"Every Breaking Wave" as written by Adam Clayton, Dave Evans, Paul David Hewson and Larry Mullen....
Every breaking wave on the shore
Tells the next one there'll be one more
And every gambler knows that to lose
Is what you're really there for

Summer I was fearless
Now I speak into an answer phone
Like every fallen leaf on the breeze
Winter wouldn't leave it alone
Alone

If you go
If you go your way and I go mine
Are we so
Are we so helpless against the tide
Baby, every dog on the street
Knows that we’re in love with defeat
Are we ready to be swept off our feet
And stop chasing every breaking wave

Every sailor knows that the sea
Is a friend made enemy
And every shipwrecked soul knows what it is
To live without intimacy

I thought I heard the captain’s voice
But it's hard to listen while you preach
Like every broken wave on the shore
This is as far as I could reach

If you go
If you go your way and I go mine
Are we so
Are we so helpless against the tide
Baby, every dog on the street
Knows that we’re in love with defeat
Are we ready to be swept off our feet
And stop chasing every breaking wave

The sea knows where are the rocks
And drowning is no sin
You know where my heart is
The same place that yours has been
And we know that we fear to win
And so we end before we begin
Before we begin

If you go
If you go your way and I go mine
Are we so
Are we so helpless against the tide
Baby, every dog on the street
Knows that we’re in love with defeat
Are we ready to be swept off our feet
And stop chasing every breaking wave


Lyrics submitted by Dr. D, edited by ctefel, boyplu

"Every Breaking Wave" as written by Dave Evans Adam Clayton

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Every Breaking Wave song meanings
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  • +6
    My InterpretationThe tides are continuous and relentless. If you "chase" all the time, you will never be satisfied. Sometimes you have to let go, but not without some sense of ownership. You are still accountable for your actions. Make good choices... but know when to surrender... not out of fear but because at some point, you need to know your limits. It's nature's version of the Serenity Prayer.
    ctefelon September 12, 2014   Link
  • +6
    My Interpretation--
    In an early version, the chorus was as follows:

    I don’t know if I’m that strong,
    to be somebody
    to need someone.

    It’s an interesting idea, that one might need sufficient strength to need something, or maybe to admit the need. It implies that the addressee, we, are in denial of our fragility, in denial of our aloneness, and our brokenness.

    This idea raises questions not answered by the song. Where could the strength come from? How might such an admission resolve?

    --
    This masterpiece of a lyrical work does, though, say much more, even as it leaves those questions unanswered. Its central theme is tragic self-sabotage that emerges from the context of this denial. Nearly every stanza speaks to it, a cycle of despair and undermining one’s own hopes. The gambler is seeking the loss, although he only half knows it. The sailor knows the sea need not be an enemy; she is made one. We fear to win. We are afraid to speak our dreams out loud. [Words could scare the thoughts away.] Must they end before they begin? In his own magical way, Bono manages to accuse the listener even as he exhorts. Like the prophets of Old Testament, he's scolding and begging at the same time. He turns you into the addict wreaking havoc in solipsism and narrowness, or the ironist wearing a hazardous cynicism like armor.

    The images of human-spun travail are interspersed with images of natural cycles of loss... broken waves, winters, and falling leaves. These are in the order of things. It frames the question powerfully -- Are we bound to fall as they are? This is all in the words folks, straightforward. Are we helpless against the tide?

    --
    Finally, there is the uncertain invitation to some kind of rebellion or courage. He nearly presents us a humanist’s version of Pascal’s wager. It is convincing because it is framed in the most personal of terms, a challenge to honor a bond to someone we love.

    If you go….
    If you go your way and I go mine,
    Are we so…

    The lyrics never condescend to grant us the “then” of that powerful “if / then” proposition. Do we need it, or might we already know the feel of that shipwreck.
    mpmc23on November 10, 2014   Link
  • +5
    My InterpretationThis song is about falling and/or being in love and being afraid to lose and get hurt. Love is all about taking risks. You're either all in or you're not. It's all or nothing. So most people either hesitate or simply avoid it all together. Most people will get into relationships that feel safe rather than take a chance with the someone that has the power to either make them the happiest they will ever be but who also has an extreme amount of potential of completely destroying them. Saying "every dog knows" means it's overly obvious. There's no denying it. You know that this particular specific love interest is absolute and that this is the one person. Knowing this, makes it even scarier because you are certain that you do without a doubt love this person above all and everything else but the uncertainty lies in whether or not this person will hurt you or vice versa. Sadly, for most it's better to not take that risk. Better to save yourself now than be left with a bleeding wound that could possibly drown (kill) you.
    nickeyslyricson November 18, 2014   Link
  • +5
    General CommentI think it's about someone trying to decide whether to stick with something (a relationship) or give up every time an obstacle (breaking wave) is presented. There are always so many reasons/excuses to give up on anything when it starts to get hard. Will you stick it out or head toward shore (safety) on the next breaking wave?
    treesyngeron January 07, 2015   Link
  • +4
    General CommentFavorite off Songs of Innocence at the moment. The line 'And drowning is no sin' says it all. Sometimes you have to cut your losses and move to the next thing life has to offer. I love it. I love U2.
    boypluon September 14, 2014   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI think this song has touched my soul more than I even know right now. One thing that sets a good artist from a great one is exactly what is going on here. This song can be interpreted many different ways and especially if you can relate it to your life or what is going on in your life at the moment.

    I personally interpret this song as this...

    When love comes into your life will you accept it or will you run the other direction like you have done many times before because of the heartache it could bring or because its just easier.

    I have come to the conclusion I am ready to swept off my feet... but its not just up to me to make that decision.

    Love, love, love
    megajer71on November 12, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis is my favorite off the album too. I love the melody, very classic U2. The lyrics in this one speak to me most since for a lot of my life, I suffered from depression and could not accept my own failures. I was always trying to fix my life and work on myself to meet other people's standards, but it only ever made me MORE unhappy.
    thefly1126on September 14, 2014   Link
  • +2
    General CommentSo I know that a lot of over-zealous Christians try to force too much religious meaning into U2's songs; but to my ears this one really does have lots of biblical imagery. Ephesians 4:14 says ..."we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine..." and 1 Timothy 1:19 talks about those who have made a shipwreck of their faith. Both of these are compatible with the song, both in theme and especially in imagery. But I think the most obvious example is the lyric, "I thought I heard the captain's voice, but it's hard to listen while you preach." In Hebrews 2:10 Jesus is called the "captain of our salvation." Given that Bono uses a word (preach) that is usually religious in nature, this one seems the most clear to me that he is referencing the Bible verse. And the content makes sense, too: Bono is saying that in his endeavors to do good, he has occasionally not made time to listen to his captain, i.e. spend time with God.
    U2 are notorious about blurring the line between religious expression and romantic expression--they have even admitted to doing it on purpose in print--so I don't think the comments that interpret this song as being about "love" are wrong; but since no one had identified the religious/spiritual references, I thought I'd take a crack.
    craigsmith216on May 05, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is how i interpret this song. It talks about problems that occur in relationships that they will never end. But even if thats the case it we should keep holding on and fall in love with defeat
    godwin9045on September 19, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTo me it sounds like Bono is saying 'Baby every dog on the street....' not 'maybe every dog on the street'

    General thoughts, you get mired into your habits, what you think is the reason/reality maybe isn't the stark truth, and we chase futility or self-sabotage.

    So far this is my favorite song from Songs of Innocence.
    RunningMadon September 19, 2014   Link

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