Lyrics – “You’re The Best Thing About Me”

Here’s the best interpretation I have of the lyrics to U2’s new single release, You’re The Best Thing About Me, from their upcoming album Songs of Experience.

Is it a song about breaking up with someone you love?

Lyrics

When you look so good
The pain in your face doesn’t show
When you look so good
And baby you don’t even know

When the world is ours
The world is not your kind of thing
Full of shooting stars
Brighter as they’re vanishing

Oh, you’ve seen enough
To know it’s children who teach
You’re still free enough
To wake up on a bed or a beach

You’re the best thing about me
The best thing that ever happened to a boy
You’re the best thing about me
I’m the kind of trouble that you enjoy

You’re the best thing about me
The best things are easy to destroy
You’re the best thing about me
The best thing about me

I’ve been crying out
How bad can a good time can be?
Shooting off my mouth
That’s another great thing about me

I have everything
But I feel like nothing at all
There’s no risky thing
For a man who’s determined to fall

You’re the best thing about me
The best thing that ever happened to a boy
You’re the best thing about me
I’m the kind of trouble that you enjoy

You’re the best thing about me
The best things are easy to destroy
You’re the best thing about me
Why am I…
Why am I walking away? (walking away)
Why am I walking away?

(Edge):
I can see it all so clearly
I can see what you can’t see
I can see you love her loudly
When she needs you quietly

You’re the best thing about me
The best things are easy to destroy
You’re the best thing about me
Why am I…
Why am I walking away? (walking away)
Why am I walking away?

 

Analysis

Photo Credit: wikihow.com

As with most U2 lyrics, there are multiple perspectives to take on interpreting its meaning.  My initial take on the song is that it is a breakup letter or describes a breakup is about to happen by someone who is reluctant to leave despite loving that person.  It could be because it’s not a good fit of a relationship or that the songwriter (protagonist) can foresee the end.

In an interview with Ruud de Wild, Bono spoke about this song as awaking from a nightmare: “I had this dream where I destroyed our relationship and I woke up and I’ve blown it.”

The start of the breakup is introduced at the start of the song:

When you look so good
The pain in your face doesn’t show
When you look so good
And baby you don’t even know

The subject of the protagonist could be the love of the singer’s life:

You’re the best thing about me
The best thing that ever happened to a boy

But sounds a warning that perhaps that person is better to be free of him:

Oh you’ve seen enough
To know it’s children who teach
You’re still free enough
To wake up on a bed of a beach

The protagonist feels he must move on and walk away, in fear of (presumably) destroying the best thing that happened to him, “The best things are easy to destroy.”   I cannot help but sketch the protagonist as someone who is self-aware of his (self) destructive or negative traits:

– I’m the kind of trouble that you enjoy

– Shooting off my mouth

– …a man who’s determined to fall

and that staying together might lead to the destruction of the subject or their relationship.  The conflict to stay or go is repeatedly emphasized through the chorus, “Why am I walking away?” despite the verses that highlight his love for the other person.  From the perspective of a friend or buddy, Edge’s lyrics makes the decision to leave even harder:

I can see it all so clearly
I can see what you can’t see
I can see you love her loudly
When she needs you quietly

Anyone who has had to make the decision to leave someone they love or has been on the receiving end of a break-up might relate to this song.  This is a very mature subject and in line with the “Songs of Experience” diary/letter format.

The upbeat tempo to the song, the uplifting title, and mostly positive lyrics suggest this is a happy song on the surface, but I think U2 likes to throw listeners off the obvious path, and compel you to ruminate over the lyrics’ true meaning.  For example on the last tour, Bono explained I Will Follow “…was a suicide note about a kid that wanted to follow his mother to the grave,” despite its rocking and upbeat pace.  Alternatively, Lemon has a disco shimmer, even though it’s a song about his earliest memory of his dead mother.  These are fascinating juxtapositions and auditory/literary mechanisms to hide the meaning of a song’s lyrics.  I think You’re The Best Thing About Me follows that same contradictory model and is a heart-wrenching song.  The abrupt ending and question, “Why am I walking away?” leaves the listener with more questions than answers, like anyone on the end of a breakup.

one comment

  1. paul - reply

    nice read and have to agree on what you say … love the song and can only hope the guitar drive is allowed to rock hard when played live

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