Do I Have To?

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1987
Original album - Alternative
Producer - Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - Actually 2001 reissue Further Listening 1987-1988 bonus disc
Other releases - b-side of single "Always on My Mind"

This song, which served as the b-side of the "Always on My Mind" single, was originally titled "Break His Heart, Not Mine." Neil says that the final title, however, was inspired by a phrase Chris often uses when complaining about something. (On a promo trip in Japan, for instance, Neil reports that Chris said it "about 15 times a day.") He wrote the lyrics as if he were talking to a person who's dating someone who already has a steady boyfriend. The narrator of the song—or at least one of the narrators—is clearly worried that he's watching a situation in which one or more people are going to be badly hurt.

I'll be the first to admit that it can be a difficult song to understand, at least beyond these basic generalities. The lyrics seem to raise as many questions as they answer, the key one being "Do I have to… "—what? But Neil has offered an explanation: "The idea [is] that someone you're going out with is two-timing you, saying, 'Do I have to love you?' It's a really bitter song. I love the way that it's bitter and very romantic at the same time."

The narrator actually shifts between the verses and the chorus, with two different people speaking. The voice in the verses is that of the "narrator proper," while the chorus repeats the words of his lover. Neil provided further clarification in 2018 when, in his book One Hundred Lyrics and a Song, he wrote that this song "describes finding out that your new lover still has an old lover and won't drop him." So, in other words, the narrator's "lover" (as it were) wants to continue having sex with him but doesn't want to commit to love. In effect, he's saying, "Do I have to love you, too?" That's certainly a situation that many if not most people would find extremely frustrating.



Officially released

List cross-references