U2

The Fly

Composed by Adam Clayton / Bono / Larry Mullen, Jr. / The Edge

Song Review by

"The Fly" was the first single pulled from U2's phenomenally successful 1991 album, Achtung Baby; it debuted the new direction for the band right out of the box with its whooshing, industrial, beat-driven sounds as opposed to the previously strident anthems and meditational tones with which the band made its name. Bono took on this character of the human fly for the record and its subsequent tour: a man on the fly, winging his way toward an uncertain destiny. "The Fly"'s lyrics are based on so-called "truisms," a style of wacky aphorism Bono appropriated for his own work from the art of Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger that relies on text. "The Fly" and its slogans embrace the contradictions that the thinking and sensible man is confronted with when he enters the circus arena that is rock & roll, or perhaps his own mid-life crisis: "It's no secret that a liar won't believe anyone else." Bono told Bill Flanagan in the book U2 at the End of the World, "I always felt like "'The Fly'" was this phone call from hell, but the guy likes it there! Honey, I know it's hot here, but I like it!" The music itself underscores that same kind of contradiction. The verses honor the time-honored rock & roll treatment followed by a gospel-style chorus (yet another time-honored rock & roll tradition). The Edge conjures the voice of Eartha Kitt in his own chorus, "love, we shine like a burning star." Throughout "The Fly," heaven and hell on earth are captured within the at once heavenly and hellish art form: the rock & roll song.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Achtung Baby 1991
U2
Interscope / Island / UMe 4:29
The Fly 1991
U2
Island / PolyGram 4:30
Salome: The [Axtung Beibi] Outtakes 1992
U2
Jewels 3:57
Dublin 1993 1993
U2
Live Storm 5:59
Zoo TV: Live from Sydney [Video] 1994
U2
Az / Island
Now: 1991 [1999] 1999
Various Artists
Virgin/EMI 4:30
Elevation Tour 2001: Live from Boston [Video/DVD] 2001
U2
Interscope
The Best of 1990-2000 2002
U2
Island 4:28
Vertigo 05 Live from Chicago 2005
U2
Interscope
The U2 Phenomenon: The Independent Review 2006
U2
Classic Rock Legends
Zoo TV Live 2006
U2
U2 Limited 4:47
Zoo TV Live from Sydney [2 Disc DVD] 2006
U2
Island
Innocence + Experience Live in Paris [Video] 2016
U2
Interscope / Island
blue highlight denotes editor's pick