I sat down at my computer today to write my weekly article with absolutely no idea of what I wanted to write about. That happens fairly often, actually, so it’s no big deal. Normally, something occurs to me pretty quickly, but today was different. I sat here for forty-five minutes with a completely blank mind. All I could think of was continuing my Pop series, “but”, I kept reminding myself, “You’ve written about every song with a connection to that album! Come up with a new angle!”. I was literally scrolling through U2’s catalog song by song on my iPhone when I came across “Big Girls Are Best” and I remembered that this little prize of a song started life as a Pop out-take. A-ha! I had my topic, now I just had to come up with what to say about it.
The first thing that springs to mind is that this song has always reminded me of a mix between something the Beatles would have written and a hip-hop song. I think that the hip-hop bit comes from the loop of bells that shows up periodically during the song, which reminds me of the bells from the Run DMC classic “Peter Piper”. The Beatles similarity comes from that perfect nugget of a pop chorus “Sexy mama-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma”, and the “yeah, yeah, yeah”s that are peppered throughout the verses. There’s also a bit of tough sounding rock thrown in, with Bono’s epic screams and that rugged bass riff, both of which start out the song and show up again in the middle eight. The song draws from a lot of disparate places, but somehow the whole thing comes together in a way that works like gangbusters.
Like a lot of U2 songs, the meaning behind “Big Girls Are Best” isn’t one hundred percent obvious. That’s not a bad thing – I like songs that make me think, and some of my favorite lyrics ever, from U2 and otherwise, have multiple layers of meaning. At first listen, I thought that the titular “big girls” were simply mature women, as opposed to young girls. My wife is seven years older than me, so I could certainly relate to this sentiment. Careful listening, though, brought another thought to mind. It occurred to me that maybe Bono was talking specifically about pregnant women, or women who have just given birth and haven’t lost their baby weight yet. If that’s the case, it seems likely to me that Edge’s wife (then girlfriend) Morleigh was the inspiration behind this song, as she was pregnant with their daughter Sian during the sessions for Pop. Whatever the case, “Big Girls Are Best” is a nice bit of fun that sees the band taking a break from their regular stance as world-savers. Even super-heroes have to have a good time sometime, right?
Like most B-sides, “Big Girls Are Best” has never been performed live. Edge once described the song as “throwaway” so it seems plain that the band didn’t take the song very seriously. As I stated above, it’s not a very serious song, so that’s OK. Still, it would be nice to hear the band really dig deep into their catalog and play some more obscure songs like “Big Girls Are Best”. Maybe some day they’ll allow fans to pick their setlists and “Big Girls Are Best” will garner enough votes to make the cut. That would be a dream come true for me, and I’m sure many other fans. Until then, I’ll just keep the song on repeat on my iPhone.