Song Breakdown: In This Moment – Sick Like Me


Honestly, I had not started today expecting to look for an image of lesbian arachnopilia

What feels like ages ago, I made a post about my interpretation of Jinger’s Pit of Consciousness. I had not intended for that to become a recurring matter on here, but I find myself wanting to do another such post about In This Moment’s Sick Like Me, and so here we are.


This is not quite the same situation because I am not familiar with In This Moment, neither in terms of their overall body of work nor in terms of the band themselves. Sick Like Me clicked with me immediately, but I tried listening to a couple of other songs from them and could not feel a connection. Unfortunate, perhaps, but it should not have any bearing on the rest of this post.


Since the band was kind enough to include lyrics in the description of their YouTube video (linked above), I will assume those are accurate for any parts that I cannot understand clearly on my own. Likewise, any time call-outs are with respect to the official music video. As before, I will be ignoring the visuals of the video under the assumption that they were developed some time after the song itself rather than being an integral part of the creation process.


(sounds 0:01-0:14)


The light, cyclic chiming amidst a bit of scratchy ambient noise gives me a sense of a vast space, ostensibly empty, yet someone familiar with it can see the patterns hidden in the barren expanse. I would not call it quite mournful or sorrowful, but it does have a melancholy feeling, as if the sound itself is aware that something is not quite right but has no power to change that.


(instrumentals 0:14-0:29)


The instruments punch in with instant aggression, but it is controlled, paced regularly, with gaps for the earlier chiming to continue taking prominence, all underscored by prolonged rising notes that bring tension. The song is struggling between a yearning sadness and instinctual passion.


(instrumentals 0:29-0:42)


The instruments take over more now, with the drums drowning out the previous chiming entirely. Kindled moments ago, passion envelops the mind, drowning out thought and searching for release.


(instrumentals 0:42-0:58)


The descending note segueing into a repeating aural gyration that finishes with an abrupt vibration seems like an aural expression of sex to me. The raw, physical act is done, instinctual passion spent, setting the stage to transition into a longer relationship.


Is it sick of me

To need control of you?

Is it sick to make

You beg the way I do?

Is it sick of me

To want you crawling on your knees?

Is it sick to say

I want you biting down on me?

(0:58-1:27)


It is a BDSM relationship, obviously, but two things about it catch my attention: the speaker needs constant validation from the partner, and there is a difference between which is dominant psychologically (the speaker) compared to which is dominant physically (shared). Neither would have been particularly remarkable to me by itself, being simply an expression of rather typical (if not entirely healthy, in the case of the former) relationship dynamics, but the combination gives me an impression of two people complimenting each other where either would have been incomplete alone.


Are you sick like me?

(1:27-1:33)


The instruments fall into a lull as the chiming from the opening returns and Brink delivers a powerfully broken, despondent, almost-desperate question. The speaker remembers who they were at the start, before they had met the partner. They are terrified of returning to that state, so they seek to solidify a deeper connection, a process which requires them to first become exposed and vulnerable.


Am I beautiful

As I tear you to pieces? Am I beautiful?

Even at my ugliest, you always say


I’m beautiful

As you tear me to pieces.

You are beautiful

Even at your ugliest, I always say

You’re beautiful and sick like me

(1:33-2:08)


The speaker’s desperation and weakness are on full display here, as they acknowledge that both they and the partner support each other. Whether this is actually healthy or toxic is left ambiguous; while I do lean towards the former in the context of the uplifting instrumentals that play through much of this section, the brief moment of chimes before repeating the aggressive sounds from the early parts of the song while the final line is delivered (with a return to the earlier vocal style, as well) could easily be taken to imply that the speaker is unable to progress beyond who they were before meeting the partner. In fact, under this interpretation, it would not be much of a stretch to view the partner as the cause of the speaker’s stagnation for indulging their immediate desires rather than spurring development. My own relationship experience (whether platonic or romantic) leads me away from that interpretation because I think that giving comfort and support to someone who feels incomplete is every bit as important and meaningful as trying to help them become a better person, but either interpretation is reasonable (among others, of course).


(instrumentals 2:08-2:22)


The aural sex is back, and beyond the obvious, I think this signifies a sense of fulfillment. The speaker and the partner are enjoying their relationship without needing any extra words, for the speaker’s mind is at peace.


Is it sick of me

To feed the animal in you?

Is it sick to say

I tease the hunter like I do?

Is it sick of me

To watch the wicked way you thrill?

Is it sick to say

That I live to break your will? (2:22-2:50)


This is a recapitulation of the nature of their relationship, including giving me the same impression of mutual codependence. Rather than repeating what I said before, I want to take a moment to focus on the use of “sick” here. On a surface level, the word indicates a state of wrongness, but there is also the colloquial use of it as a synonym for “cool” or the like. I think the word choice does a wonderful job of leaving it up to the audience to view each use as either positive or negative. It seems especially effective in this set of questions because each one shifts progressively from positive to negative when taken at face value, yet it is not difficult to view all of them as positive questions when taken metaphorically. Ostensibly, the speaker is asking the questions to their partner, but on a meta level, the speaker is asking the audience to decide whether “yes” or “no” is the more desirable answer.


Are you sick like me?


Am I beautiful

As I tear you to pieces? Am I beautiful?

Even at my ugliest, you always say


I’m beautiful

As you tear me to pieces.

You are beautiful

Even at your ugliest, I always say

You’re beautiful and sick like me

(2:50-3:31)


A repeat of the chorus, and so far as I can tell, it is essentially identical to the previous rendition. It reinforces the same interpretations as before, with the repetition implying that this will be a regular part of the relationship.


(instrumentals 3:31-4:04)


More passions and sex, reminiscent of the early part of the song, but there’s a distinct difference in the sound this time. For lack of a better description, the gyrations feel rounded about another body rather than straightforward. I think that implies the speaker is no longer acting according to their own internal motives; they have joined with the partner on a deeper level, taking a piece of them into the speaker in order to modify their own self. As with many elements of the song, it is left ambiguous whether this is meant to be taken as positive or negative; being the eternal optimist that I am, I view it as a union that has left the speaker more sympathetic while still retaining the power dynamics from before.


Am I beautiful

As I tear you to pieces? Am I beautiful?

Even at my ugliest, you always say

(4:04-4:19)


These same lyrics again, but this time the vocals are cracked and broken, barely clawing their way over a hollow echo of earlier instrumentals before surging with power towards the end. The speaker hit a moment of crisis, hurt and confused (whether about their relationship or something else entirely), but rather than looking for strength within themselves, they sought it from their partner. Knowing that this part was going to come up is a key piece of why I was inclined to be favorable in my interpretations of earlier sections, since I believe it provides retroactive context that the speaker is better off for their relationship.


Am I beautiful

As I tear you to pieces? Am I beautiful?

Even at my ugliest, you always say


I’m beautiful

As you tear me to pieces.

You are beautiful

Even at your ugliest, I always say

You’re beautiful and sick like me

(4:19-4:52)


A third time through the chorus, and perhaps it is mostly because of the juxtaposition of the preceding section, but I find that the instrumentals sound more triumphant here than in the previous two. Those had been characterizing the nature of the relationship; this time, the speaker is truly embracing it (particularly since a third repetition of information in a brief period of time leaves about the same impression on the human mind as infinite repetitions).


(instrumentals 4:52-5:03)


And one last bit of aural sex to close out the song. While there is certainly more that could be read into it, I think of this as a wink at the audience, encouraging us to be adventurous in looking for someone to compliment all parts of ourselves, not just what is expected based on societal norms. Had the speaker not done so, they would have lacked support in their times of need, and we are left to imagine what the consequences of that would have been.


As I said for Pit of Consciousness, this is obviously just my interpretation of the song, and I would be interested in hearing any others.

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