November 15, 2018

Me Myself and I: A Theory

Let’s talk about Me Myself and I for a minute. It’s obviously a break up song, but I’ve never gotten the feeling that it was about the end of a romantic relationship even though that’s one interpretation. To me it has always sounded like a band break up song, but I oddly never worried that Hanson was actually going to break up even back when it came out in 2010. I guess I always assumed that Hanson, being the talented musicians that they are, were capable of imagining a scenario and writing in that head space even if just from a therapeutic, creative “what if” perspective. These are the guys that have written songs about divorce having never experienced one and wrote about the fleeting nature of life at the grand old age of ~10. I guess the bottom line is I always suspected that it was a band breakup song that must have been rooted in some real emotions but ultimately was not a declaration of anything I needed to worry about. They put it on an album. They toured with it. They obviously weren’t going anywhere yet.

Fast forward to String Theory. When my album package came, I sat down with a piece of paper, a pencil, and the In Verse lyric book for my first official listen. I intended to make notes about things like orchestral details I noticed for the first time on the album but hadn't been able to pick out live, whether or not I thought vocals had been rerecorded, and overall what my feelings were on the album vs. live. Instead, I found my pencil wandering away from the paper and into the lyric book itself (please hold all pitchforks for defacing an expensive package item for after class). I couldn't help but notice a few subtle differences between the lyrics on the page and the lyrics being sung on String Theory. I've been around long enough to know better than to put much stock into spelling and proofreading anomalies in the Hanson world, but surely a project so focused on telling a story and one providing the first ever formal lyric book would include a closer attention to detail, right? I’d like to believe that any variation between written and sung lyrics in this case were a careful stylistic choice made to better serve the story rather than a typo that made it past the editing stages. I’m probably kidding myself here, but regardless, for just a moment the subtlest difference in My Myself and I lyrics had me breaking out the chalkboard and forming string-free theories about what this song means.

The difference? Here you go:

String Theory uses “we will be fine” instead of “it will be fine.” For just a moment, the minute difference made glaringly obvious by spacious formatting had me reading “We” out of context as Hanson instead of the individual parts of me myself and I. So where I’ve always read “Me myself and I will never be alone” as a more poetic way of saying “[I] will never be alone, [I] will find a way to get along, etc.” this time I read the whole chorus in the context of Hanson. “[I] will never be alone, [We/Hanson] will find a way to get along, We [Hanson] will be fine, when all that's left is me, myself, and I.”

I’m oddly not sure if it’s happier or darker that way.

I had a few fleeting thoughts when the song came out that there was a nice symmetry to "Me Myself and I" being three entities when there were also three members of the band. I am probably an idiot for not reading more into that sooner, but now I find myself wondering: what if “Me Myself and I” was never about the breakup struggle of one person leaving behind something he used to care about? What if "Me Myself and I" was always a metaphorical way of talking about the dividing of one whole into its three sum parts: Isaac, Taylor, and Zac? (see how much better that looks with the Oxford commas? Just saying.) The fact that each brother takes a verse in the String Theory version pairs perfectly with this interpretation. Whereas I always took there to be only one speaker throughout the song, hearing them all sing a verse gives the feeling that each verse is the perspective of each member of the band individually, and they’re all coming to the same conclusion. You could practically put quotation marks around the whole thing and read it like a dialogue.

“When did it start getting old? When did it stop being worth the time just to see it through?”

“Well I tried to be everything that you’d want me to be. I don’t have to give you reasons why.”

“I don’t really care who was right. I’ll give you the last words tonight.”

It comes off more like a defeated conversation than an argument, which is almost worse and more final in a way. And it all makes so much sense—until I start thinking about the chorus. The verses are so dark and lonely and then the chorus talks about never truly being alone and finding a way to get along. The line that confuses me the most is “When I’m alone in a cold, dark room, well, there’s still someone that I can tell my troubles to.” Is it talking about still being able to talk to each other in spite of everything? The fact that no matter how alone each of them feels, they’re at least alone together? There’s clearly dialogue happening in the verses, which means they aren’t literally alone, but maybe it's just inner dialogue, the things they've always wanted to say to each other but haven't. It's a little bit "Breaktown" in that way. "I'm the walls that close in. I'm the words you won't say. I'm the voice that you choose to keep inside and lock away, every day. You keep it all to yourself, you're just like everyone else, so take a good look around."

I’d love to hear other perspectives on this. Who do you think this person is telling his troubles to? Have you always seen the song this way? Do you get something completely different out of it all? I'd love to hear what you think!


Unknown said...

I love your enthusiasm for their lyrics and your word nerdery. :) In the past, I've used this song for personal outlets, whether it be about the end of a romantic relationship, or with friends. Telling myself that I am a complete person without anyone else, and that's more than good enough.

Until String Theory. I just went to their Cleveland show, and tried really hard to live in the moment and see the show as one whole story, like they've been saying all along. That's how I had an aha moment during this song where I went, "Wait a minute... Is this a song about them breaking from their record label and the formal music industry as a whole to go their own way??"

I didn't advance the thought enough to know if it truly fits for the timeline of their story, but it was the first time I had ever had that thought, and a lot of the lyrics could work for that. They argued with people, they gave it their best, but in the end, it wasn't right for them and they had to walk away and be okay with that decision.

Normally I don't comment and I leave the analysis to you ;) but I had just had some of these thoughts myself, and it fits with what the band themselves have said about this whole project, that each song has multiple layers and the deeper you go in, and the different ways you hear it, can add to your understanding of the song.

Courtney said...

I love your interpretation!

I've always thought of it being about the music, like, all the characters that fuel their songs are the me, myself, and I (oxford comma ❤) and even when someone is all alone the music is there inside.

Unknown said...

I've always thought this song could apply to any kind of struggle in a relationship. A dating, married couple or even Hanson going through a struggle of breaking up. That the person has decided their ready to make it through on their own if they have too. The change in lyrics from (I)to (we) for this tour might be their way of telling us this is part of their story together.

asphodelia said...

Finally, now that I've posted my reviews of ST I am allowing myself to catch up with other blogs. This is a great post - I love analysing lyrics and I have to be honest, I never thought of this particular interpretation, and now that you've seen it, I can't unsee it, either. It's disturbing and intriguing at the same time, but it makes complete sense. These subtle changes in Hanson's lyrics (from 'I' to 'We') are so easily missed and/or dismissed because Hanson tend to do that a lot, often accidentally I guess. But that has to be on purpose. I was already excited about Isaac having his own line but now I am looking forward to the live performance of this song even more.

PS: I know they're un-British but personally, I love Oxford commas.