Aw shucks. “Babyface” may be a very good song, catchy, memorable and indeed sonically interesting, but on side one of Zooropa it’s islanded within a sea of utter classics. It’s also the second shortest song on said album, probably owing to it having the most pop sensibility; no long intros or outros, for example. Ostensibly about image, celebrity and quite possibly pornography (the sexual element of it probably ranks higher than mere undertone), it’s lyrically postmodern – Checking out every frame/I got slow motion on my side, for example, showing how images within modern technology can be decontextualised, altered to create a “false reality”. Indeed, this idea of false reality leads on to delusion, which is surely where the narrator of the song is at. Asking How could beauty be so kind/To an ordinary guy? suggests the sort of individual who’s surpassed normal fandom (or even heavy fandom) and moved into something a wee bit creepy – although more sexual, the point of obsession being a Cover girl with natural grace, the narrator is nonetheless shifting towards a Charles Manson or Ricardo Lopez mindset. The song is, lyrically, too multifaceted to simply be some mere commentary on being a world-famous rock star and their “tribulations”; it’s all a key piece in the manifesto of the album’s first half.

Musically, the Edge in particular decides to pull out all the effects. Zooropa is effectively his album anyway – he produces part of it, he plays the synths and processed guitars that dominate it, and he has a lead vocal on the lead single, which hasn’t happened with U2 before or since. Nonetheless, here he rips out the tremolo, squelching it through all kinds of distortion effects, and adding that xylophone melody that riffs off the title. The drumming, too, swing effectively; it blurs that line between live drumming and drum machine, though, with that reverbing finish in particular sounding artificial. Overall, lyrics and music are attuned to one another here, and it winds up as a very effective song.


~ by 4trak on June 3, 2008.

3 Responses to “Babyface”

  1. How did you go from a lyric about obsession over beauty to Charles Manson? I don’t get that whatsoever. I’ve always felt that “Babyface” was merely a weak cut. The chorus is lame and the drum track is pedestrian. I often wonder what this would have sounded like had it been recorded during the Passengers project? I’m certain the rhythm track would have been drastically different, possibly stripped altogether. The synths and guitars are what make this affair listenable.

  2. Probably by pushing the “obsession” angle too far, if I’m honest.

  3. Ha!

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