U2 aren’t synonymous with California by any stretch of the imagination. The Beach Boys, Katy Perry, 2Pac, Red Hot Chili Peppers and others all seem to have an authoritative hold on California-related songs — but that didn’t stop U2 from channelling their inner west coast on Songs of Innocence.
“California (There is no End to Love)” is the third track on U2’s latest offering — and simply put, the song oozes joy, whether you like it or not. Beginning with church bells, synthesizers and an ode to the Beach Boys, as Bono and Edge play on Barbara Ann by singing “Barbara, Santa Barbara.” On first listen, it’s a bit jarring, but after repeated listens, the intro, Santa Barbara and all, works.
Written about the band’s first-ever trip to California, Bono recalls his experience during “California’s” verses, but does so in a way so that the song has a universal meaning — thanks in large part to the song’s brilliant chorus.
“California, then we fell into the shining sea
The weight that drags your heart down
Well, that’s what took me where I need to be
Which is here, out on Zuma
Watching you cry like a baby
California, at the dawn you thought would never come
But it did,
Like it always does”
Musically fueled by warm synthesizers, pulsating bass and a driving beat, “California” just feels happy. The the song bears no musical similarities, its mood is akin to that of “Beautiful Day” — just a warm, rock-pop song that seemingly only U2 can pull off so well.
Audio and video courtesy YouTube
Bono reflects on the tough times he faced growing up that eventually led him to Zuma beach out in California. But the song isn’t about just U2’s first visit to California; instead, it’s about recognizing that adversity points you in the right direction — and that even if you think the dawn will never come, it always does.
“California’s” chorus, simple as it is, is perfect.
“All I know,
And all I need to know
Is there is no,
Yeah there is no end to love”
Though now 54 years old, Bono nails the falsetto on “California’s” chorus, which complements the song’s verses perfectly. Instead of focusing on the hard times, the protagonist admits that the only thing he needs to know is that love is infinite — and that’s enough to get an individual through the tough times.
“I didn’t call you,
Words can scare a thought away
Everyone’s a star in our town
It’s just your light gets dimmer if you have to stay
In your bedroom, in a mirror
Watching yourself cry like a baby
California, blood orange sunset brings you to your knees
I’ve seen for myself,
There’s no end to grief
That’s how I know, and why I need to know that there is no end to love”
Now far removed from his youth, Bono offers salient points regarding youth itself. It would’ve been far easier for Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., and Adam Clayton to stay in Dublin and not have any aspirations. The same applies to young adults today. It’s very easy to wallow in self-pity and watch our star fade, but it’s imperative to realize that even if there is no end to grief, sadness and depression, that the inverse is equally true (and more important) — there is no end to love.
“California” reaches a breakdown after its second chorus, before The Edge quickly explodes with a minimalistic guitar solo. Bono wails “California’s” chorus one last time, before adding a lyrical coda to end the song:
“We come and go
Stolen days you don’t give back
Stolen days are just enough”
No, we aren’t going to be on this planet forever, but we have to take what life gives us — after all, it’s all we’ve got.
“California” was actually one of my least-favorite songs off of Innocence upon first listens, but it’s now easy to recognize the song as one of the best pop songs U2 have recorded — and that’s saying a lot.