In the band's autobiography, U2 by U2, Bono explains this "is a song about your own spleen, your own hypocrisy, your own ability to change shape and take on the colors of whatever environment you're in, like a chameleon. 'I must be an acrobat, to talk like this and act like that.'"
"In amongst the dark romance, 'Acrobat' has a bit of venom about it," says U2 guitarist The Edge. "It's in the bitter, John Lennon tradition of 'Working Class Hero,' slightly snarling and cynical."
This is dedicated to Delmore Schwartz, an author known for the 1937 short story "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities." Bono was reading a book of Schwartz's stories and poems while writing the song. He told NME the book "was on my mind when I was writing the words... It's hard to wrap the book up in a few lines, but Delmore Schwartz is kind of a formalist... I'm the opposite. I'm in the mud as a writer, so I could do with a bit of [Schwartz], and that's why I enjoy him."
Although it was rehearsed prior to the third leg of the Zoo TV Tour, "Acrobat" had never been performed live until U2 played it at the first night of the Experience + Innocence Tour at Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 2, 2018. Every other song from Achtung Baby had gotten at least one live performance.