"Soon" is one of the best lyrics Bono has ever written IMO. Bono hasn't lost his ability, he's just become gun-shy.
Really? Soon is the best that Bono has done? Not even in his top 50 in my opinion, and not even close to So Cruel, Please, The Wanderer, The First Time, I Still Haven't Found, One, Until the End of the World, When Love Comes to Town, Bullet the Blue Sky, etc.....
Sing yourself on down the street
Sing yourself right off your feet
Sing yourself away from victory
And from defeat
Sing yourself with fife and drum
Sing yourself to overcome
The thought that someone has lost
And someone else has won
Most of those other songs are fantastic, you're right. "Soon" isn't a finished, completely fleshed-out work; I was only speaking in terms of, say thinking of the chorus lines in particular versus the chorus of any other song, or any isolated block of lyrics. But the sheer transcendence of those lines in "Soon", how they sum up a paradigm about spiritual equality in contrast with the "winners" and "losers" of this world, is just phenomenal, and it's not something that's as commonly written about. The concise precision of the lyrics make them phenomenal.
If I were to compare them to some of those other songs you'd listed, I'd say, yeah, they're better. "So Cruel" is poetic, but it's got some kind of cliche and facile lines in it, especially with the hook: "Sweetheart, you're so cruel." Well, OK. Not that there wasn't any emotion behind the writing, but I think a robot could have come up with that one.
I love "The First Time" too, but again, a lot of the lines are kind of cliche and simple: "I've got a lover. A lover like no other. She got soul soul soul sweet soul." It's kind of a repeat of the sentiment of about a bazillion other songs. I know, the lyric goes on and develops into a sort of prodigal son idea. "Soon" doesn't have a wide arc to develop meaning over the course of a standard-form length, but what my point is, is that there's a density and uniqueness of meaning in the lyrics of "Soon" that isn't found very often in lyrics.
Anyway, the whole idea of "Soon" is kind of to get beyond figuring out the winners and losers anyway...so maybe this is some, er...poetic irony?