Sometimes it seems like the Cure made a career out of freaking me out. They created some awesome music, and the set those songs to some of the creepiest, most unsettling videos ever. (I will never get those glowing eyes from “Boys Don’t Cry” out of my head. Ever.) Robert Smith and company have always favored a dank, dreary gothic imagery, helping give rise to an entire subculture of teenagers wearing a lot of black. But gothic literature and gothic art have always held a sense of menace, of something evil and slithery just beneath the surface.
Even a glittery dance song becomes something weird and shadowy. “Why can’t I Be You?” seems so . . . cheerful on the surface. There’s even a playful sort of sexiness to it, like the guy would really like to do some serious giggling while fooling around with the object of his desire. Of course, then you start listening to the lyrics. And you get a little uncomfortable. “Make me hungry again”? “Eat you all up, or I’ll just hug you to death”?!? And of course the chorus question over and over and over: “Why can’t I be you?” Maybe this guy isn’t such a sweet fellow after all. Maybe he’s a stalker. Or a serial killer. Visions of Silence of the Lambs start running through your head (or they would if that movie had been made when the song was first released). But it gets even creepier when you watch the video.
Thing is, there really isn’t anything to this except the band dressing in funny costumes and dancing around to the song. But the effect is profoundly weird. It all just seems wrong, somehow unclean, but I can’t quite put my finger on why. I do know watching this video makes me less inclined to invite any of them over for dinner.
Of course, this is my favorite Cure song. I take some delight in the creepy ambiguity of it, and I have trouble tearing my eyes away from the video. It’s not quite like watching a train wreck. More like the scary movie when you know the monster/ghost/homicidal maniac is going to spring out from behind something, and someone is going to get it, but you watch in delight anyway, screaming gleefully at the havoc being wreaked on the screen. This is one of those songs that I feel is too short; I would happily listen to an extended remix. (There must be a dance version out there somewhere. Let me know if you know how to get a copy.) I usually listen to it at least twice in a row every time I hear it. There’s just something fun about this strange, stalkerish song.
Maybe I would invite the Cure over for dinner after all.