Desire is on one hand all about sex, about a want for a person. But you also can hear in the lyrics and see in the video that it’s more than that, it’s also about a desire for Hollywood, for fame, for the kind of power that stardom brings you. That power may be as a tv star, or movie star, or rock star, or gangster, or the preacher on tv, stealing hearts along with the money that people throw at him. Bono, standing here on top of the rock and roll world, seems to be taking shots at everyone around him - and even himself - as he wonders where all this comes from, and how did he get here?
There are several different versions of Desire out there, and each of them has their own little bit to make them unique. As a general rule, I’m not a big fan of the various dance mixes of U2 songs, there aren’t too many of them that I listen to more than a couple of times. However, I love it when Bono introduces little parts to songs to make them a little different from the standard version. For Desire, those differences can be seen everywhere you look. The repetition of “Money money money” in the Rattle and Hum movie version, along with a different verse at the end (“I could sleep with a thousand lovers”). The Hollywood remix (“shot the victim in the shoulder”), containing a few seconds reminiscent of the Still Haven’t Found video from Las Vegas. Even the Jimmy Fallon version from the Tonight Show after Bono broke his shoulder. Somehow, for Desire, I like them all.
Desire was the lead single for Rattle and Hum, an album that produced some really good songs, but was somehow buried by the movie overshadowing it, and the backlash that began arriving for the biggest band in the world. From that perspective, you might say that since The Joshua Tree was their peak, this was the start of the slippery slope, or rather the long slow glide down from the top. It’s certainly not the case that this song was the trigger for that, and it’s probably stretching things to say that they have come down from the top, too. They themselves keep talking about fighting off all challengers to their throne. Fortunately for us, the desire is still there for the band.
Musically Desire is interesting because the initial part of the song is simply the three instruments (guitar, bass and drums) playing the same rhythm together: bumbumbum-badum-bum (funnily enough, I had to choose here between writing bum or dum as the sound, but listening over and over, it’s clearly bum). As it goes along they go in and out of that pattern, with the bass staying with that tune while the others drop out of it (think of the section beginning with “She’s the dollars”). So although I may sometimes be critical of Adam playing somewhat simplistically, in this case you see he is clearly the focal point that the rest of the song hangs on. And that’s a good thing.
My rating for Desire: 7 / 10