Even Better Than The Real Thing
by U2

Album: Achtung Baby (1991)
Charted: 12 32


  • This song began with the title "The Real Thing" during the Rattle And Hum sessions. It's a play on the Coca-Cola slogan "It's The Real Thing." The song was intended to make a statement about commercialism.
  • In the band's autobiography U2 by U2, Bono explains the song "is much more reflective of the times we were living in, when people were no longer looking for the truth, we are all looking for instant gratification. It's not substantial as a lyric but it suggests a certain sexual tension and desire to have some fun playing in the shallows. 'Sliding down the surface of things.' There is a moment when you want to read a magazine, not a novel. It was nice to take some of the more fun bits of rock 'n' roll. We really needed that playful thing to balance what was at the heart of the album and make the bitter pill a little sweeter to swallow."
  • The video was directed by Kevin Godley, who with his creative partner Lol Creme, had made a number of groundbreaking videos, including Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" and Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Two Tribes." For "Even Better Than The Real Thing," Godley had camera rigs built that could revolve around each member of the band, creating a constant and unusual motion. They called it "the wheel thing."

    Godley also mixed in quick shots of advertising ephemera, including slogans and product shots, ending with a title card reading "WATCH MORE TV." By the end, the viewer has been assaulted with a barrage of constantly moving images, making the point that long exposure to overstimulated media and be harmful to your health. It tied in with the Zoo TV concept.
  • U2 performed this on their 1992-1993 Zoo TV tour with huge monitors flashing messages and video clips behind the band. This was one of the most daring and technically sophisticated tours of its time, bombarding the audience with a barrage of visuals to parody the way advertising messages were being thrust on the public.
  • The video marked the first collaboration between U2 and Kevin Godley. He went on to direct their videos for "Numb," "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me," "Sweetest Thing" and "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of."

    In a Songfacts interview, Godley talked about making the "Even Better Than The Real Thing" video. "It looks like the camera is actually moving around the performance, 360 degrees, up and over them and underneath them, because that's how the track felt to me," he said. "It was quite extraordinary, and what was extraordinary about it was how the band reacted to that setup. They instinctively understood what it was capable of and worked the camera in a mode that would give us the best results, so it was a perfect marriage of a half-formed idea becoming a fully-formed idea, and on the day of the shoot, the performers reacted so well to it that it doubled its potential."
  • Back when they gave out such an award, this won the MTV Video Music Award for best special effects in 1992.
  • A single with dance remixes of this track went to #8 in England and was popular in clubs.
  • Richard Branson asked to use this song to launch his Virgin Cola, a competitor of Coke, but U2 refused.

Comments: 10

  • Chris from Germany U2 at that time could make everything they wanted and they were the darlings of the press, fans and of the world. This song is strange and has a strange video.
  • Davíd from Woburn, MaI agree with Steve, now that I listen to it with that in mind... give me one more chance, slide down the surface of things, and of course the title of the song itself. Still a great song regardless.
  • Steve from Binghamton, NyI know it wasn't written with it in mind, but the words and the music fit very well with someone relapsing on drugs...
  • Maddie from Rochester, NyThe line "the sun wont melt our wings tonight" refers to the Greek myth about Icarus and Daedalus where Icarus made fake wings but he flew too close to the sun and they melted.
  • Acrobat from Adelaide, AustraliaCoke wanted to use this for an add, U2 told them to shove off.
  • Shehryar from Islamabad, Pakistanyes there are some safe shots from porn flicks, with sound, in there
  • Matt from Bossier City, LaI think you can look at this song as a statement about the over-sexualization of our society. With things like plastic surgery and pornography becoming so mainstream in the media, we are constantly led to believe that it sould be, "Even better than the real thing". If you look closely at the images in the video (one of my all-time favorites) I think you'll see some support for this point of view.
  • Ryan from Albion, Nycover bands always play this song,like the dopplegangers..i guess its all in the title, huh? (which im pretty sure theyre NOT cuz u2 is incredible)
  • Wes from Atlanta, GaSimply reminds me of an incredible past relationship. Great lyrics and the main rift makes the whole song. Tell a girl that this song reminds you of them and watch the reaction!
  • Nick from San Francisco, CaThis song was really good. Then it inspired U2 to spend the rest of the 1990s trying to add techno touches to match the sound of this one. That wasn't really good.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Francis Rossi of Status Quo

Francis Rossi of Status QuoSongwriter Interviews

Doubt led to drive for Francis, who still isn't sure why one of Status Quo's biggest hits is so beloved.

Rosanne Cash

Rosanne CashSongwriter Interviews

Rosanne talks about the journey that inspired her songs on her album The River & the Thread, including a stop at the Tallahatchie Bridge.

Dexys (Kevin Rowland and Jim Paterson)

Dexys (Kevin Rowland and Jim Paterson)Songwriter Interviews

"Come On Eileen" was a colossal '80s hit, but the band - far more appreciated in their native UK than stateside - released just three albums before their split. Now, Dexys is back.

Billy Joe Shaver

Billy Joe ShaverSongwriter Interviews

The outlaw country icon talks about the spiritual element of his songwriting and his Bob Dylan mention.

The Real Nick Drake

The Real Nick DrakeSong Writing

The head of Drake's estate shares his insights on the late folk singer's life and music.

Joe Ely

Joe ElySongwriter Interviews

The renown Texas songwriter has been at it for 40 years, with tales to tell about The Flatlanders and The Clash - that's Joe's Tex-Mex on "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"