you” –

When there’s all kinds of chaos
And everyone is walking lame
You don’t even blink now, do you?
Don’t even look away

…which seems to depict an individual who is, at least, emotionally detached from the situation for whatever reason. It could be interpreted as being positive, that the person in question is capable of aiding those in need without being emotionally overcome, but I can’t help but hear a slightly scathing tone to Bono’s voice. In any event, the song seemingly gets progressively more ambiguous and sophisticated as it moves on, and given that the first verse is a little bit clumsy and obvious, that’s easily a good thing.

As for the music, that intro doesn’t erupt into anything spectacular, but to compare it to the similarly-placed-and-toned “Peace On Earth”, it’s fair to say that “When I Look At The World” is much more interesting. It operates almost like a kind of uniform mass that generally shifts elements about within it; we’ve got drums, possibly beats in the background, bass, acoustic guitar strumming about in a low-key manner, and the kind of grinding, amorphous electric guitar playing that’s slightly evocative of “United Colours” off the Passengers album. So much for “return to Joshua Tree form”.

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~ by 4trak on May 11, 2008.

3 Responses to “When I Look At The World”

  1. Actually Bono has stated that the song is sung from the point of view of someone else looking at him. It is the Bono basher’s point of view (not the anonymous kind but someone close to him) addressing Bono’s supposedly “holier than thou” attitude. It’s someone who has a very cynical view of the world usually but admits that when they are with Bono they can see things differently, but unfortunately when they aren’t they go back to their own view. He said that most people assume it’s him singing about Ali and that’s fine with him because its a bit cheeky for him to sing about himself.

  2. Dang. To be fair, it’s not a song I have especially sussed.

  3. No problem, just figured you might want to know. Don’t feel bad. It’s not like he has talked about it endlessly or anything, it’s just that I read LOTS of U2 stuff. Your interpretation is perfectly valid. That’s the great thing about most of U2’s songs. They can be interpreted so many different ways depending on your viewpoint or frame of reference.

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