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Released: 2013

“Do I Wanna Know?” by Arctic Monkeys is an angst-filled exploration of unrequited love and uncertainty. It’s a poignant narrative of the tortured delirium a person goes through when pining for someone out of their reach, plagued by doubt, fear, and a desperate yearning.

In the opening verse, the lyricist is asking the object of his affection if there’s a hidden affection matched to his own. “Have you got colour in your cheeks?” is essentially asking if the thought of him brings about any excitement or nervousness. “Do you ever get that fear that you can’t shift the type” refers to anxiety that won’t go away, the omnipresent fear of rejection. When he sings about “this tune I found that makes me think of you somehow”, he’s admitting to clinging to anything that remotely reminds him of this person, underscoring his obsessive longing.

Chorus lyrics, “(Do I wanna know?) / If this feeling flows both ways?” refer to the tortuous predicament of unrequited love. The singer is unsure and likely afraid of knowing for sure whether his feelings are reciprocated. The chorus is filled with longing and yearning for the other person to stay, to reciprocate the feelings, underlining that the nights are primarily for confessing feelings that couldn’t be expressed in the light of day.

The repeated lines “Crawlin’ back to you” suggest a dynamic where the lyricist finds himself repeatedly drawn back to this person, despite his better judgment or potential hurts received. This is a metaphor for the consuming nature of his emotions, speaking to the complexity of romantic entanglements.

Later in the song, we see the songwriter working up the courage to voice his feelings, “So have you got the guts? / Been wondering if your heart’s still open / And if so, I wanna know what time it shuts”. He wants to know if there’s a chance this could turn from one-sided to a mutual affection. The use of “and if so, I wanna know what time it shuts” is alluding to an opportunity for confession, a window of availability before the person moves on, figuratively “shutting” their heart to him. The entire song is a painful progression of uncertainty, pining, and anticipation of reciprocation that might never come.

“Do I wanna know?” serves as a constant reminder throughout the song of the dilemma at its center. Is it better to know and risk the hurt or to remain in limbo, clinging to some semblance of hope? Overall, this song is a masterful display of the messy, tangled emotions of unrequited love, rendered in a raw and palpable way through the Arctic Monkeys’ signature style.

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