I find it incredibly powerful when a piece of music can execute a lighthearted, upbeat mood while having accompanying lyrics that are of a different nature, generally a sad one. I’m not entirely sure why that is; it may just be the contrast, or the artistry involved in making those two moods work together. But in some cases, I think it’s that it amplifies the emotion in coming across almost like the tone of the music is being used to muffle the sadness in the words.
That’s what “Me The Machine” by Imogen Heap is, to me. It’s a song that sounds ethereal and otherworldly, even dreamlike, but that sound seems to be muffling the yearning within the lyrics, a cry for more from the world.
There are a couple ways that I see to interpret the song. The first and more literal one is to take the song as being from the perspective of a machine of some sort that is aware of the world, but unable to experience things as humans do, primarily manifesting in an inability to experience and find love.
I see that interpretation as making sense in a lot of ways, and could get on board with it as a compelling sort of narrative. However, as someone who primarily listens to music that I can connect with in some way, I always like to find something relatable within music. As such, I prefer to see “Me The Machine” as a metaphor for a person who struggles with feeling separate from the rest of the world, to such a degree that they feel like a machine rather than a human akin to the rest of the population.
The song certainly works effectively under that lens; the plethora of imagery and vocabulary that seem to paint the narrator as a literal machine also work as a means of conveying this distance that the narrator feels, a desperation to understand, to feel comfortable and included. They’re trying to understand these concepts mechanically, to try and engage with romance, but it doesn’t work for them; they spend time with others who are more in touch with things (“to wine and dine with neurons that know how to love”), but get no closer themselves. And so as the chorus states, they, “the machine,” can dream, and only dream, for these things that they wish to experience.
This comes to a peak in its emotion within the bridge, when Heap proclaims, “I don’t want to be everything, but I just want to feel a part of it!” It’s my favorite piece of the song, because it’s something that I think is so relatable; at some point in everyone’s life, I think they have at least one moment like that, if not an extended period of that feeling. You know you can’t realistically get everything that might make you happy, but you just wish so strongly that you could be more a part of things, that something in particular could click to make you feel like you’re truly a part of the world you’re living in rather than just being on the outside.
Perhaps this interpretation is a stretch, but even if it is, this song is gorgeous, and Heap’s poetic lyrics work together flawlessly with the instrumentals and her breathy vocals to accomplish a full, magical piece of music. It’s moving while also being heavenly to listen to, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.