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Title: ‘No You Girls’
Where to find it: ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ (2009, Domino)
Performed by: Franz Ferdinand
Words by: Alex Kapranos

Franz Ferdinand’s third album saw the band go – or attempt, at least – to go in a more dance-oriented direction, and ‘No You Girls’, the second single released from it, was a good indicator of this. Yet the song retained the smart arse, sleazy, leery vocal style we’d come to know from Alex Kapranos. You never knew whether to desire the man or detest him. Witty, yet with such simple lyrics, it’s ridiculously smart, and it’s been a live fan favourite ever since it’s seen the light of day. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s got the catchiest guitar line since their breakout hit ‘Take Me Out’. It’s so catchy, Kapranos himself is singing right along to it at the end. Yet, I think this inherent catchiness might just be taking away from the song’s take home message.

First, the words:

Verse 1
Oh, kiss me
Flick your cigarette, then kiss me
Kiss me where your eye won’t meet me
Meet me where your mind won’t kiss me

Flick your eyes and mine and then hit me
Hit me with your eyes so sweetly
Oh, you know you know you know that yes I love
I mean I’d love to get to know you

Pre-chorus
Do you never wonder?
No, no no

Chorus
No, you girls never know
Oh no, you girls’ll never know
No, you girls never know
How you make a boy feel
You girls never know
Oh no, you girls’ll never know
No, you girls never know
How you make a boy feel
How you make a boy

Verse 2
Oh, kiss me
Flick your cigarette, then kiss me
Kiss me where your eye won’t meet me
Meet me where your eye won’t flick me

Flick your mind and mine so briefly
Oh you know, you know you’re so sweetly
Oh you know, you know that I know that I love you
I mean I, I mean I need to love

Pre-chorus
Do you never wonder?
No, no no

Chorus
No, you girls never know
Oh no, you girls’ll never know
No, you girls never know
How you make a boy feel
You girls never know
Oh no, you girls’ll never know
No, you girls never know
How you make a boy feel
How you make a boy feel
How you make a boy

Bridge
Sometimes I say stupid things
That I think
Well, I mean I
Sometimes I think the stupidest things
Because I never wonder
Oh how the girl feels
Oh how the girl feels

Modified chorus
No, you boys never care
Oh no, you boys’ll never care
No, you boys never care
How the girl feels
No, you boys never care
You dirty boys’ll never care
No, you boys never care
How the girl feels

Oh, how the girl feels
Oh, how the girl feels

Now, the analysis:

I struggled for a long time on whether I wanted to do an essay about the topics explored in ‘No You Girls’, using it as one example for a broader piece, or just a straight-forward analysis. I’ve decided to do something in the middle. It all started from a couple weeks ago, when I woke up with the ticking of this song’s guitar line in my head. I thought it was strange that it should come to me all of a sudden. I don’t even own this album, so it’s not like a song that I had on repeat in my life at some point. But then I considered why I was thinking about this very song. I might be wrong, but I have a theory, which goes back to why I wanted to write that essay in the first place.

At the basic level, ‘No You Girls’ is about attracting the opposite sex, how such attempts at attracting are interpreted by the recipient, and what feelings are felt by the sender. Physics tells us “opposites attract”, at least when it comes to electromagnetic forces. As we all know however, love is never that simple. Even before you can get to love, you’ve got to make sure the other person is even receptive to the mere fact that you like him/her.

It’s easy to get lost in the chorus of ‘No You Girls’ because it’s oh so catchy, and I bet this was done on purpose. The rhythm of the chorus appears three times. The first two are identical and sung from the perspective of a man (Kapranos). But then you get to the end. Hmm. Uh huh. Has he changed sex? Because all of a sudden, he’s singing it as if he’s a woman. The words slightly change too. Genius, I tell you.

In the male versions of the chorus, he’s telling off a woman, saying, “no, you girls never know / how you make a boy feel.” I was talking to a good guy friend of mine and he was saying how true this sentiment was, that it’s not just the women who want the fairytale relationship, guys are not only capable but often think of relationships in such dreamy terms. As a woman, it never occurred to me to think this way, to think that a man might have similar hopes and dreams about relationships like us women. After all, most girls I know and I were brought up by our fathers to think that most men are not to be trusted and they only have one thing on their minds. Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve met plenty of men / guy friends who don’t fit this profile (thankfully!), but I think the general consensus still is that men don’t feel about love the way us women do. I am quick to point out that all men are not the same, just as all women are not the same either. (Case in point: the female player.) Either way, ‘No You Girls’ gives you some definite food for thought.

When Kapranos assumes the female role, the words have now changed to “No, you boys never care / How the girl feels.” When the song was controlled by a man, he was telling a woman that women never seem to consider the feelings of a man. Now as the song is being sung by a woman, she is telling men that men don’t even get to the point of consideration. No. They just don’t care.

He gets to this point of changing from a man to a woman via the bridge, which comes across as playful:

Sometimes I say stupid things
That I think
Well, I mean I
Sometimes I think the stupidest things
Because I never wonder
Oh how the girl feels
Oh how the girl feels

It’s kind of adorable the way Kapranos is stumbling in his words. I think this was meant as also. This ‘stumbling’ is also apparent in the first verse, when he can’t seem to form a sentence and tell the girl he has his eye set on that he’d like to get to know her better (“Oh, you know you know you know that yes I love / I mean I’d love to get to know you“). It also reappears in the second verse, when he seems to confuse his needs with his feelings (“Oh you know, you know that I know that I love you / I mean I, I mean I need to love“).

In the bridge, he has a thought about what he says out loud and how he might come across to other people. But halfway in the middle of his thought, he realises this might come out all wrong. Or maybe what he really meant was the things he says – a direct product of the way he thinks – are the source of ‘stupid thoughts’ and he reaches this great epiphany. “Hey, wait a minute. I’m railing off about how women are always treating us men badly, being terrible flirts, etc. But now that I really think about it, I never wonder how the woman feels.” And really, what’s worse, being the male target of female flirting going nowhere, or being a woman whose man never truly considers her feelings? There’s no right or wrong here. Depending on the person on the receiving end, both can feel pretty rotten.

Yes, there’s sexual innuendo in this song, and I’m not going there. (If you see and hear it, you’ve probably already figured it all out for yourself.) What I find far more compelling about the song are two things: 1) the cocksure way it’s sung, even though Kapranos is complaining about female flirtation habits and how women turn on men (and presuming this is not at all accidental), and 2) the reversal of roles when Kapranos comes to realise that it’s not just the women who are at fault. Or maybe the word ‘fault’ is wrong: has this all been a big misunderstanding between the sexes?

And I like how this song goes there, to question both sides of the story. While ‘No You Girls’ won’t win any awards for provoking any great sociological debates, the lyrics alone allow the song to transcend normal pop song boundaries.

Lastly, the song, in promo form, as an over eyeliner-ed Alex Kapranos and co. serenade what appear to be pinup girls from the future. I guess he is as perturbed by the women as they are of him? Hmm…

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