Song Analysis

I’m Not in Love

Sunday 25 September 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

“I’m Not in Love“ was originally a song by the British band 10CC and it became a huge hit in 1975, shooting at #1 on the UK music charts. In a way, it still is the ultimate slow dance you find on every classic love song compilation but very few people ever noticed the very cynical and harsh lyrics. The boy in the song may pretend he’s not in love when he probably is, the way he addresses his girlfriend is quite dreadful and mysogynist, making it the perfect song for Tori to sing from a female standpoint. Indeed, to prove the girl he’s not into her, the singer tells her : "I keep your picture upon the wall/it hides a nasty stain still lying there," clearly treating her like an object of both desire and disdain.

"The singer is really super-cynical, and the lyrics show a superiority complex that doesn’t know its equal in pop music," Tori told Samsonic in September 2001. "He just has a hard on and looks down on the girl he sings about. I think that the men from 10CC where deeply on coke at the time, because this is real cocaine arrogance. Plus the arrogance from a pop-star that has hundreds of girls down at his feet and can say, ’Alright, you can give me a blowjob, but don’t you dare think I care about you.’" Tori probably refered to the fact that the band’s name, 10CC, was allegedly supposed to represent the volume of the band’s above-average semence (which two of the members and their manager clearly denied years after while one of them confirmed the story).

Inverting the roles, Tori imagined a woman whose calls were not returned by her lover and who decides to forget him "utterly and forever" as states Neil Gaiman’s short story in the tourbook of the album. She calls his wife as a pay back and asks her if he could send her back her underwear. Musically, Tori strayed very far from the original version : she "stripped the keyboards off" to make the track as bare as possible and make the vocals the center of focus while guitarist Adrian Belew used a drill along with his instrument, hence this very cold sound, like a heartbeat. The artist explained to ICE in September 2001 she wanted it to be "almost like an ancient Japanese dance, like a ritual dance."

The man thought he had power over this woman but the tables have turned and she outgames him. "She’s a little fetish girl - she’s into BDSM," Tori told Alternative Press in October 2001. "It’s all about power with her. And she’s not really in love; she really isn’t. She was at one time and she’s having a different adventure in life. She will walk down many roads." Tori’s version then investigates how power can be an aphrodisiac for both men and women, at both sides of the rope.

Tori said she could identify with that "girl" because she’s already experienced both sides. "I’ve traversed those areas in my own life and, God, it was devouring, on both sides," she explained to The Independent in September 2001. "Power meant something different to me then. And I don’t think it was safe. Because, say, I would take myself into places that could’ve been... offensive to my soul, taking a fantasy too far, where you think, ’This is dangerous, and I’m taking a hit here’, meaning ’What have I opened up?’, or, ’What am I playing out? What’s in me that needs to be treated like this?’ Well, one thing about the relationship I have now is that there will be places where he will say to me, ’Y’know what, Taz? Let’s go and get you an ice cream. If you want to explore this, it’s fine, but not in this way.’"

Speaking about her husband, Mark, she remembered playing mind games with him before they confessed their feelings for each other. "I played the role of professional widow all over the place," she said to Saturday Magazine in September 2001, refering to her 1996 Boys for Pele song. Tori and Mark met in 1994 during the Under the Pink tour. He had just joined her crew as a sound engineer with his pal Marcel van Limbeek. When her seven-year-long relationship with Eric Rosse fell apart during the tour, Tori had several affairs with guys drawing on the "dark prince" archetype, something which will have a great deal of influence on Boys for Pele, her third studio album.

"Everyone knows the lyrics to ’I’m Not in Love.’ Well, with him I was playing precisely that game. My intentions were not at all honourable, but still we were just acquaintances. Then, one night, at sound check and towards the end of a very gruelling tour, he turned to ask, ’Will you tell me one thing, Tori?’ I said that I would try." He then asked her : "’Why is it that women chase after, and run off with, men who never see who they are or value what that is?’ Big stuff. Yet absolutely the right thing for him to ask of me at that particular point in time. It stopped me dead in my tracks."

When we think about what a powerful man or woman is in a relationship, we too often envision a person taking advantage of another one. Domination too often feels like a sexy thing and that really is the heart of the matter for Tori. "I look at the men around me saying, ’What are you girls doing? Why?,’" Tori told Get Rythm in October 2001. "You’ve got a whole contingent of men, particularly heterosexual men, and you have to ask what are these men doing hating women? Then what are you women doing wanting men that hate you to love you to see you? So there is always a question of Real Men and as women, how do we define that? What is a powerful man?" Her personal experiences allowed Tori to understand that real and inspiring power is "not using a situation where you could exploit" as she put it in The Independent on September 14, 2001.

But that’s not what "I’m Not in Love" is about. The girl in that song really is about that craving for power. It shows you "this power game that she and he are at," she told Get Rythm. "It’s a very involved little sexual dance, a tango happening. And it can be fun for a while. And then not. Because, what is power? You start to give away slices at a time, till you turn around and see that the pie has been cut up and you were part of the cutting. So what is our part in it? You and me in a relationship? What is my part in it? Not always them, them, them."

To sum it up, Tori described her cover as a "dark power dance" to Newsday on October 7, 2001. "You’re not in love? Well, neither am I. You want to play that one? Let’s go. There will be a loser. Every five minutes. That might be fun for a while. Until it’s not any more. Until the pounding and the scrapes begin to really hurt," she concluded, referring to the heavy drill pounding heard in the track. About her character pictured in the album’s artwork, she described her in Jonathan Ross radio show in December 2001 as being "up to no good" and confessed she "liked being a brunette, like dark, dark hair. It gives you an attitude."