Babyface came off the Zooropa album, the followup to Achtung Baby that was not nearly as successful. U2 were diving into a weird period after Achtung, it would bring out all this electronic music, and culminate in the lamentable Pop album. Zooropa has the distinction of being a very neutral album, nothing too good and nothing too bad. Babyface is probably the worst song on the album.
Musically it is very weak. Like I said it sounds all electronic, it sounds very dull. I often conflate it with Numb - the song that followed it on the album - in its dullness, their sounds are somewhat similarly bad. Babyface has a high tinkling sound throughout, which I just find annoying, and a rather prominent drum sound which is odd, and fairly simple. Even the bass, which you would probably call the musical highlight in this song, is somewhat muted and standard. Overall musically a mishmash.
Lyrics, the story appears to be someone who has an obsession with someone who is on tv, always watching them acting or performing. Some kind of watching a star on tv and imagining that they’re your girlfriend, and not quite coming back to reality. “I feel like I must be your best friend,” that’s something that a lot of people tend to imagine, that the people on tv are their friends and would like them. Every so often you hear a story of a crazed fan beginning to act out that story, and causing something bad to happen. In fact wasn’t there some actress killed around the time of this song, because the fan had seen them on tv? I seem to remember some kind of relationship to U2 as well, like he was a fan of one of U2’s songs and believed it was telling him things. I may be conflating this story somehow, and my timeline might not be there either.
There’s a bit of pedophilia going on in it, not just the babyface that is repeated, but the “slow down child,” “you’re everywhere child.” I don’t know, that might be a stretch, but it does imply that the person he’s watching is fairly young. They might be a teen or someone who looks that sort of age. Or I might be reading too much into it.
There’s a point where there’s a backup singer, Edge or Eno I don’t know, going bup-bup-bup over and over, and that’s really annoying too.
As it turns out, it was only ever played live five times, over the space of a week or so. Apparently they decided it was difficult to play live, either that or the song got a poor reaction from the crowd. Either way the band dropped it and never played it live again. Good riddance?
It’s hard to review a song like Babyface, because many of the songs that I have rated poorly at least still have some redeeming features, or an interesting back story. Babyface though just puts me into a negative mood, so much that I don’t want to listen to it when it comes on. I’ve thought more about my ratings lately, and I’ve concluded that the number is essentially how many times I’ll listen to the song when it comes on, meaning in this case if it comes on ten times, I might listen to it twice and press the next song button eight times. And for Babyface, I’m not sure but even that number might be too high. Worst song? No, but close.
My rating for Babyface: 2 / 10