Singled Out: Betty Who
The music in this song came quickly. My producer, Peter Thomas, and I were sitting in his studio watching Whitney Houston videos. She had died earlier that week and we were revisiting her career in bits and pieces. We watched the "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" video and listened in amazement at how fun the sounds were in that song. He found a synth that emulated the songs warmth and almost camp-y dance vibe and we started messing around with it as a joke at first. Then he played what would later be the opening chords of Somebody Loves You and I freaked out. I made him play it over and over again and asked him to throw together a scratch drum track so we could start writing immediately. We came up with a few melody ideas then he left me to write lyrics. As for the story behind those?
I have terrible taste in men. No, not terrible. Challenging might be a more appropriate word. I always seem to hear stories about women who try to "fix" their boyfriends and I always seem to say to myself "that will never be me". Well it was me.
I was dating a guy who was always sad, not because of me necessarily, I guess he was just a sad dude. I imagine dating Justin Vernon would be very similar to dating this guy. I would talk to this boy on the phone every night (it was one of those long distance relationships that everyone has, tells you about and follows up with their own version of the phrase "never again") and we would talk about why he was sad and I would try to be the one thing that could make him happy. I wanted him to realize that I was totally in love and ready to do whatever it took to support him, but he was too busy being unhappy to see it. I remember his sister saying to me very early in our relationship that he was going to f**k it all up, and he would look back on losing me as the biggest mistake of his life.
The first verse is essentially a cry for him to at least notice that I was there; to notice that I cared so deeply about his happiness. ("Who's around when the days feel long? Who's around when you can't be strong? Who's around when you're losing your mind? Who cares that you get home safe? Who knows you can't be replaced? Who thinks that you're one of a kind?") The chorus is, simply put, my way of grabbing his shoulders, shaking him and yelling "I'M IN LOVE WITH YOU. ACT ACCORDINGLY". The second verse is a reiteration of what his sister said would (and did) happen. The bridge came much later, after we had broken up.
I wrote it in a moment of weakness when I was missing his closeness and the way his arms felt when I woke up and they were wrapped around me. ("Why don't you come on over, why don't you lay me down.") I naively thought it should have been so much easier ("If I am good to you, won't you be good to me? That's how easy this should be."). We could just be good to each other and that would be enough.
Now, after being single for some time, what this song means to me is much broader. It's about the idea that someone, somewhere is thinking about you right before they fall asleep, whether it's the guy you made eye contact with in the airport or your grandmother.
We are all such loved beings, but it's hard to remember that after a sh*tty day filled with sh*tty interactions with seemingly sh*tty people. It could be a God, it could be a wife, it could be a distant family member, it could be a total stranger - someone is thinking about you and hopes you're okay.