Somebody Else's Business

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2003
Original album - Disco 3
Producer - Chris Zippel
Subsequent albums - Nightlife 2017 reissue Further Listening 1996-2000 bonus disc
Other releases - (none)

Recorded in Berlin with Chris Zippel during the same sessions that produced "London" and "Positive Role Model," this song was originally built around a sample from the Isley Brothers' recording "Behind a Painted Smile," though the sample was later removed and doesn't appear in the final version. Its happy, upbeat sound would seem to belie the song's lyrical content: a surprisingly moving portrait of a heterosexual couple in which the woman suffers from bipolar disorder and/or manic depression. Despite this, the man loves her, enduring her "violent mood swings" complete with otherwise inexplicable bursts of screaming, shouting, crying, and laughing. I say "otherwise inexplicable" because Neil does explain it using an ingenious metaphor: "She's minding somebody else's business." In other words, one part of her bifurcated personality is preoccupied with "minding the business" of the other part (or perhaps parts, plural).

Regardless, this song presents anything but a bleak depiction of their love affair. For one thing, "life is never boring." And although the lyrics acknowledge that she could easily be perceived as "crazy," they also point out that "some say it's just being free." That is, her mental state could be viewed as a "disorder" only in its relationship to the "outside world," which generally demands conformity to certain social standards of behavior. But the female protagonist of this song is "free" of those constraints. The Pet Shop Boys seem to suggest that, though a part of us might pity and/or disapprove of her, another part of us might be more than a little envious.

Incidentally, it has been suggested that this song might be about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. To be sure, the line "life is never boring" does echo "Being Boring," the title of which was inspired by Zelda Fitzgerald, who indeed suffered from bipolar disorder or something very much like it. But Neil has specifically refuted this interpretation. On the other hand, he has confirmed that "Somebody Else's Business" does contain brief vocal samples ("oooh, oooh…") from the Boys' own "Love Comes Quickly."

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