Why can't I be you - The Cure - 80sneverend - Being Robert Smith

Being Robert Smith

The Cure – Why Can’t I Be You?

You make me make me hungry for you
Everything you do is simply delicate
Everything you do is quite angelicate
Why can't I be you?
#TheCure #WhyCantIBeYou

Being Robert Smith… or perhaps not? In April 1987, The Cure, one of the most innovative and beloved bands of the ’80s, were poised to release their seventh album. Titled Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, the album was set for release in May. Nearly two years had elapsed since the success of Close To Me, during which time a Greatest Hits album was released. In this interval, The Cure diligently worked on the new album, with each member contributing songs influenced by their individual tastes and emotions. Despite a rigorous selection process, they amassed enough material to produce the first double album in their history.

To anticipate the availability of the album and drive its sales, The Cure chose Why Can’t I Be You?, a certainly pleasant and enthralling song, a little further from their dark past and certainly a little closer to the world of pop.

The lyrics of the song consist of a series of affectionate compliments, interspersed with the question that gives the title to the song. Thanks to various interviews with Robert Smith over the years, we can say today that the song actually has two separate souls, not completely unrelated, but inspired by very different situations.

As for the chorus and title, Smith explained that it was referring to a very specific situation, a moment in which he was surrounded by record companies or in any case people from the music world who were waiting for answers or directions from him. And in that moment Smith would have liked to be a thousand miles away, he would have liked to be in the place of anyone else, and from he came up with the disconsolate question that gives the lyrics to the song, without reference to a specific person, but with a certain reference to a situation and at a specific time. It must be said that other interpretations connect the title to a common phrase that Robert Smith often heard from fans who adored him.

Ok, but who was really addressed with all the other affectionate words that make up the predominant part of the text? Well, the most credited version (and perhaps also the sweetest and the one we like the most) says that the song was written in 1985 after a visit that Robert Smith had made in Peru to a little girl named Aurora who he had adopted in distance as a sponsored child, and to whom he dedicated all his affection and love as an adoptive father even though at a distance.

All this affection and sweetness clash a bit with the video of the song, it was directed by director Tim Pope, director of all the great the Cure videos but also of the videos for Tainted Love and other Soft Cell songs, It’s My Life , Such a Shame and other songs by Talk Talk, Young Guns (Go For It) by Wham!, and almost all videos of Siouxsie and the Banshees, and many other videos.

Tim Pope was certainly a free and autonomous spirit, and he created a video that was intended to be light and fun, and in fact for those times it really was, but which today would be inappropriate and totally unfitting and would most likely be censored.

In the video the members of The Cure are dressed and made up in particular ways and dance to the rhythm of the song, but there are a couple of situations that end in vulgarity. Meanwhile, one of the members, keyboard player Lol Tolhurst, is wearing a makeup on his face which today is unacceptable and racist. Then, during the chorus, The Cure arrange themselves so as to form with their bodies the letters that constitute, according to English phonetics, the title of the song, that is, Y (why) I B (be) U (you).

Of course the word “Can’t” was left out, so there is no letter with the same sound, but there is a vulgar term that has the same sound, and this term is symbolized in the video by a pair of lips. Perhaps for non-native speakers this allusion was not so obvious in the 1980s, but the play on words was absolutely clear for native English speakers.

Robert Smith declined any responsibility for the allusions in this video, pointing it to the director, who initially declared that it was exactly the video he would have liked to make, only to make public amends a few decades later, in his maturity period. Surely The Cure had no racist intent, and certainly three decades ago the sensitivity was very different, but it is common opinion that the somewhat superficial choices for the video have greatly penalized an otherwise very pleasant song , much loved by fans and which also entered the American sales charts for the first time.

The Cure on Wikipedia

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