Mysterious Ways. Just the name is a thrill for me. This is one of my favorites. One of their best songs off one of their best albums. Great sound, great lyrics, great bridge, there is little wrong with this song. And supposedly it also birthed One, so that’s extra points in its favor. I could listen to Mysterious Ways all day long. It conjures up images of sex, abandon, passion, excitement. I can instantly imagine the first few bars of the song, in fact I bet I could play this whole song through in my head and get it almost exactly the way they play it. Can’t play it on my guitar though, at least not yet.
The video for Mysterious Ways is interesting, filmed in Morocco or somewhere similar I think (what’s the deal with U2 and Morocco?), but what it really brings is the shot of Bono shimmering against the orange wall, which is one of the iconic U2 images from the Achtung Baby years.
Obviously the title can lead to a religious interpretation. A well-known saying, but of course the band put their own twist on it by saying “she” instead of he, leading to questions about whether it really means religion, or it means sex, or both. And then there’s “If you want to kiss the sky better learn how to kneel,” which is kind of saying to get to heaven, you better pray. I think the religious references, although intentional, are really just tangential to the story in this case. The clear look at sex is taken by the various videos, especially the live performances where Edge’s wife-to-be is belly-dancing around the stage and Bono is trying to reach her.
I mentioned recently in the review of Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses that I am still not sure about one of the lyrics in this song. Is it “Johnny take a dive” or “Johnny take a drive”? It’s dive, but I can never remember which is correct. And why would Johnny go diving with his sister in the rain? But lyrically it’s all about honoring women, putting them up on a pedestal, and in many ways talking about the power a woman can have over a man. Kind of the “beckon and he will come” sort of idea, which I don’t necessarily agree with, in either direction.
I really love the bass on Mysterious Ways, I think it drives the whole song more than almost any other U2 song ever. Think about it right at the end of the first verse, “you’ve been running away from what you don’t understand, love” and right then you get the boop-boom-boom-badoom-boom-boom (yeah, you try writing it) and that little bit repeats throughout the song and it is fantastic. Love it. I have seriously considered buying a bass guitar just to play this song, although I would mangle it badly enough that I might not want to listen to it any more. Poor tradeoff I think.
My rating for Mysterious Ways: 9 / 10