I'm with Stupid

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2006
Original album - Fundamental
Subsequent albums - Disco 4, Ultimate
Other releases - single (UK #8, US Dance #7)

We've probably all seen t-shirts bearing this inscription, a comic insult to anyone accompanying the wearer. With its busy uptempo arrangement—complete with producer Trevor Horn's trademark synth-orchestra blasts and percussion flourishes —"I'm with Stupid" is on one level simply an amusing song about a love relationship with a rich, famous person who's not exactly gifted in the brains department. But, like the Release track "I Get Along," it was actually inspired by events surrounding the administration of U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In this case, it concerns the close international political relationship between Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush—the titular "Stupid"—particularly with regard to the Iraq War. Consider these lines coming from the lips of the prime minister:

See you on the TV
Call you every day
Fly across the ocean
Just to let you get your way

No one understands me…
Why would I be with someone
Who's obviously so dumb?

Yet Tennant and Lowe leave open the possibility that what passes for stupidity may in fact be a ruse: "Is stupid really stupid, or a different kind of smart?" They wouldn't have been the first to suggest that Bush may have been cleverer than he let on—that his "dumb" persona was simply a device that he often used to his political advantage in the notoriously anti-intellectual U.S. cultural climate. They also leave open the possibility that the allegedly "stupid" one may not have been the stupider of the two. As Neil told an interviewer, "In the end is Blair the stupid person?—because there is a feeling that he has been hoodwinked…."

Regardless of whether you interpret him as Tony Blair or as anyone else, the narrator certainly seems to be getting the raw end of the deal in this relationship ("I never thought that I would be a sacrifice in love"), yet he endures. Of course, no names are actually mentioned—the Boys are themselves too smart to automatically "date" the song like that—and the lyrics are vague enough to readily accommodate the nonpolitical interpretation. (It again resembles "I Get Along" in that respect.) Yet, conversely, this very quality only serves to heighten the comedy of the political reading by lending it a distinctly homoerotic air. Once more Neil and Chris show themselves to be masters at writing songs that not only invite multiple interpretations but which also derive much of their strength and meaning from the interplay of those different readings.

"I'm with Stupid" is the first single from Fundamental—although that honor was originally planned for "Minimal"—and will be released as such on May 8. As widely rumored in advance, the video features Matt Lucas and David Walliams (the latter himself a diehard PSB fan) of the wildly popular U.K. television comedy Little Britain. Interestingly, as the Boys have done before (the most famous instance being "Go West"), they use the video not to illustrate what might be termed the "primary interpretation" of the song but instead to provide an entirely distinct meaning—or even layers of meaning. With Neil and Chris depicted as a captive audience of an earnest but low-budget and not very complimentary parody of themselves and two of their most famous vids (the aforementioned "Go West" and "Can You Forgive Her?"), some fans have suggested that the video shows how the Boys may feel somewhat trapped by public misconceptions of them—misconceptions that they themselves have unintentionally fueled. In this case, could "I'm with Stupid" be a commentary on how the public mistakenly reads the relationship of Neil and Chris? Or perhaps on the relationship between the Pet Shop Boys and the public? In either case, who are the "stupid" ones?

By the way, one of my site visitors astutely noted a pun (which the Boys are known to love) in the line "Are you not Mr. Right?" George W. Bush was, after all, widely considered to be a right-winger, though some might view him as having been more as a "corporatist" who was equally willing to adopt "conservative" or "liberal" stances depending on whether they advanced the cause of multinational business interests. A debatable editorial point, to be sure.

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