Baby

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2009
Original album - Disco Defenders (Alcazar)
Producer (PSB version) - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - bonus track with single "Leaving" (Pet Shop Boys); Release 2017 reissue Further Listening 2001-2004 bonus disc

In the aftermath of "Love Life," Neil and Chris gave this additional song to the Swedish band Alcazar as well. The Boys wrote it in 2003 with a view toward coming up with a new single for their PopArt hits collection. But, seeing as how it takes the form of a "boy/girl duet," they felt instead that it was perfect for the mixed-gender Alcazar. Plans were afoot for Alcazar to record it for release in 2006, but in the wake of the band's breakup in April 2006 over "musical differences" it temporarily fell into limbo. But with Alcazar's subsequent reformation, "Baby" made it onto the band's new album, Disco Defenders, released in Sweden in early 2009. Meanwhile, a brief excerpt from the original PSB demo was put to use in their 2011 ballet The Most Incredible Thing, appearing—in a manner that remarkably manages to be simultaneously self-promoting and self-deprecating—in the midst of the ballet's second piece, "The Grind." But the 2003 demo in its entirety didn't surface until the release of the 2012 single "Leaving," for which "Baby" served as one of its bonus tracks.

A terrifically melodic, upbeat synthpop song—a real joy to listen to, at least in the Alcazar rendition (I haven't heard the complete PSB demo yet)—its lyrics employ a particularly ingenious device. They take the form of an exchange of telephone messages via the two protagonists' answering machines: in short, it's a game of "telephone tag." The story pretty much goes like this:

  1. A guy gets a call from an old girlfriend, who had apparently dumped him some time ago. But he was out, so she left a message for him. (This is the "backstory," which occurs before the song even begins.)

  2. He phones back (and this is where the song actually starts), expressing surprise at having heard from her after so long. It would seem, however, that he now has to leave a message for her. In the chorus he sings, "You called me, baby. What d'you want from me, baby, now?"

  3. She calls back, but again gets his answering machine. She says that she simply wanted to hear the sound of his voice, and now that he has accommodated her in this way, she finds herself eager to get together with him again. She wonders whether he's equally interested: "Do you wanna take up with me again?" So now it's her turn to say, "You called me, baby. What d'you want from me, baby, now?"

  4. He returns her call, indicating that, though apprehensive, he's also interested in giving it another go. Since she has broken the ice, he thinks they might enjoy a wonderful summer together.

And the song—at least in Alcazar's rendition—leaves us with the impression that that is precisely what they will do. Neil, however, sees it another way, asserting in the January 2013 issue of Literally that, though the female character still likes her former boyfriend, "she doesn't want to be messed around by him again." So the PSB version may best be interpreted somewhat differently than Alcazar's.

In addition to this answering-machine gimmick (though the word "gimmick" may carry negative connotations that I don't at all intend), the lyrics also cleverly provide a mild double-entendre with the title word "baby" itself. Consider how the meaning of the line "You called me, baby" changes if you simply leave out the comma. (Written lyric sheets aside, it's tough to sing a comma.) Is it simply that the narrators are casually calling each other "baby," or are they commenting with a blend of bemusement and amusement that the other one actually still calls them that? It's probably both, varying at different points in the song.

Mixes

Officially released

Pet Shop Boys rendition:

Alcazar rendition:

List cross-references