For this week’s song lyric Sunday Jim has asked us to look for songs featuring different greetings. The examples given to us were greet/hey/Howdy.
I have focused on the word hey and I have chosen the song hey baby by no doubt. I adore this track and it is often one I sing randomly!
This song is about groupies who try very hard to get some time with the male members of No Doubt. Lead singer Gwen Stefani says these ladies are much worse than the male fans who like her. As the only girl in the group, she sees what happens backstage as her bandmates entertain their female fans.
“Hey Baby” has a dancehall sound and features a rap from the Jamaican reggae artist Bounty Killer, who also appears in the video. In Jamaica, rappers are known as “toasters,” as rap began there when DJs spoke over records, which they called “toasting.”
The reggae musicians Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare (Sly and Robbie) produced this track. They were session musicians for years, providing reggae rhythms for Bob Dylan, Grace Slick, and The Rolling Stones, among others.
This was the first single from the Rock Steady album, which got No Doubt on a more efficient recording schedule. After their 1995 album Tragic Kingdom exploded, they got so busy promoting it, they didn’t release their next one, Return Of Saturn, until five years after. Rock Steady followed 15 months later and got them back on the charts with hits like “Hey Baby,” “Hella Good” and “Underneath It All.”
According to No Doubt bass player Tony Kanal, when they were mixing the song in London, Bono came in and offered a suggestion: add a “hey baby, baby” melody. This was late in the process, but when you get free advice from the leader of U2, you don’t turn it down. They did some additional recording and used Bono’s idea.
The song was recorded in four different places. It started with a jam session in San Francisco between the guys in the band (sans Stefani), then they added keyboards and vocals in guitarist Tom Dumont’s home studio in Los Angeles. From there it was off to Jamaica, where they refined it with Sly & Robbie, then off to London for mixing and some more recording.
At the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, this won for Best Pop Video and Best Group Video.
This won the 2002 Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group. No Doubt performed on the show before they won – they had the unenviable task of going on after Simon & Garfunkel reunited to perform a moving rendition of their classic “The Sound Of Silence.”
Both acts were introduced by actor Dustin Hoffman, and while Hoffman was quite familiar with Simon & Garfunkel (he starred in The Graduate, which they contributed to), he apparently knew little about No Doubt. When he introduced them, he said that his daughter had coached him on their music and sort of sang a little of this song, except he sang “say baby” instead of “hey baby.” Hoffman is clearly more comfortable at the Oscars; he also called Bruce Springsteen “Bruce Springstreet.”
Backwards, the line “Boys Say” sounds like “Yes Sir.”