I’ve been listening to Jonathan Coulton’s “Nobody Loves You Like Me” a lot recently. It’s a short sad song about a separation, but the lyrics leave it open enough for a different interpretation.

When you listen to the lyrics, it paints a fairly clear picture a man drinking at a bar, staring down divorce papers.

Here at the bar, who cares what I do.
I’m all alone, but I’m drinking for two.
Drowning the man, that I used to be,
Nobody loves you like me.

I won’t sign a thing, or else if I do.
I’ll use a pencil and that will show you.
How nothing lasts, how nothing is free.
Nobody loves you like me.

He overhears that their significant other misses someone else.

I catch a look, a thing that you say,
Out on the fire escape, smoking all day.
Missing someone, now who could it be?
Nobody loves you like me.

So he runs away.

Noises outside, the trucks in the street,
Will cover my flight, my heroes retreat.

Finally, he collapses.

Air in my lungs, a cough and a wheeze. Holes in the bellows, and blood on the keys. You move along, there’s nothing to see. Nobody loves you like me.

Like I said, it’s a short and sad song, but I think the lyrics leave it loose enough for interpretation. It’s easy enough to visualize the song as a man going through divorce and running away, but listen to this other JoCo song and see if it doesn’t change things.

In a nutshell, “Better” is about a couple growing apart — mostly because the narrator’s significant other keeps augmenting themselves with different upgrades like infrared eyes, gills, wings, and “a few extra thumbs”. My interpretation is that “Nobody Loves You Like Me” features the same couple, except told from the perspective of the augmenter. (As an aside, I’ve been playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution, so I’ll be using “augments” in place of human upgrades)

Let’s look at the original song again, this time picturing the narrator as a cyborg instead of a normal man. First off, the robotic backing vocals throughout the entire song lend credence to this interpretation. Next, the line “Drowning the man that I used to be” takes on a whole new meaning; as in, he’s drowning whatever part of him that’s still human. Also, “How nothing lasts, how nothing is free” hints at the imperfection of the human body, solved through human augmentation. Moreover, “Missing someone” could refer to how his significant other misses the narrator’s original, unaugmented self. Finally, the line “Holes in the bellows, and blood on the keys” in the last stanza seems to imply that his augmentations are failing, and maybe that’s why he’s running away.

Imagining the narrator as a cyborg instead of a a normal guy drastically changes the impact of this song. But I think it fits, especially since JoCo is known for incorporating science fiction into his songs.

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