This song uses satire toward commercialism. How mordern technology, such as virtual reality, makes it possible for consumers to block out their own reality for a dreamlike world of their own. The product their selling is "even better than the real thing."
Kevin Beecham beechamearthlink.net (27:th of October 1998)
This song is love song to God. When you look at the whole Achtung album the word child is mentioned 3 (!!!) times, in this song, The Fly and Ultraviolet. In Ultraviolet the person who Bono calls out to is referred to as child; this person is God (check out my elaboration on Ultraviolet). In this song the person who is even better than the real thing is also addressed as child. For the rest I think the song makes perfect sense; portrayal of God being in a love-relationship with his people (the prophet Hosea portrays God that way in the Bible). The Holy Spirit given a feminine character in here she comes (check out Bill Flanagan U2 at the end of the world page 379) and the doubt in can you take me higher?, which is common in U2 songs ever since I still haven't found what I'm looking for.
Tim Tieleman tim_tielemanyahoo.com [1998-12-7] (contributed before the 20:th of February 1998)
Even Better Than The Real Thing is about sex on television and how the media uses sex to sell products. In the video the U2ers are inside a shop (a sex shop?), as if they were 'for sale'. The cameras rotating around their bodies also suggests that they're sex symbols and are the center of attention. Auto-criticism is a theme involving all the Achtung Baby album.
People often have dreams about TV artists and musicians. They're not the real thing (because our chances of having a real relationship with them are almost nill) but in our heads they're even better than the real thing because the media makes them look so perfect and sexy! We talk to them in our heads, we ask for one more chance and we'll satisfy them but it's all an ilusion (in the video there's a couple hugging and kissing and they're using virtual reality masks). Is it art or is it pornography?
Just explaining the lines we're free to fly the crimson sky, the sun won't melt our wings tonight. In Greek mythology, Icarus made two pairs of wings by adhering feathers to a wooden frame with wax and used them to flee from the Labyrinth of Crete. But Icarus became ecstatic with the ability to fly and flew too near the sun. The wax melted, the feathers came loose and Icarus plunged to his death in the sea. Bono uses the tale as a metaphor, meaning that tonight he'll *finally* succeed in seducing his favorite actress on TV or whoever he dreams about. If you look at it coldly, it may sound ridiculous to have such dreams about artists but I bet everyone has already found himself/herself in the same situation so don't laugh (girls who are U2 fans will be the first to understand my point).
Carolina Feher, mirrorballinterair.com.br ( 1:st of September 2001)