Thinking Out Loud – Lecture 3: Textual Analysis

Textual Analysis – I’m Alright (You Gotta Go There To Come Back) – Stereophonics

‘I’m Alright (You Gotta Go There To Come Back) is dark and melancholy; a song about denial, about convincing yourself that you’re alright despite your unhappiness. A prominent lyrical theme throughout the song is that of ‘I’d do … for you,’ occurring ten times throughout the three verses. It establishes that the song is about doing things you’re not necessarily comfortable with to please somebody else.

By reusing this lyrical theme, the song feels as if it doesn’t really move anywhere, at least not until the very end. This, in my view, is intentional. It’s a subtle way of suggesting that when you do things to make others happy at the detriment to your own happiness, all the progress you have made, or have the potential to make, is halted.

The entirety of this song is made up of examples of things the subject would do for their lover. The lyrics ‘I’ll drink another drink for you,’ ‘I’ll drop another pill for you,’ ‘I’ll make another pound for you,’ are all examples of negative behaviours. By performing these actions, taking drugs, drinking, fighting, lying, smoking, you compromise yourself as a person. ‘I’m Alright’ feels not only like a song about being so desperate that you’d do anything to make someone happy, but also one about losing your identity in pursuit of toxic happiness.

One line that stands out is ‘I’ll take another punch for you; Tie my hands behind my back, that way you cannot lose.’ There’s a suggestion that this song is written from the perspective of somebody who is being physically assaulted by their partner. It gives gravitas to the context the song is written in, taking it from potentially being thought of as a song purely about keeping others happy, to one about the cancerous aspects of losing your self-worth within a relationship, and what this loss of identity can do to you as a person.

In a few places throughout the song we can hear a background vocal singing ‘You gotta go there, to come back.’ This could just be a reference to the album in which this track might be found, but there’s a chance that there’s more to this lyric than that. It feels like advice, a friend, or even the subject’s inner monologue telling them that they have to experience this negativity in order to return to themselves, more knowledgeable and uncompromising, in the future.

The song ends with a section based on the chorus, with simple piano melodies and a vocal line featuring lots of layers. This gives a droning, but somewhat uplifting effect to the section. Coupled with Kelly’s background vocals, rough and rasping, it feels like the cage has been opened, like the subject is escaping whatever it is was that held them back.

I think the reason this song is so appealing to myself and the many fans of Stereophonics is because it is so raw. It doesn’t sugar coat its message and carries a strong sense of identity as a piece of work. Its relatable, and can mould itself to fit your purposes; a reminder to be yourself, a reason to leave an abusive relationship, a nudge towards self-confidence and happiness. Its message is applicable to everybody.





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