“Can I Be Him” by James Arthur is a tender, elegant tribute to unrequited love, fueled by hope and longing. Wrapped up with balladic charm and an emotional outpouring, this song delivers a piece of confessional pop that resonates with its audience on a strikingly intimate level.
The opening lines, “You walked into the room / And now my heart has been stolen”, set the tone for the longing and infatuation that’s the running theme here. Arthur sees this person and is instantly captivated, reminiscing about a time “when I was unbroken”, hinting at a past emotional trauma that left him scarred. That’s some authentic, raw sentiment right there. From the very first moment this person enters his life, there’s a spark of hope, an illumination that’s likened to a “light [coming] on”.
The chorus “I swear that every word you sing / You wrote them for me”, encapsulates the obsessive nature of unrequited love, with Arthur convinced that their songs were meant for him, despite the reality that he’s essentially invisible to this person. It’s both poetic and tragically relatable.
The line “Could I be the one you talk about in all your stories?” finds Arthur in a state of wishful thinking, hoping to hold a significant place in this person’s narrative, while the persistent refrain “Can I be him?” echoes his yearning to be the object of their affection. The song gets particularly poignant with the line “I heard there was someone but I know he don’t deserve you”. Back off Mr. Jealousy, you’re showing your green eyes! It’s a bold proclamation that speaks volumes about his feelings.
In classic pop parlance, the bridge “When the lights come on and I’m on my own / Will you be there to sing it again?” underscores the loneliness Arthur feels, emphasizing the disconnect between his vivid fantasies and the stark reality of his solitude. It’s the kind of lyrical sharpness that sticks in your head and tugs at your heartstrings.
What we have here with “Can I Be Him” is a masterclass in emotional vulnerability, painted with the intense colours of unrequited love. James Arthur’s lyrics and delivery do a spectacular job of bringing that raw, universal feeling to life; it’s pop lyricism at its most heart-rendingly honest.