The Ground Beneath Her Feet

U2’s 2000 album was supposed to be All That You Can’t Leave Behind, but for non-UK or Japan buyers it’s more like Most of What You Can’t Leave Behind, as this song (also on the Million Dollar Hotel OST) is added onto the end. This might seem like a minor point, but really this song fits the album title so well due to its circumstances, because part of what U2 can’t leave behind, of course, are their friends and contemporaries. Salman Rushdie, who made one of his first public appearances after the declaration of his fatwah, wrote the lyrics to this – or more accurately, he wrote the poem that gave rise to this song in his book of the same name. Incidentally, one line from the book is left out – She was my ground, my favorite sound, my country road, my city street, my sky above, my only love, and the ground beneath my feet – which is presumably only for reasons of flow; I can’t really think why else, as it merely adds detail to what is otherwise a set of lines flowering with imagery and emotion in what is, at least, a Western perception of Arabic writings.

Naturally with such Arabic lyrics (see that outtake line above, typical in dense use of metaphor and sensual imagery) there follows an Arabic sound, organ and strings added. What’s really different and exotic, however, is the same tactic employed by “Stuck In A Moment“, namely the use of definite major and minor triads in roughly equal measure, appropriate for the hyperbolic-bordering-on-Romanticism nature of the lyrics (Oh come back above/Where there is only love), and the confusion between opposites (Black is white/And cold is heat). And then, of course, there’s the ‘good bit’, where the whole song swells into a huge mass of guitars and vocals and strings before the coda, a cinematic air fitting for a song that turns up in a film, although MDH isn’t really what I think of; instead, I’m left with a feeling of massive camera pans over swathes of desert, cities of ornate architecture and vast sandstorms. Like “Fast Cars” four years later, Americans and mainland Europeans are robbed with this song, although the existence of good music, of course, should never be regretted. Exotic, dramatic and huge, it also adds to the album, and ends it better than “Grace”.

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~ by 4trak on August 15, 2008.

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