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Sam Cooke


baeYYY-BEHH

"Tennessee Waltz" | Ain’t That Good News, 1964

Sam Cooke, recording his last album before his untimely death in December 1964, makes a distinct change to the classic “Tennessee Waltz.” Originally written by Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart nearly two decades prior as a saccharine country-western tune (and often re-recorded in the same style by many stars in the decades that followed), the song is shifted by Cooke into a twist-and-shuffle, double-time pace; and he replaces old-timey terms of endearment like “darling” and “loved one” with “baby.” The small changes have a strong effect. With happy horns to go with Cooke’s inimitable, hot-sugar-rasp vocal stylings, the song sounds celebratory. Even some of the lyrics seem, at face value, to recall a sublime memory. Like: “That beautiful, that wonderful, that marvelous, that glorious, that beautiful Tennessee Waltz.” But we soon understand the real story: On a warm spring night, at one of those barn hops where everyone takes off their shoes, Cooke is bopping around with his “baby” ... and then his “old friend” shows up. All it takes is a single dance. “Dirty dog,” Cooke sings, “stole my baby.” It’s in the delivery of that last word — life is not always an untroubled journey. But Cooke sings it in a way that lets us know he’ll remember the song more than the heartache, that ultimately — because of the heartache — he is alive and well.

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Sam Cooke


baeYYY-BEHH

"Tennessee Waltz" | Ain’t That Good News, 1964

Sam Cooke, recording his last album before his untimely death in December 1964, makes a distinct change to the classic “Tennessee Waltz.” Originally written by Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart nearly two decades prior as a saccharine country-western tune (and often re-recorded in the same style by many stars in the decades that followed), the song is shifted by Cooke into a twist-and-shuffle, double-time pace; and he replaces old-timey terms of endearment like “darling” and “loved one” with “baby.” The small changes have a strong effect. With happy horns to go with Cooke’s inimitable, hot-sugar-rasp vocal stylings, the song sounds celebratory. Even some of the lyrics seem, at face value, to recall a sublime memory. Like: “That beautiful, that wonderful, that marvelous, that glorious, that beautiful Tennessee Waltz.” But we soon understand the real story: On a warm spring night, at one of those barn hops where everyone takes off their shoes, Cooke is bopping around with his “baby” ... and then his “old friend” shows up. All it takes is a single dance. “Dirty dog,” Cooke sings, “stole my baby.” It’s in the delivery of that last word — life is not always an untroubled journey. But Cooke sings it in a way that lets us know he’ll remember the song more than the heartache, that ultimately — because of the heartache — he is alive and well.

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Ty Segall


BAYyeee-behh BAYyee-behh

"The Last Waltz" | Freedom’s Goblin, 2018

One of the defining characteristics of a Ty Segall song is that it is just not quite all the way ... there. It’s missing some key element to push it over the top to — hate this word — perfection. This is a good thing. Near perfection, something with chipped tooth, defines many (all?) forms of beauty. Segall’s career, too, has never quite gotten there — or at least the “there” we often associate with artists who “make it.” It leavens warmly in the other room, never served on the big dinner table. This, despite possessing admirable talent on guitar, a band leader’s sixth sense and compelling presence, a lineup of All-Star Musicians to back him, and a songwriter/producer’s savvy, uncanny ear. And his live shows: They possess that grandiloquent, ragged, and riot-y power of a crowd being set loose on something; he really knows how to work his fans into a frenzy, or bend them into a sing-a-long. Still, something is missing. He is a relationship with a lover that was never given a fair chance. In fact, it is that which is missing, one could argue, that keeps you coming back. Next time, Chump, you will both finally treat each other the way you deserve to be treated. Then there is the matter of Segall’s productivity. He has written so many songs and released so many albums over the past 10 years, he over-saturates his own market. It makes it impossible for any casual fan to catch up or even know where to begin, and certainly difficult for true fans to spend much time obsessing over favorite songs; there’s always a new one — or an entire album — popping up somewhere on the Internet. (2017’s Ty Segall barely had a moment to itself before Segall released 2018’s double-header Freedom’s Goblin.) Which brings us to “The Last Waltz,” a weird and black little lullaby from his latest release. Kooky, carny, on-the-wrong-side-of-it-all: Segall plays a lover in the last moments of this life; he’s going to kill himself so he can be reunited (in heaven, or just in death) with his “baby,” who died when “the bombs came down and destroyed my home.” The song is sung by Segall in two tracks — his lead, and his own crazy-twin harmony — with a building hysteria leading to the grand end. He sings “baby” six times. And it’s the final two, just 34 seconds or so into the song, that set the macabre stage. In the harmony take (listen to it on headphones), Segall practically yodels. These are A+ “babies.” A love affair that finally gives you everything you could ever need.

Ty Segall


BAYyeee-behh BAYyee-behh

"The Last Waltz" | Freedom’s Goblin, 2018

One of the defining characteristics of a Ty Segall song is that it is just not quite all the way ... there. It’s missing some key element to push it over the top to — hate this word — perfection. This is a good thing. Near perfection, something with chipped tooth, defines many (all?) forms of beauty. Segall’s career, too, has never quite gotten there — or at least the “there” we often associate with artists who “make it.” It leavens warmly in the other room, never served on the big dinner table. This, despite possessing admirable talent on guitar, a band leader’s sixth sense and compelling presence, a lineup of All-Star Musicians to back him, and a songwriter/producer’s savvy, uncanny ear. And his live shows: They possess that grandiloquent, ragged, and riot-y power of a crowd being set loose on something; he really knows how to work his fans into a frenzy, or bend them into a sing-a-long. Still, something is missing. He is a relationship with a lover that was never given a fair chance. In fact, it is that which is missing, one could argue, that keeps you coming back. Next time, Chump, you will both finally treat each other the way you deserve to be treated. Then there is the matter of Segall’s productivity. He has written so many songs and released so many albums over the past 10 years, he over-saturates his own market. It makes it impossible for any casual fan to catch up or even know where to begin, and certainly difficult for true fans to spend much time obsessing over favorite songs; there’s always a new one — or an entire album — popping up somewhere on the Internet. (2017’s Ty Segall barely had a moment to itself before Segall released 2018’s double-header Freedom’s Goblin.) Which brings us to “The Last Waltz,” a weird and black little lullaby from his latest release. Kooky, carny, on-the-wrong-side-of-it-all: Segall plays a lover in the last moments of this life; he’s going to kill himself so he can be reunited (in heaven, or just in death) with his “baby,” who died when “the bombs came down and destroyed my home.” The song is sung by Segall in two tracks — his lead, and his own crazy-twin harmony — with a building hysteria leading to the grand end. He sings “baby” six times. And it’s the final two, just 34 seconds or so into the song, that set the macabre stage. In the harmony take (listen to it on headphones), Segall practically yodels. These are A+ “babies.” A love affair that finally gives you everything you could ever need.

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The Human League


BAYYY-behh

"Don’t You Want Me" | Dare!, 1981

One thing you can always count on: a new generation appropriating, often without much sensitivity, the previous generation’s music. The Human League’s dueling duet “Don’t You Want Me” seems to be going through something like that now, 37 years after it was a hit. The younger set has discovered it, and they play it in bars, and they sing along in the chorus — together, too loudly — and it seems, as is often the case with people who sing too loudly in bars, they might be missing something. And they are: They missed what it was like to have been a teen in the ‘80s. It’s not their fault. It just is what it is.

 

When “Don’t You Want Me” first played over FM car radios, it spoke to — in this case — a romantic 13-year-old boy in Florida. That was the target market, it is certain. The song was like something pulled out of the early ‘80s teen pop-culture air, like something right out of an electrified game room (which is where people played video games, for those not “in the know”): the cheerily urgent, robo-synthesizer nailed it. It was just the type of thing a nerdy teen — bred on Atari and Intellivision music — would perk up to, dance to in his underwear in his bedroom, sing along with, into a hairdryer or toothbrush in front of the bathroom mirror. Speaking of the vocals, they were delivered exquisitely by Philip Oakley and Susan Ann Sulley, exactly like melancholy little robots trying to sing (long before Alexa and Siri). The “babies” in this song, it is felt, are remarkably accurate portrayals of how a sensitive robot in a spacey ‘80s TV sitcom about love would say “baby.” Robot wants to know what love feels like, but he can’t because he’s just a robot with a CPU of gold. And here’s where things get interesting: As the song unfolds, as Sulley leaves her man after five pretty good years, the withheld emotion comes out in cracks of voice, in fissures of chorus harmony. It feels like we all finally got somewhere, didn’t we? We knew it all along: Even robots fall in love.

 

So. Now. When we, members of an older generation, hear “Don’t You Want Me” in a bar occupied by all the young ones (What are we doing here, anyway?), it brings back waves of hyperspaced, hormoned nostalgia. Maybe the young ones kind of get it. They seem pretty smart, even if they still owe the world their versions of Kurt Cobain and the Beatles. In the meantime, as they sing along, some of us are overcome with memories of a comb in the back pocket, squeaky-new topsiders, the cinnamony-sweet waft of Polo cologne, the chaotic blasts and reverberations of Robotron, and Yvette (a girl we once crushed on) in her Jordache jeans. “Don’t you want me, baby?” we sadly sang to ourselves then, looking out the rolled-down passenger window of our parents’ car, the soft and humid wind our only true companion. “Don’t you want me, ohhhhhhhh?” This is a feeling we want to hold onto, one we would never want to let loose from our bodies — particularly into the air of whatever bar we're in now.

The Human League


BAYYY-behh

"Don’t You Want Me" | Dare!, 1981

One thing you can always count on: a new generation appropriating, often without much sensitivity, the previous generation’s music. The Human League’s dueling duet “Don’t You Want Me” seems to be going through something like that now, 37 years after it was a hit. The younger set has discovered it, and they play it in bars, and they sing along in the chorus — together, too loudly — and it seems, as is often the case with people who sing too loudly in bars, they might be missing something. And they are: They missed what it was like to have been a teen in the ‘80s. It’s not their fault. It just is what it is.

 

When “Don’t You Want Me” first played over FM car radios, it spoke to — in this case — a romantic 13-year-old boy in Florida. That was the target market, it is certain. The song was like something pulled out of the early ‘80s teen pop-culture air, like something right out of an electrified game room (which is where people played video games, for those not “in the know”): the cheerily urgent, robo-synthesizer nailed it. It was just the type of thing a nerdy teen — bred on Atari and Intellivision music — would perk up to, dance to in his underwear in his bedroom, sing along with, into a hairdryer or toothbrush in front of the bathroom mirror. Speaking of the vocals, they were delivered exquisitely by Philip Oakley and Susan Ann Sulley, exactly like melancholy little robots trying to sing (long before Alexa and Siri). The “babies” in this song, it is felt, are remarkably accurate portrayals of how a sensitive robot in a spacey ‘80s TV sitcom about love would say “baby.” Robot wants to know what love feels like, but he can’t because he’s just a robot with a CPU of gold. And here’s where things get interesting: As the song unfolds, as Sulley leaves her man after five pretty good years, the withheld emotion comes out in cracks of voice, in fissures of chorus harmony. It feels like we all finally got somewhere, didn’t we? We knew it all along: Even robots fall in love.

 

So. Now. When we, members of an older generation, hear “Don’t You Want Me” in a bar occupied by all the young ones (What are we doing here, anyway?), it brings back waves of hyperspaced, hormoned nostalgia. Maybe the young ones kind of get it. They seem pretty smart, even if they still owe the world their versions of Kurt Cobain and the Beatles. In the meantime, as they sing along, some of us are overcome with memories of a comb in the back pocket, squeaky-new topsiders, the cinnamony-sweet waft of Polo cologne, the chaotic blasts and reverberations of Robotron, and Yvette (a girl we once crushed on) in her Jordache jeans. “Don’t you want me, baby?” we sadly sang to ourselves then, looking out the rolled-down passenger window of our parents’ car, the soft and humid wind our only true companion. “Don’t you want me, ohhhhhhhh?” This is a feeling we want to hold onto, one we would never want to let loose from our bodies — particularly into the air of whatever bar we're in now.

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The Ronettes


BuhAYY-behhhyhyhyhyh

"Be My Baby" | Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes, 1964

Life takes funny turns, doesn’t it? Phil Spector went off the deep end. Veronica Bennett (better known by her stage name Ronnie Spector), his former wife, got out while she could, and went on to a second and third act in pop music. Their story, together and separate, mirrors the lost innocence, female fight, and current 51-50 state of America, one might argue. But let’s forget that for a moment, in the name of artistic appreciation, because before it all went bad, it all came together sweetly here. This 1964 song so accurately captures the cotton-candy high of an early and young love (“For every kiss you give me, I’ll give you three”), it might also serve as a human anthem to that ultimate patriotism. Spector’s wall-of-sound symphony holds the perfect pop tune about desire, from the grand-announcement start to the emotive chorus; Veronica’s taffeta-dress voice; the backup vocals and drums and strings. The Ronettes sing “baby” 26 times in the song. The one that stands out the most, in the chorus, arrives as a fully resolved, confident plea that this love is right, that nothing could go wrong, that with this kind of feeling inside nothing could keep us from a fairytale life about which we all dream.

The Ronettes


BuhAYY-behhhyhyhyhyh

"Be My Baby" | Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes, 1964

Life takes funny turns, doesn’t it? Phil Spector went off the deep end. Veronica Bennett (better known by her stage name Ronnie Spector), his former wife, got out while she could, and went on to a second and third act in pop music. Their story, together and separate, mirrors the lost innocence, female fight, and current 51-50 state of America, one might argue. But let’s forget that for a moment, in the name of artistic appreciation, because before it all went bad, it all came together sweetly here. This 1964 song so accurately captures the cotton-candy high of an early and young love (“For every kiss you give me, I’ll give you three”), it might also serve as a human anthem to that ultimate patriotism. Spector’s wall-of-sound symphony holds the perfect pop tune about desire, from the grand-announcement start to the emotive chorus; Veronica’s taffeta-dress voice; the backup vocals and drums and strings. The Ronettes sing “baby” 26 times in the song. The one that stands out the most, in the chorus, arrives as a fully resolved, confident plea that this love is right, that nothing could go wrong, that with this kind of feeling inside nothing could keep us from a fairytale life about which we all dream.

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Tom Petty


BAYveh, VAY-veh, Bay-buh

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

"Don’t Do Me Like That" | Damn the Torpedos 1981

Tom Petty is a master of using “baby” as a crutch — to provide a lyrical flourish between lines and stanzas, or to sprinkle tender or dismissive meaning into the song’s circumstances. He uses “baby” a lot, particularly early in his career. While he often keeps his pronunciations of the word to the minimum two syllables, each version is anything but perfunctory. Here, in “Don’t Do Me Like That,” while fretting that his lover might leave him for another, he sings and sort of slurs three twangy and distinct “babies” in the span of a single second.

 

Tom Petty


BAYveh, VAY-veh, Bay-buh

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

"Don’t Do Me Like That" | Damn the Torpedos 1981

Tom Petty is a master of using “baby” as a crutch — to provide a lyrical flourish between lines and stanzas, or to sprinkle tender or dismissive meaning into the song’s circumstances. He uses “baby” a lot, particularly early in his career. While he often keeps his pronunciations of the word to the minimum two syllables, each version is anything but perfunctory. Here, in “Don’t Do Me Like That,” while fretting that his lover might leave him for another, he sings and sort of slurs three twangy and distinct “babies” in the span of a single second.

 

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Nirvana


BuAYYYE-be

"Drain You" | Nevermind, 1991

One of the heartbreaking remainders in a world without Kurt Cobain is that once you get past all the clatter of his life — the suicide, the drugs, the dysfunction with Courtney, even the success — you realize the thing that powered it all: Kurt was a total romantic. His heart ballooned with the good stuff, and it let itself out through his music. He tried to hide it behind sarcasm, addiction, and even rage. None of it worked. And if you were a young person, and you were giving your first listens to Nevermind, you eventually got beyond the songs they kept playing on MTV, and you found this little gem describing love in its most disgusting form: being lost in a co-dependence so pink you don’t at all mind passing meat mouth-to-mouth in a kiss. It also turns dark — dilated pupils and poison apples and references to piss. But long before the downfall, there’s that moment at the very beginning, bouncing along on a happy beat and muddled guitar roar, when Kurt takes on a playful third-person perspective to scream a sing-along “baby." It’s sweet proof that in order for true love to be doomed, it must first exist. Often in unlikely places. 

Nirvana


BuAYYYE-be

"Drain You" | Nevermind, 1991

One of the heartbreaking remainders in a world without Kurt Cobain is that once you get past all the clatter of his life — the suicide, the drugs, the dysfunction with Courtney, even the success — you realize the thing that powered it all: Kurt was a total romantic. His heart ballooned with the good stuff, and it let itself out through his music. He tried to hide it behind sarcasm, addiction, and even rage. None of it worked. And if you were a young person, and you were giving your first listens to Nevermind, you eventually got beyond the songs they kept playing on MTV, and you found this little gem describing love in its most disgusting form: being lost in a co-dependence so pink you don’t at all mind passing meat mouth-to-mouth in a kiss. It also turns dark — dilated pupils and poison apples and references to piss. But long before the downfall, there’s that moment at the very beginning, bouncing along on a happy beat and muddled guitar roar, when Kurt takes on a playful third-person perspective to scream a sing-along “baby." It’s sweet proof that in order for true love to be doomed, it must first exist. Often in unlikely places. 

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Otis Redding


BEEh BEhh

"These Arms of Mine" | 1962

Otis Redding's vocal performance in this 1962 hit remains one of his most remarkable and true — the precise yet southern enunciation that references Cole Porter but merges it with a black and pollen-y sexiness; the long syllables trailing off into plain longing. We've all been there — curled up under the blanket of sugary hurt, thinking about that potential lover who's just out of reach. Our daydreams turn hopeful. If we could just tell this lover how we feel, they would feel it, too. That's when Redding, balanced between a demand and a plea, utters a singular "baby" that's broken and sanguine all the same.

Otis Redding


BEEh BEhh

"These Arms of Mine" | 1962

Otis Redding's vocal performance in this 1962 hit remains one of his most remarkable and true — the precise yet southern enunciation that references Cole Porter but merges it with a black and pollen-y sexiness; the long syllables trailing off into plain longing. We've all been there — curled up under the blanket of sugary hurt, thinking about that potential lover who's just out of reach. Our daydreams turn hopeful. If we could just tell this lover how we feel, they would feel it, too. That's when Redding, balanced between a demand and a plea, utters a singular "baby" that's broken and sanguine all the same.

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Marvin Gaye


BAYYYYYY-EE-YEE-BEEeee

"Sexual Healing" | Midnight Love, 1982

Marvin Gaye was living in Belgium, hiding from his own troubles, trying to find inspiration while walking on the Ostend beaches. He was laying off the drugs. The coffee table at his place held porno mags. He was lonely. A friend visited. Noticed the condition of Marvin. Suggested that he needed some "sexual healing." Marvin agreed. Then he wrote this song. The first "baby" in it contains in its extended pine everything that has ever been felt when one needs more than anything to lay down with another.

Marvin Gaye


BAYYYYYY-EE-YEE-BEEeee

"Sexual Healing" | Midnight Love, 1982

Marvin Gaye was living in Belgium, hiding from his own troubles, trying to find inspiration while walking on the Ostend beaches. He was laying off the drugs. The coffee table at his place held porno mags. He was lonely. A friend visited. Noticed the condition of Marvin. Suggested that he needed some "sexual healing." Marvin agreed. Then he wrote this song. The first "baby" in it contains in its extended pine everything that has ever been felt when one needs more than anything to lay down with another.

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Amy Winehouse


bAYY-BEH-ehehh

"Rehab" | Back to Black, 2006

Anyone who has struggled with drug dependency and attended a 12-step meeting recognizes Amy Winehouse's "character" in this song: the one who stumbles in and doesn't want to be there; the one who thinks she doesn't need help; the one who needs help more than most but hasn't hit her low yet. In this song, we're sitting in a meeting, and we're getting some insight into her faulty logic. Then she casually says, "I'm gonna lose my baby," and there's enough vulnerability in the key word to make everyone finally sit up and listen.

Amy Winehouse


bAYY-BEH-ehehh

"Rehab" | Back to Black, 2006

Anyone who has struggled with drug dependency and attended a 12-step meeting recognizes Amy Winehouse's "character" in this song: the one who stumbles in and doesn't want to be there; the one who thinks she doesn't need help; the one who needs help more than most but hasn't hit her low yet. In this song, we're sitting in a meeting, and we're getting some insight into her faulty logic. Then she casually says, "I'm gonna lose my baby," and there's enough vulnerability in the key word to make everyone finally sit up and listen.

The Beach Boys


Bayy-BEEEEEE

"Don’t Worry Baby" |  Shut Down Volume 2, 1964

As the story goes, Brian Wilson was inspired to write "Don't Worry Baby" after he heard the Ronettes' Phil Spector masterpiece "Be My Baby" on the radio. Some say he effectively ripped off the tune and concept. But what we are concerned with here: the "baby." Wilson's trademark falsetto-chorus pine, over the background of Beach Boys harmonies and a lazy-bopping sunset beat, just might be the sweetest “baby” ever sung, hinting at love, adoration, pending heartbreak, even death. 

The Beach Boys


Bayy-BEEEEEE

"Don’t Worry Baby" |  Shut Down Volume 2, 1964

As the story goes, Brian Wilson was inspired to write "Don't Worry Baby" after he heard the Ronettes' Phil Spector masterpiece "Be My Baby" on the radio. Some say he effectively ripped off the tune and concept. But what we are concerned with here: the "baby." Wilson's trademark falsetto-chorus pine, over the background of Beach Boys harmonies and a lazy-bopping sunset beat, just might be the sweetest “baby” ever sung, hinting at love, adoration, pending heartbreak, even death. 

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Janis Joplin


Bay-behhh-EHHH-NOoo-OOhh-OOhh-OOhh-OOhh-OOhh-OOhh-OOhh-o o o o o

“Cry Baby”  |  Pearl, 1971

Janis Joplin’s pronunciation of “baby” in the recurring chorus of this song is a example of how singers can alter the word, and also reflect the soul of the tune. In her four-syllable interpretation, one hears cigarettes, a half-empty whiskey bottle, the ache of a spurned heart. But it is in the final chorus, the final “baby,” where all hope collapses. Welp, time to finish this bottle!

Janis Joplin


Bay-behhh-EHHH-NOoo-OOhh-OOhh-OOhh-OOhh-OOhh-OOhh-OOhh-o o o o o

“Cry Baby”  |  Pearl, 1971

Janis Joplin’s pronunciation of “baby” in the recurring chorus of this song is a example of how singers can alter the word, and also reflect the soul of the tune. In her four-syllable interpretation, one hears cigarettes, a half-empty whiskey bottle, the ache of a spurned heart. But it is in the final chorus, the final “baby,” where all hope collapses. Welp, time to finish this bottle!

The Four Tops


BAYyYyYbe

“Baby I Need Your Loving”  |  The Four Tops, 1964

Snaps, harmonies, and open pining for a paramour’s attention: Motown at its finest. When Levi Stubbs and his mates launch into the church-choir chorus, there’s a wavering in their collective “baby” that suggests love as our only necessary religion.

The Four Tops


BAYyYyYbe

“Baby I Need Your Loving”  |  The Four Tops, 1964

Snaps, harmonies, and open pining for a paramour’s attention: Motown at its finest. When Levi Stubbs and his mates launch into the church-choir chorus, there’s a wavering in their collective “baby” that suggests love as our only necessary religion.

Little Eva


bAYEE-Yehhh-beh

“Keep Your Hands Off My Baby”  |  1962

Is Eva just jealous? Or does her best friend really have eyes for her man, and it has come to this moment? Judging by the way Eva sing-songs “baby,” he’s quite the prize. It’s probably worth it to be clear, no hard feelings, just so we’re all on the same page: She will kill you if you even blink at him again.

Little Eva


bAYEE-Yehhh-beh

“Keep Your Hands Off My Baby”  |  1962

Is Eva just jealous? Or does her best friend really have eyes for her man, and it has come to this moment? Judging by the way Eva sing-songs “baby,” he’s quite the prize. It’s probably worth it to be clear, no hard feelings, just so we’re all on the same page: She will kill you if you even blink at him again.

Beyonce


Bayyee-bae-h-yeehh-ehhh aaah

“Irreplaceable"  |  Happy B-Day, 2006

When Wonder Woman broke up with Superman, she played this song for him. Beyonce balances on the razor's edge of freedom and vulnerability. But when she sings "baby" near the end, we realize these kinds of things are never easy, even for the strongest of us.

Beyonce


Bayyee-bae-h-yeehh-ehhh aaah

“Irreplaceable"  |  Happy B-Day, 2006

When Wonder Woman broke up with Superman, she played this song for him. Beyonce balances on the razor's edge of freedom and vulnerability. But when she sings "baby" near the end, we realize these kinds of things are never easy, even for the strongest of us.

The Rolling Stones


Buhayy-behh

“Angie” Goats Head Soup, 1973

Is this song about college lovers? Or older people who really screwed up the relationship? There’s nothing like that feeling, either way. Angie in her coat. The train coming, maybe. Life calling. But then Mick loses his courage. He just needs to tell Angie one more time that he loves her and he’ll never get over her. The “baby” he slips in nearly falls into open blubbering.

The Rolling Stones


Buhayy-behh

“Angie” Goats Head Soup, 1973

Is this song about college lovers? Or older people who really screwed up the relationship? There’s nothing like that feeling, either way. Angie in her coat. The train coming, maybe. Life calling. But then Mick loses his courage. He just needs to tell Angie one more time that he loves her and he’ll never get over her. The “baby” he slips in nearly falls into open blubbering.

Elvis Presley


Oh, BAY-beh BAY-beh bay-beh babybay-BIh

“Baby, Let’s Play House”  |  1955

The music moved early Elvis like the devil-spirit, we all know, and this is a prime example. His stuttering of “baby” jump-starts the song like a lawnmower pull, and we can see him wiggling, falling down, and speaking in tongues over the idea of “playing house” with his lover.

Elvis Presley


Oh, BAY-beh BAY-beh bay-beh babybay-BIh

“Baby, Let’s Play House”  |  1955

The music moved early Elvis like the devil-spirit, we all know, and this is a prime example. His stuttering of “baby” jump-starts the song like a lawnmower pull, and we can see him wiggling, falling down, and speaking in tongues over the idea of “playing house” with his lover.

Kings of Leon


beh-BEEEE-ih

“Knocked Up”  |  Because of the Times, 2007

Restless, urgent, in trouble, on the run. Scared kids is all they are. Caleb Followill captures it in his second “baby” in this song, right after he mentions his lover’s momma … which hints that he’s actually got two babies to care for now.

Kings of Leon


beh-BEEEE-ih

“Knocked Up”  |  Because of the Times, 2007

Restless, urgent, in trouble, on the run. Scared kids is all they are. Caleb Followill captures it in his second “baby” in this song, right after he mentions his lover’s momma … which hints that he’s actually got two babies to care for now.

Lana Del Rey


bay-ee beEEe

"Brooklyn Baby"  |  Ultraviolence, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mr. President. Except now we’re living in Brooklyn in the 21st century, and the hipsters are everywhere, living off their trust funds and clogging up the once-abandoned streets. What are the ‘70s? Novels as beat poetry? Jazz collections? Hydroponic weed? Her “generation”? Lana’s “baby” flirts with the issues, then soars off into some unseen future. And she doesn’t have to fucking explain it, okay?

Lana Del Rey


bay-ee beEEe

"Brooklyn Baby"  |  Ultraviolence, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mr. President. Except now we’re living in Brooklyn in the 21st century, and the hipsters are everywhere, living off their trust funds and clogging up the once-abandoned streets. What are the ‘70s? Novels as beat poetry? Jazz collections? Hydroponic weed? Her “generation”? Lana’s “baby” flirts with the issues, then soars off into some unseen future. And she doesn’t have to fucking explain it, okay?

Stevie Nicks


bAYY-BEhh

“Edge of Seventeen”  Bella Donna, 1981

One of the more catchy phrases in rock history occurs, by our count, 11 times in this song: “Ooo, baby, ooo, said ooo.” But it is a separate “baby” laced by Stevie into the song when it is still building tempo that carries all the acid and envy any adult feels toward the naively broken-hearted. Stevie was still so young, but she had certainly lived enough to know.

Stevie Nicks


bAYY-BEhh

“Edge of Seventeen”  Bella Donna, 1981

One of the more catchy phrases in rock history occurs, by our count, 11 times in this song: “Ooo, baby, ooo, said ooo.” But it is a separate “baby” laced by Stevie into the song when it is still building tempo that carries all the acid and envy any adult feels toward the naively broken-hearted. Stevie was still so young, but she had certainly lived enough to know.

The Black Keys


vaYYYvee

“The Only One”  |  Brothers, 2010

Dan Auerbach is under some kind of hypnotic spell, and the spell is called “love.” When he sings “baby” here, he sounds caught between dreaming and consciousness, when his defenses are down, when his thoughts are truest and there’s nothing he can do about it. Poor dude.

 

The Black Keys


vaYYYvee

“The Only One”  |  Brothers, 2010

Dan Auerbach is under some kind of hypnotic spell, and the spell is called “love.” When he sings “baby” here, he sounds caught between dreaming and consciousness, when his defenses are down, when his thoughts are truest and there’s nothing he can do about it. Poor dude.

 

Jackson Browne


Bayyyy-be

“Somebody’s Baby”  Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982

Wild conjecture as to the availability of a passing “baby” escalates with hope and innocence, until the final and pure utterance in the chorus, when the safe bet emerges: “Baby” is probably going to be with someone else this night, so the singer won’t ask her out. Message: Don’t chase your dreams; just daydream instead.

Jackson Browne


Bayyyy-be

“Somebody’s Baby”  Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982

Wild conjecture as to the availability of a passing “baby” escalates with hope and innocence, until the final and pure utterance in the chorus, when the safe bet emerges: “Baby” is probably going to be with someone else this night, so the singer won’t ask her out. Message: Don’t chase your dreams; just daydream instead.

Patsy Cline


bayy-beEE's

“Back in Baby’s Arms”  The Patsy Cline Story, 1963

If there existed a rule book on how to pronounce “baby” in song, Patsy would be the author. She gives it a proper, knee-length-skirt touch, reminiscent of a warm home where warm Sunday dinners are served to warm-hearted company.

Patsy Cline


bayy-beEE's

“Back in Baby’s Arms”  The Patsy Cline Story, 1963

If there existed a rule book on how to pronounce “baby” in song, Patsy would be the author. She gives it a proper, knee-length-skirt touch, reminiscent of a warm home where warm Sunday dinners are served to warm-hearted company.

Loretta Lynn


buhAY-be

“The Morning After Baby Let Me Down”  One's on the Way, 1971

Like her friend Patsy's, Loretta’s “baby” was proper, but it was also her own: tighter, with a huskier dip into coal country. “Baby” in her life is someone who’s not always good to her, we know, and in that she finds some sorrowful comfort.

Loretta Lynn


buhAY-be

“The Morning After Baby Let Me Down”  One's on the Way, 1971

Like her friend Patsy's, Loretta’s “baby” was proper, but it was also her own: tighter, with a huskier dip into coal country. “Baby” in her life is someone who’s not always good to her, we know, and in that she finds some sorrowful comfort.

Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons


BAY-YAY-beeeeee

“Sherry”  Girls , Girls, Girls -- We Love Girls, 1964

Frankie's using you, Sherry! He’s too popular! Don’t fall for it! Totally contrived and lovely all the same.

Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons


BAY-YAY-beeeeee

“Sherry”  Girls , Girls, Girls -- We Love Girls, 1964

Frankie's using you, Sherry! He’s too popular! Don’t fall for it! Totally contrived and lovely all the same.

Britney Spears


buhayy-buh buhayy-buh

“...Baby One More Time”  ...Baby One More Time, 1999

Teenage Britney gives “baby” several distinct twists in this song. But it’s her delivery of “baby” in the verse that sets the beat and tone. It suggests trouble, for sure. Why is a teen speaking with those inflections? Why is she even using the word “baby”? What is she wearing? Someone please talk to this baby before she throws her life away!

Britney Spears


buhayy-buh buhayy-buh

“...Baby One More Time”  ...Baby One More Time, 1999

Teenage Britney gives “baby” several distinct twists in this song. But it’s her delivery of “baby” in the verse that sets the beat and tone. It suggests trouble, for sure. Why is a teen speaking with those inflections? Why is she even using the word “baby”? What is she wearing? Someone please talk to this baby before she throws her life away!

Amy Grant


vay-veh vay-veh

"Baby Baby"   Heart in Motion, 1991

The word “baby” is sung, we think, 30 times in this flawless little pop song. But the playful amore felt for the song’s object of affection is most clearly represented when Amy loosens her grip on the word. It’s a Sunday morning and we’re lying in bed, and she can’t quite say the word “baby” with the energy a hard “b” requires.

Amy Grant


vay-veh vay-veh

"Baby Baby"   Heart in Motion, 1991

The word “baby” is sung, we think, 30 times in this flawless little pop song. But the playful amore felt for the song’s object of affection is most clearly represented when Amy loosens her grip on the word. It’s a Sunday morning and we’re lying in bed, and she can’t quite say the word “baby” with the energy a hard “b” requires.

Os Mutantes


bAYY Bee-ee-eee-eeee

“Baby (1971)"  Everything Is Possible, 1999

This takes place in the biggest city in South America. In South America! Humid like a summer night, lazy like a summer day, sweet and sultry like a summer romance, “baby” deserves a slight pause halfway through, and then lingered upon.

Os Mutantes


bAYY Bee-ee-eee-eeee

“Baby (1971)"  Everything Is Possible, 1999

This takes place in the biggest city in South America. In South America! Humid like a summer night, lazy like a summer day, sweet and sultry like a summer romance, “baby” deserves a slight pause halfway through, and then lingered upon.

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Barry White


oh-OHH Bayybeh

"Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" Can't Get Enough, 1974

Barry's in love. Early love, the sweet IV of serotonin coursing through him. He's going to call her "darling" and "babe" in the same sentence. He's going to show her the silk sheets on his waterbed.

Barry White


oh-OHH Bayybeh

"Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" Can't Get Enough, 1974

Barry's in love. Early love, the sweet IV of serotonin coursing through him. He's going to call her "darling" and "babe" in the same sentence. He's going to show her the silk sheets on his waterbed.

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James Brown


Bae beh Bae beh Baay beh

Bae beh Bae beh Baay beh

"I Got the Feelin'"   I Got the Feelin', 1968

It's impossible to pick our favorite "baby" from this song. Instead, let’s try to capture lightning in a bottle. Let’s try to copy James Brown’s dance moves. Let’s wear scarves just to wipe the sweat off our face. Hit me!

James Brown


Bae beh Bae beh Baay beh

Bae beh Bae beh Baay beh

"I Got the Feelin'"   I Got the Feelin', 1968

It's impossible to pick our favorite "baby" from this song. Instead, let’s try to capture lightning in a bottle. Let’s try to copy James Brown’s dance moves. Let’s wear scarves just to wipe the sweat off our face. Hit me!