John Mayer explains Singlish-sounding song lyrics in 'Why You No Love Me'

Mayer wanted to make a record that was 'in some way provocative, if not antagonising', he said in an interview.

Nigel Chua | August 19, 2021, 04:51 PM

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A new album titled "Sob Rock" was released by John Mayer earlier this year.

While the album has sent the multi-Grammy Award-winning artist to the top of the charts in the U.S., one of its songs, "Why You No Love Me", has attracted some attention in Singapore, and not so much for its musical merits.

Instead, people in Singapore have been drawn to the song's chorus lyrics, wondering whether Mayer is singing in Singlish.

Here are the lines in question:

"Why you no love me?

Why you no love me?

Why you no even care?

Why you no love me?

Why you no love me?

Why you no will be there?"

This was highlighted by a Singaporean TikToker, @szeseasoning, who uploaded a post that stitched another creator's post questioning Mayer's song, together with a clip of her own reaction.

"Why is this white man singing breakup songs in Singlish?"

"Why is this white man singing breakup songs in Singlish?" her caption asked.

Judging from comments on the post, she wasn't alone in seeing the similarity between the lyrics, and something a heartbroken Singaporean might say in Singapore's unofficial national language.

Rage comic inspiration?

Were the bafflingly ungrammatical lyrics simply a nod to the classic "Y U NO" rage comic popular in the late 2000s and early 2010s, as one user suggested?

Or did the 43-year-old American somehow get romantically entangled with a young Singaporean sister?

John Mayer explains "Why You No Love Me"

So are Mayer's lyrics actually written in Singlish?

It seems that no one has had the chance to pose him that question directly so far.

However, he was asked why he didn't simply use the line "Why don't you love me?", in an interview with Apple Music host Zane Lowe.

In the interview, Lowe contended that "Why don't you love me" would work just as well in the song, instead of "why you no love me".

Here's what Mayer had to say in reply:

"'Why You No Love Me' is how I have spoken those words for a long time in relationship. And it is the child who... you know, it's not English as a second language. It's language as a second language.

How do I use these words that I've just learned as a child—and maybe it takes 43 years to ask that question, but you still ask it in the language of a child. 'How is it possible? How is it possible that you couldn't love me,' right?

And that's brutal. But it's funny, as all things that are brutal are when you're an adult. Do you know what I'm talking about? And for me, I wouldn't have finished that song if I thought it was a joke. I don't have the balls to carry a joke that far."

In other words, the lines may sound like Singlish, but that's because they are meant to sound wrong.

Lyrics are intentionally funny

Mayer also explained that the humour arising from the song's ungrammatical lyrics — and the rest of the record — was intentional.

"When I was making the record, the idea was that I was getting somewhere if I laughed," he said. "Not because it's hilarious and it's insincere and it's jokey," he said.

Rather, the humour comes from the way that "we laugh when a sentence ends in a way you don't expect."

Citing "Why You No Love Me" as "the song that best explains this, Mayer said that the song was " blatantly beautiful and sappy" on one hand, while containing "brutal" lyrics.

"I've never written more brutal lyrics in my life," he said.

"When I would play it for people, they would laugh, because it's like, 'what? What are you doing?' And then sort of go like, 'stop it', right?

It's like this umami flavor, where musically, you're on a sailboat and lyrically, if you really break it down. It's really really intense."

Referencing the other unexpected elements about the record—including its title, "Sob Rock"—Mayer also said that he wanted to make a record that was "in some way provocative, if not antagonising".

Hmm, quite cheem.

But probably not Singlish.

Related story

Top image screenshots via Spotify, John Mayer on YouTube, and @szeseasoning on TikTok

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