Who Do You Think You are is track five on Medazzaland, and it was produced by Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo (TV Mania). The song is reportedly about John Taylor’s departure from the band during the recording of Medazzaland.
I’m giving you the news
Your domination’s through
You gave the best you got
Now I’m out on top
If you’re in any doubt, listen to me
I’ve got a right to say
If you know what it’s all about
Who do you think you are?
Don’t want to be your enemy
If I’m not the one you want me to be
And I’ve got to do things the way that I do
Always trying to control me
Who do you think you are?
Our time on earth is running through
(This is not a question of my pride)
Sometimes I think it’s a game to you
(Ever wonder how I feel inside?)
And sometimes I play along but man I’ve got a mind!
You’ve got to live with yourself for the rest of your life
Do you understand?
Everybody asks themselves the question
Who do you think you are?
Why do you feel ashamed
When you can’t explain the things I say
To other people?
It’s just occurred to me
The thought that you might really want to be me?
An especially painful song to hear if you know the subject matter, “Who Do You Think You Are” is still beautiful in its own right. Let’s begin with the music. Since John did not perform on this song, Warren played bass. Anthony J. Resta along with Steve Alexander handled drums. The song begins very delicately, building as the song continues into the second verse, and hitting its stride in the first chorus before fading back out as the final verse is sung. The ferocity of the sound is understandable, and in some ways I can even hear the pain and perhaps even anger, in the energy. The effect is loud, and the production is noisy. There is a lot going on, and it’s hard to make sense of it all. The straight guitar chords overshadow nearly everything, including Simon’s vocals. Again, I get the point, but there’s more ego than anger going on here musically, and that diminishes the whole point of the song.
Vocally and lyrically, there’s no missing the pain, indignation, self-righteousness, and anger in Simon’s words. Somehow, he manages to still make the words relatable to anyone who has ever been in a failing (or failed) relationship. I think we’ve all felt that type of outrage, passion and resentment at one point or another. While as a whole the song is a bit “heart on their sleeve” for Duran Duran, it is understandable and likely just the tip of the iceberg that they, or Simon, was feeling at the time. Makes me wonder what John thought
Overall though, I feel like the production did not do the song justice. This would have done so much more if the sound had continued as it began with a little less emphasis on the “loud and indignant”.
I wish I could remember what I thought about this song the first time I heard it. I can imagine that unsuspecting listener tuning into the track for the first time as it begins so peacefully. You might assume that the song is about a love story or being in a happy place with yourself or someone else and then you listen to the lyrics. It is about a love story of sorts, just not one with a happy ending. Maybe, in fact, the peaceful beginning and end is intentional. At the beginning of a relationship, it can feel like happiness and beauty surrounds you. Then, the disappointment sets in along with the hurt and the anger before getting all of those negative emotions out of one’s system to return to a peaceful state.
In listening to this song, I am once again struck by Duran’s desire to let the art lead the work as opposed to any sort of focus on commercial success. Clearly, they would have known that this is not a song that would be warmly greeted on commercial radio. That isn’t to say that there aren’t songs that have done well on the charts that focus on anger, hurt or betrayal. My goodness, that topic fueled whole genres like punk music. Yet, the band did not go for an in-your-face anger. They were smarter, more artistic with it in how they presented the song. I mentioned earlier the calm beginning and end but even the lyrics show this to be a smarter version of a “I’m pissed off” song. It addresses the person in question and wonders how they can live with themselves. It isn’t about getting revenge or just letting off steam. It is deeper than that, more sophisticated than that. They wanted the person to think about what they have done. Despite the fact that this is not a track destined for the charts, there is a universal aspect to it. Everyone has felt this level of betrayal and hurt at some point with something or someone. I can imagine that it has filled a very necessary purpose to many when they need to get out their own negative feelings towards someone.
While it does include a universal message that many can and do relate to at various points in their lives, I cannot imagine that it is a song that a lot of people just play because they like it. No, I would think it gets played only when listening to the album as a whole or when someone needs a song to match their emotions. It is not a song that one might just enjoy on its own. I wonder if the band really listens to it much for fun, themselves. I bet it was super cathartic to write and record but once it was done, do they return to it? That isn’t to say that it is a bad song, musically. At times, it feels like too much going on in the song, which could be intentional but could also get in the way of the message. The lyrics are so straight forward that I think the music should be too and it isn’t always. Overall, it fits a specific purpose and time but tough to measure outside of that scope of its emotionality.