What U2’s Song “Staring at the Sun” Want To Tell Us
“Staring” is the gerund form of the verb “to stare”, which means to gaze fixedly and intently to an object with eyes wide open. A person who stares is usually considered as bold, challenging and defiant. In fact, we commonly use the expression “to stare one in the face” to speak about a situation when someone has to confront something. And that is exactly what U2 tells us they do on their 1997’s hit “Staring at the Sun”.
The music is an anthem to freedom of thought and asks us to think with our own head. “Staring at the Sun” is on the Irish band’s 9th album, “Pop”, and reached number 3 in the UK singles chart. In this blog post, we analyze the metaphor of the sun by explaining the possible meaning of the song that is one of the most iconic U2 themes ever released.
Keep up with us and learn more about the meaning of the song. But, first, let’s watch the video.
“Staring at the Sun”: The End of a Long Summer of Apathy
A summer day in a green grassy garden, below a willow tree, is the background scenario to a song reflecting on themes, such as God and society. Embedded in the lyrics of “Staring at the Sun” is a critique of intransigent behavior, military action and a blind society that refuses to see problems that concern us all in the world.
The song speaks about an unchangeable and somehow comfortable apathy that is metaphorically compared to a long, hot summer, which hides a very different reality. Comfortably sitting in their homes, or lost in their lives, people tend to forget the problems that apparently do not affect them.
And that is why it makes so much sense to speak about U2’s “Staring at the Sun” in a blog like ours, where you can find posts on themes like Climate Change or Global Warming.
The song is also an anthem to curiosity. We challenge you to go back to your childhood and remember your grandparents’ telling you: “Don’t look at the sun, or you’ll go blind”. Well, now we ask: does the warning ever stop you from trying?
Besides, the song says that most people are afraid of what they would find if they take a look inside of themselves. And that’s another reference to the individual apathy and emptiness of people who, while knowing about the problems that affect our society, refuse to do anything about them.
A Reference to Crazy Californian Students?
“Staring at the Sun” played a major role in the band’s attempt to reinvent itself. The single brings together alternative rock influences with techno sounds and electronic instruments. The verse “Stuck together with God’s glue” was borrowed from the title of an album of a fellow Irish band, called “Something Happens”.
This is just a theory, but in the 1960’s there was a myth of a group of young Californian University students that spent so much time staring at the sun after using LSD, that they really went blind. Some even say that Bono Vox, the author of the lyrics (together with The Edge) was one of those students, but that is not true at all.
In this case, “those who can’t do” would be the teachers who imposed a certain vision of society, defining morals and creating myths that constrain the way of living and the way of thinking. On a bigger scale, they also could be politicians, governments and rulers who define the laws of our society.
U2 and Bono Vox as Activists
U2 was formed in 1976 in Dublin (Ireland) and consists of Bono Vox (vocals and guitar), The Edge (guitar, keyboards and back vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar) and Larry Mullen, Jr (drums). From their early career on, the band and its members have been associated with humanitarian causes.
The group has collaborated with many other artists, celebrities and politicians. In 1984, for instance, it participated in the Band Aid, to raise money for a famine in Ethiopia. Other causes were unemployment, the environment, HIV/AIDS and support for victims of natural catastrophes like the hurricane “Katrina”.
The front man Bono Vox is himself a prominent activist for Africa, using his enormous influence in aid concerts and in meetings with politicians. In fact, Bono co-founded the ONE Campaign, EDUN and Product Red to help Africa.