U2: North Star Song Analysis

I’ll use the lyrics from Helsinki (below) to take a look at what I think this song is about.

The first thing that caught my eye in this song was the first line. I started wondering if the North Star is, indeed, 45 light years from Earth. At this time, the North Star is actually the star Polaris. And I had always thought that it always was and always would be. Strangely, no. It changes over the millenia.

So when I looked at how far Polaris is from Earth, I discovered it is a long way from 45 light years. So what’s up with that? So I started looking at stars that were 45 light years from home.

Interestingly I discovered that Gamma Cephei is that distance. And more interestingly is that this particular star is set to be the NEXT North Star!! Cool huh?

Which begs the question, how does that fit into this song? I think it may be as simple as setting the time some distance in the future. And perhaps the goal is as simple as the story appears to be. Two lovers, far apart and all that it means. And being set in the future, the story of love and lovers is, perhaps, timeless.

I took this a little farther and started looking at the name Gamma Cephei. Cephei is a binary star (2 stars circling each other, in my mind, as lovers). Gamma is the third letter of the Greek alphabet, perhaps mimicking the third planet, that being Earth. Also, gamma defines how, during an eclipse, the shadow of the moon will cover the Earth. So you could look at it as two people from afar, with one’s light cast across as a shadow to the other.

A bit of a stretch I suppose but I thought it interesting. So we have two people, far apart. The whole stanza with the bird seems to talk about struggles, particularly with money. So I wonder if the two people are separated because one had to leave to find a job. Gamma Cephei seems a bit far but hey, you go where the work is!

So where U2 is concerned, I always look for the spiritual side of the story. As you well know, lovers are often code for man and God. So I got thinking that maybe in a way, this is a plea to God. Where are you when times are so tough. Everyone is struggling and where are you? The North Star as the beacon of God.

I also found the use of night, traditionally used as a harbinger of evil, as the way to see God. Obviously the stars are often referred to as the heavens so really not a big deal but interesting use of the night. I think too, the plea for God, if I had that last line right, is expecting Jesus to come through and be by our sides in the end.

I’d love to hear anyone else’s thoughts on this brilliant song!

Forty-five light years
From home
Is where you are
Where I wanna be
Beside you

Looking for direction
Starved for a reflection
The space between you and me

I can’t wait any longer
For your love
I can’t wait
I can’t wait
I can’t wait any longer
For it
I can’t wait any longer
For your love

The birds still singing for their rent
They fly above the government
It’s not a song of discontent
Our money now is nearly spent

Here I am, a space guy, a boy,
Looking for love and logic
In the universe
Hey hey

I can’t wait any longer
For your love
I can’t wait
I can’t wait
I can’t wait any longer
For it
I can’t wait any longer
For your love

And a day packs it in
And you watch as the sun goes down
Pray that the night
Will come quickly now
Your hope
Your prayer
That the clouds leave the sky alone
‘Cause there’s only one light that can guide you
Guide you home

Say it, say it, say it
I can’t wait any longer
I can’t wait any longer
For your love
I can’t wait any longer
For your love
I can’t wait
I can’t wait
For your love
For your love

It’s like it takes me there beside you
‘Cause the lights all glow around you
You want it
You got it
You stay beside me like you were the son I know

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10 Responses to U2: North Star Song Analysis

  1. Savannah says:

    I find this a song one of longing in a relationship, whether a romantic one or with God. when bono sings…”I can’t wait any longer for your love”….I find it about being with someone who is holding back their love and that he feels “great distance” between them. The beginning verse explicitly states about being far away from one’s love, whether it be physical or metaphorical. The second verse suggests that one is working hard and has become successful and rich, but he is “spent” emotionally: “BIrd still singing for their rent, they fly about their govt. it’s not a song of discontent, I’ve money now, it’s me that spent;” Due to his success and wealth and excessively traveling the world, he now he is just “a space cowboy looking out for love and logic in the universe.” As with many of Bono’s lyrics, they have multiple meanings and one can interupt them in many ways. However, the first impression I got with this song is that he is struggling with his own love, fame, success, and wealth and there is something missing that he is searching for, and that lonve which he longs so much for, is far from him…whether that means with his romantic partner or with God. Remember, just because things appear so wonderful on the outside, does not mean that there is not still longing on the inside.

    • larrylootsteen says:

      Great thoughts Savannah!! And yes, you can always count on Bono for a multiple level lyric for so many sings. And that’s why I love spending time thinking about and writing about them. Always so many ideas! Thanks for sharing!

  2. mark says:

    More than likely way over-analyzing the song with science. Remember Bono is a mystic Christian. His work is often paralleled to the Psalms in the old testament. I believe he has offered this up as a song of worship. “Worth-ship”. The thing most dearest to him, he protects by relating to it in poetry. His faith is clearly what steers his musical journey. I love it. God relates to His elect through allegory.. “wives, lovers, children, sheep, etc. ” Bono/U2 does the same. They(u2) are not so cheesy like 99% of so-called Christian music that is literally borrowed pop 40 riffs with no creativity utilizing christianese cliches and terms that scream “religion” rather than relationship. Ok.. enough said. Thanks for posting this blog and holding the platform. Hey Bono.. if you read these things, keep up the good work. You can’t imagine the spiritual food you have given so many of us seeking the Face of Christ..

    • larrylootsteen says:

      No question on the science. I was just having a bit of fun with that. I always look at his lyrics for the spiritual side. It is always there.

      Thanks for the taking the time and sharing your thoughts!

  3. Natalia says:

    and ,then, you will be as always see…because, will be,with you, endlessly…

  4. Natalia says:

    now North Star…,is it’s name, called in Paris…as this side is more faced with spirituality and faith…as a slowly deep prayer to God…and you pray that the night comes quickly…verses showing rapidity, in contrast with soft music, creates a slow intensity, acoustically when the voice is all envelopped in blue soft lights…and dark all around, when the darkness here is the light, that is a guide to be with you…as you want to be with, as to protect you…as the son, as someone you love the most in and as your life…a real prayer to God ,as was, and will be, always, watching over you, without taken apart the eyes from you, even you don’t see and want to join in…and if the last verse change..reveal more that sense…you walk to the brightness the only that show your way… in the direction to home…to the road going to your heart…when you want to be fast…now you walk on, slowy, peacefully, harmoniously, as the music…is more to the sentiment it is inside your home…coming home, where God is, is you want always be…I can’t wait any longer for you love…is North Star…a very,precious song, full of spirit…the most beautiful prayer offered into a song…

  5. Wind says:

    Um…isn’t the first star that appears in the evening sky, Evening Star, aka Venus? Only heavenly body brighter, the Moon?

    So, I’m pretty sure you are aware that another name for Lucifer is Morning Star, aka Light Bringer. That name is in some translations of Isaiah 14:3-20.

    A title for Jesus, Morning Star in Revelations 22:16.

    From a numerology perspective, the reference to Lucifer works out to 1. The reference to Jesus works out to 11, or 1.

    There are 45 translations, not versions, of the Bible from 30 up to and including the King James Bible.

    Interesting, no?

  6. Natalia says:

    A song, with 3 names, should be an important song, and indeed, it is: at first, named, “ I Can’t Wait Any longer” – “For Your Love” , and more recently, with the elected named “North Star”, but in fact, are part from the same, one profound, Love-Worship song. I considered, at first, as one, like it was when emerged “For your Love”, too, “I Can’t Wait Any Longer For Your Love”, then, named “North Star”, the one which guides you, that means that U2 would enhanced, even more, on the spiritual transcendence of all of it. It may be, in the context, of the Songs of Ascent, which seems to belong to…..”North Star”….for me, is the first star that appears in the night, the only one, which could be seen, when the sky has taken his dense and intense blue colour, when it is not already the absolute black night. It is also the most brilliant star, shining during all the night, and all the nights and its brilliance overpass all the others (stars), if your vision, is, from below, from the Earth, watching up. It’s, too, the unique star- across all the starry sky-, that can be seen, a clear night, even, under a full moonlight (and- without moon, too, in total darkness, obviously, when it is glowing, and growing with more intensity enough).
    That Star, could be in sense, the symbol of love, which expands and provide such powerful light, guiding and illuminating, since it appeared, until the day would wake up again…and it reappears each night, as a perpetual spiritual close presence. “45” …,now,- I can’t help-, at the same time, through my eyes, as the number from an age, as the day of the first existence- in a way, as the first star present always in the sky. As the core of the song, in the middle of the song, several times, in repetition, indicates that those in love, separated by a very far and as unimaginable distance, as “45 years-light”, from, where you are and want to be.. It is true that Bono uses, frequently, and, without distinction, the love for a woman, (or men, thinking in terms of human equality), and God. Considering this, the North Star, could be, as well a man, a woman, and God too, as guiding you, looking for a direction through the light and that takes beside … “starving” to death… to get a reflection. The allusion about the birds (is strange, and worth more thinking about..) are they as birds flying higher than any government?…having to pay a rent to join their home, with the willingness to spend all the money to gain and join love (as the only money you have, is the love, inside?) in the context and goal as a song of hope and contentment reflected in the end. The idea of wanting to join love, is express by the fact, that hope and pray and say, that the night will come rapidly (remark that stars travel so fast as the speed of light)…and as the day, pass in it…for a space boy, watching at the space up, a boy, in marvel, with light-love, searching for love and, logic in the fields, where there are not … hoping that the day will make, its package, and leave soon, as watching as the sun goes down, slowly, inside below the horizon, with this orange calm sunset…as well as all the clouds abandon the sky, letting the night, most clearer, when The Star, will come, searching for the only light that can guide, which is this from and through love or God.
    At the end of the song…the searching of a light, guiding in the road, taken where the love wanted is… and it is like one reflects light over the other, because “all glow around you” and stay beside “like you were”…At this point, maybe the last line, could be… the “sun” (in fact, as before, it seems to indicate that this light was not from the sun but much more than that, so it could be possible to be referred to “the son” ..”I know”, as someone so close to you, you know…(with love-goodness to the direction to love ((even if, we don’t “know” (…God?))…but what is clear, is this is a wonderful, deep, and love-worship-spiritual-song…This is just and only a first impression, and will love to listen to the words and lyrics..and to the music too, for the whole interpretation…oh, how, would I love to listen to this very beautiful slow song, without lights, in the next concert…as U2 and Bono comment about….

    Larry, I have to say, that I love your interpretation, finding, a real star that exists, in the milky way…and maybe, yes, could be a “plea for God”…to accompany and be with you, given the direction to love…in the world we live…the stars, as the symbol of “heaven”, is very precious.. …maybe, will be the place where are those we love..where all is shining…

  7. Jason Primuth says:

    Great song, and great work on trying to understand the meaning.

    One other aspect to keep in mind was that the song was originally written as a tribute to Johnny Cash, specifically his “unwavering, immovable faith.” So the elements of spirituality and searching are quite likely spot on.

    More info:

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