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An Examination of "Don't You Want Me" and "Nothing Better"
Today I was reading about "Nothing Better" by The Postal Service. It's a song I always appreciated when I first heard it back in high school. It's such real to a break-up story, and the lines are delivered nicely. On the lyric page, there was this comment that mentioned that it's based off of Human League's "Don't You Want Me".

I wasn't familiar with the song by name, but I recognized it when I heard it. You hear it in commercials and stuff like that. When I listened to the lyrics, I saw the similarity, but they're distinct songs. They're not in the same style (in terms of music), and the lyric content has a different tone.

Both the songs start off with a guy singing about a break-up, and about midway through a girl start singing and she tells her side of the story. It'd probably be better for you to go and listen to the songs and read/listen to their lyrics. I'm kind of tired and I don't want to have to explain each line. I hope that's okay with you.

In "Don't You Want Me", the man is crass. He's angry about the break up and he's handling it poorly. He says, "don't forget it's me who put you where you are now and I can put you back down too". He acts like he made this woman who she is, and she doesn't have the right to leave. It's a usual way to handle a break up, even though it's not helpful. He doesn't want to break up and so he talks about what he's done to help her.

It's the chorus line that really touches me.

Don't, don't you want me?
You know I can't believe it when I hear that you won't see me
Don't, don't you want me?
You know I don't believe you when you say that you don't need me

He says it so pleadingly, he really doesn't want this to happen. I imagine a desperate man, who doesn't want to lose this relationship. It's a disbelief line. It's "Don't you want me in your life? You don't need me?" The vocalist delivers the line flawlessly. Even though he's taking the break up really poorly, I can't help but feel for him. His entire world is coming down on it and this is just how he handles it.

He says "You'd better change it back or we will both be sorry", but this line holds both the anger and the sadness. It mean, "You better change your mind", but it's also, "we'll both be sorry", but he knows it'll only be him that's sorry.

The girl's lyrics aren't as strong, but that's fine. I listen to her verse and I can't help but think that she's handling it casually. And maybe he really did raise her up to where she was, and she's just taking it for granted. She certainly didn't try to refute him. She didn't say "I made this way on my own" or "You're just a jerk". It's funny.

"Nothing Better" handles the break up from a definite Ben Gibbard point of view. The man is upset, desperate, and heart broken. He handles the break up real traditional, like "Can I fix this somehow?" He says beautiful lines like "Tell me am I right to think that there could be nothing better, than making you my bride and slowly growing old together". He's so romantic, it's so "I'm the right guy. Look how much I love you."

And the girl vocalist comes in and it's fantastic. She points out all the s**t the relationship was like. She never says whose fault it was, she never explicitly places the blame on him. It's just something that happened and their break up must happen, like it must in so many relationships. I love how she comes in, and she's so frank. She knows better than to fall into his dreamy "Let's die together" lines.

And she's sympathetic too. "Your heart won't heal right if you keep tearing out the sutures." She doesn't outright hate him, but they can't continue on the way they're going. She still cares, and she still wants him to get better after this. She wants to move on from it.

I really love how honest "Nothing Better" is.

Both songs are terrific. I'm glad I had the chance to listen to them both.





 
 
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