I Wanna Be Yours – A British Legacy

By: Kelli Gunning

Have you ever wondered about the unique lyrics to the Arctic Monkeys’ song “I Wanna Be Yours?” It is the final track in their 2013 album, AM, and opens with: “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner / Breathing in your dust.” He continues to compare himself to a Ford Cortina that will never rust, a portable heater that she’d get cold without, and a setting lotion for her hair.

Romantic, isn’t it?

The words to “I Wanna Be Yours” are actually adapted from a pre-existing poem from 1982. Written by John Cooper Clarke, the poem has been well-loved in England; it has been read at weddings, and even studied in schools as part of the curriculum. The poem has been popular since before Alex Turner was born. But a young Alex heard it in school, and wanted to adapt it for the Arctic Monkeys’ fifth album. 

I don’t think that the decision to put this particular song at the end of AM was a random choice, because “I Wanna Be Yours” is not just a song about a man who wants to become a household appliance—it holds cultural weight. And I believe that cultural message was crucial to tag onto the end of the album. Why? 

It’s because AM was a new direction for the band. The change is subtle, but from the opening track of “Do I Wanna Know?” it is obvious. Comparing it to their previous classics like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor,” “Fluorescent Adolescent,” and “Black Treacle,” the tracks in AM are more restrained and dark compared to their more impartial and colourful counterparts. The bass and drums are fiery in a muted way, embodying the essence of a man casually smoking a cigarette. The groove is relaxed but driving. The guitar is used with care, sometimes propelling the rhythm like in “I Want It All,” sometimes settling in the background like in “Arabella” until it gets its moment to shine. AM has more of a hard rock sound than their earlier indie rock style–and more importantly, their trademark Britpop sound. 

It was their most successful album yet—especially internationally. And some critics decided that its success is linked to the fact that they stepped outside their British style, saying they “Americanized” themselves. Were the Arctic Monkeys really changing their cultural identity to cater to a wider audience?

I really don’t think so. Maybe it’s up for debate, but I don’t think they are like that. Look at their most recent album, The Car; it is almost unrecognizable. A band is allowed to take different directions if they want to. But I believe that “I Wanna Be Yours” is a way for them to remind their listeners that they haven’t lost themselves. They have their new style but they still come from deep British roots. And in doing so, they brought the world this strange, but heartfelt poem.