I Want You Back by the Jackson Five is one of my favorite Motown songs ever. I really don’t want to ruin it, but I don’t know how to explain what’s going on in with this guy and his ex without making him sound like a jerk, and that, in fact, kind of ruins the song.
His jerkiness starts with the first two lines of the song:
When I had you to myself, I didn’t want you around
Those pretty faces always made you stand out in a crowd
This has to be the most roundabout way of calling a girl ugly that I have ever heard in a pop song. He is calling her ugly, right? I can’t think of another way to interpret that.
Then he goes straight into regret, but it seems to be more the kind of regret that she’s with someone that’s not him, instead of regret that he was a jerk to her:
But someone picked you from the bunch, one glance was all it took
Now it’s much too late for me to take a second look
Oh, baby, give me one more chance (to show you that I love you)
Won’t you please let me back in your heart?
Oh, baby, I was blind to let you go
But now that I see you in his arms (I want you back!)
See, I’m not sure if he really expects her to take him back, or if he’s just crying in his coffee. He called her ugly, admitted to himself that she’s with someone now who thinks she’s beautiful, and he’s all wahh-wahh, gimme a chance. Dude, too late. You had your chance, and it sounds to me like you blew it.
Trying to live without your love is one long, sleepless night
Let me show you, girl, that I know wrong from right
Every street you walk on, I leave tear stains on the ground
Following the girl I didn’t even want around
So … he’s stalking her now? Is that supposed to be romantic? I mean, the first line of that verse sounds like the kind of poetic language guys use when they’re being romantic, but the second line sounds like an empty promise. He already showed her he didn’t know wrong from right; he ditched her because he thought she was ugly. Then some other guy thought she was worth seeing and suddenly he’s all, Hey, I want you back. Makes me think he doesn’t know wrong from anything.
And then those last two lines — the tear stains thing is all poetic again, but he’s following her everywhere. That’s not normal. That’s weird. Dude. Just stop.