U2 are a weird band. In recent years, they sound as if want to make big, bold sounds that preach to the masses and appeal to everyone. It’s a tough balance to achieve for even one track and all too often the effort results in vacuous songs. Accordingly, it’s pretty exciting when I find a song that manages to strike the kind of wide-reaching messaging along with the personal, detailed touches. On occasion, U2 fails miserably. “Magnificent” seems exciting on the surface, but the dynamics rarely change in the meat of the track even when shifting from verse to chorus. And then the meaningless lyrics, making the titular adjective seem entirely plain by the time all is said and done.
On the other hand, “Beautiful Day” always hits me the right way. Instead of over-exuberance, the lyrics draw from the same basin as R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts,” eventually landing the earnest encouragement, “What you don’t have, you don’t need it now.” More importantly, the sonic content is more exciting starting with a hushed introduction and allowing for a proper pop in the chorus. And looking for depth in detail? The echoing synth is lovely, the Edge’s guitar chugs with satisfying distortion for the refrain, and the late-song “See the…” verse is refreshingly un-clunky (a powerful compliment if you consider the how the location description could have gone).
But for me, the real highlight is that drum fill prior to the first chorus. Oh, it’s hilariously reductive to put so much of a song on four percussive sounds; the effect is outstanding every time. It is the point in which the track always manages to win me over and pull me in for the long haul. “Beautiful Day” finds a sweet spot as an effortless pop song with appeal that last beyond first listen.