I’ve talked before about how it takes a while for me to like many U2 songs, because their newness tends to make me concentrate on learning them rather than enjoying them. This is still the case with many of the songs on Songs Of Innocence, because it’s only been a few months since the album came out. They’re starting to coalesce into their respective ratings, and some of the songs I find bouncing around in my head every so often - a good sign.
Sleep Like A Baby Tonight is so far coming out a little below average for Songs Of Innocence. It’s not a great song, it’s not a bad song, it just is. It hasn’t popped into my head very often. It is falling into the group of songs that are not terrible, but not interesting enough to listen to on a regular basis. In other words, it’s kind of bland, and I have to admit that there are a number of U2 songs falling into this category. They’re the songs that are rating a four or five out of ten, and they’re the songs that I won’t deliberately seek out, and will sometimes skip over when they come on, depending on my mood.
It took me a while to understand this song, and some googling too. Initially listening to it I thought it was about Bono and his father, sitting around the breakfast table, but I did not get several of the references within the song (“Purple robes are folded on the kitchen chair”). I actually thought, well, maybe he had a purple dressing gown. But continuing to read about the song led me to the understanding that this is actually about a priest, and the abuse that happened within the church in Ireland back in the day. Now, knowing that, the song is a little creepier than I thought.
I don’t get the “Tomorrow dawns like a suicide” line. I assume it’s referring to the victims of abuse killing themselves rather than face what they went through. The line itself doesn’t make sense though, even as a metaphor, how can something be like a suicide? The dawn kills itself? What does that mean? A bit too literary for me, I think.
Musically the song doesn’t do much for me either. It’s a standard, quiet, possibly hymnal, song, up until pretty much the end where it gets a little jarring, and I don’t like that part at all. If I think about it in context with the lyrics, it can be quite painful, but overall it’s just off, compared to the rest of the album.
So it might come to be thought of as an important song, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. If you want an important song, look at Sunday Bloody Sunday, loud and out there and in your face as to the problems it’s trying to address. This song is quiet and sneaky, trying to insinuate rather than say it out loud. I think priests abusing people is something that should be shouted out loud, because the hiding it and shifting the blame and moving the priests away instead of punishing them, that’s what has caused the problem to continue for many more years than it should have.
My rating for Sleep Like A Baby Tonight: 4 / 10