The great thing about The Fly is that it is such a perfect symbol of the Achtung Baby era for U2. The bad thing about The Fly is that it is such a perfect symbol of the Achtung Baby era for U2.
A great song, a fun song, it has great music and lyrics and everyone loves when it comes on. The problem is that it is very much the image of U2 in the early nineties, or more specifically it’s the image of Bono that everyone thinks of when they think of him. So anytime I’m getting in a debate (read: argument) with someone about U2, all they have to do is talk about Bono and the giant glasses and that whole The Fly persona, and I have no defense to that. I find it somewhat embarrassing myself, I can’t say anything that I don’t really believe myself. Because frankly, that persona really is very much a product of that time, and even though we can say that he chose to do it as a parody, that’s not what casual viewers of U2 have seen.
As for the lyrics, it is a series of seemingly disconnected sayings, but all pulled together like this they really work well. Each of them has a little bit of thought behind it, until you start to realize that they’re really kind of dark and twisted in a way. My favorite is the self-referential “every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief, all kill their inspiration then sing about their grief,” it is a phrase I think of often for various reasons. Can’t tell you a specific trigger for that one, it seems to just pop up in my head all the time. And that is actually a good thing, because I like thinking of that line, and being reminded of the rest of the song.
So to the question of the night, and that is which version of The Fly is my favorite. Now I have long had a love for the Zoo TV version, I have always enjoyed watching it with the words running on the screen, all the different phrases. I think I’ve said before that I always wanted that as my screensaver, the words looping over and over again. I’d be fired if I put it on my work computer. Zoo TV was the blow away show that I remember to this day, and I’ve seen the videos so many times, it is really just great. But then along came the Boston video from Elevation, and that quickly became a strong contender. Mainly because of the intro, which reminds me of the Shining Stars coda from With Or Without You, at least musically. Then Bono does a little random chanting, then into the “love, shine like a burning star”, and you realize what the song is, and you think they’re doing a slow acoustic version, which would probably be okay, but then they explode into the song with the full band and it turns into awesome. So yeah, a challenge to pick which one I like best.
My rating for The Fly: 7 / 10