If you like Miracle Drug, stop reading now. You’re not going to be happy about what I write. No, seriously, turn away, come back tomorrow for something much more interesting (I hope).
Miracle Drug is near the very bottom of any list of U2 songs I make. I have so many things wrong with the song that I don’t know where to start. It simply fails on too many levels to be a good song, from sound to lyrics. There is a slight bonus in the premise of the song, but it’s a little hokey even for Bono, and I’m afraid it doesn’t add much knowing about it. When they released Miracle Drug on How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb it was an immediate dud for me, and it had been quite a while since I had disliked a song as much as I dislike this one.
Okay, so the music isn’t that bad. It’s slow, and doesn’t really pick up throughout, but it’s also not a great Edge song. There aren’t any tricks to it, anything especially interesting. There’s what sounds like some strings in the background, adding a slight layer, but well, not enough. I’m trying to figure out what the main instrument being played in the slow parts is, it sounds like a guitar but it also sounds like a piano. Is it just some effects on something, or can I just not recognize what it is? Okay, so that is some slight interest.
Now I think about it, there’s quite a bit of drums in this song, but they’re surprisingly quiet, they’re mostly drowned out by other stuff, and even when things get happening the cymbals crashing are drowned out by the guitar. And thinking further, there is a stunning lack of bass in the song. Maybe that’s the problem with it. I mean, I guess it’s there, it just doesn’t show up anywhere throughout the song. Like everything else, overshadowed by the guitar parts.
Alright, let’s get to the elephant in the room, the thing I hate most about this song, the lyrics. Bono has said it’s about a kid who was a paraplegic, but a miracle drug enabled him to communicate, and showed he had many ideas inside the body that couldn’t do anything. A lovely story, you might say, and somewhat reflected in the song, but still it’s not enough to make a song about. Why? Because the parts of the song that are talking about this person (mostly the first couple of verses, plus bits here and there elsewhere in the song) are rather stiff, rather wordy, not necessarily the kind of thing that Bono usually writes, where there is plenty of ambiguity in things. That’s where he usually succeeds, painting images rather than describing scenes.
And then we get to the heart of the matter. Some of the lines in this song are awful. “Of science and the human heart there is no limit.” “I’ve had enough of romantic love, I’d give it up for a miracle drug.” “In science and in medicine, I was a stranger you took me in.” One of these lines in a song would be bad, but to get them all is horrible writing. Sorry, Bono, I hate to say this, but it’s true. These are some of the worst lines you’ve ever written, so descriptive, so prosaic, so hard to read and hard to hear. I cringe at each and every one of them. Like I said above, stick to those fantastic lines where you’re giving us an idea or an image to think about, rather than something so descriptive like this. Awful.
My rating for Miracle Drug: 1 / 10