Song of the Day #2,741: ‘I’m Not the Man’ – Ben Folds

ben_folds_so_thereBest Songs of 2015 – #5
‘I’m Not the Man’ – Ben Folds

Ben Folds’ latest solo release, So There, is more of an EP than a proper album. Half of the record’s running time is dedicated to a three-movement concerto for orchestra and piano, not exactly my cup of tea.

The eight proper pop songs are also performed with a chamber orchestra and while the music is lovely, the lyrical content on a few of them leans toward the frat-boy sensibility Folds is sometimes guilty of indulging.

So There, then, isn’t one of Folds’ best albums, but even a pretty good Ben Folds album is excellent much of the time.

Never more so than in its final proper song, ‘I’m Not the Man.’

I was 24 when I discovered Ben Folds Five. Folds was 30. I listened to him opine on marriage and fatherhood as I reached those milestones myself. And now he’s singing about middle age at a time when my blurring vision and general creakiness remind me that I’m probably past my prime.

‘I’m Not the Man’ captures that melancholy realization beautifully. “There could be fewer days ahead than gone,” Folds sings, painfully aware that he’s no longer “the man.”

I disagree. He still is.

What will they write about me?
What will the version be when all is said and done?
Will they remember all of the places seen, the poems lost
Or am I just wondering on? Yeah, I’m just wondering on

There could be fewer days ahead than gone
And all I’ve spent are long since on my way
To learn that nothing comes for free
But I’m not the man…
I’m not the man… I used to be

So it all comes out in the wash
What would you see?
Tattered pages in the ink stained pockets of your jeans?
So I’ve come to pay my respects at the wake
I’ve buried it all and I’m dancing on my own grave

There could be fewer days ahead than gone
And all I’ve spent are long since on my way
To learn that nothing comes for free
But I’m not the man…
I’m not the man… I used to be

Don’t leave me behind
Don’t leave me behind
Like I left you behind

There could be fewer days ahead than gone
And all I’ve spent are long since on my way
To learn that nothing comes for free
I had a lot of time to waste
I wrote the lines upon my face
Chasing down the shots they bought for me
And I’m not the man; I’m not the man
I’m not the man, but I used to be

I used to be my father’s son
(I used to be) number one
(I used to be) paper and pencil
(I used to be) endless potential
(I used to be) Heaven and Earth
(I used to be) my net worth
(I used to be) one public, drunken moment
(I used to be) high paid and low rent
(I used to be) a man on a mission
My best chart position
The man in the mirror
You’re proud of your cure
A new day, a new town
Your racehorse, your cash cow
‘Til I let you all down
No, I want to be. I want to be

I just want to be

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4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #2,741: ‘I’m Not the Man’ – Ben Folds

  1. Dana says:

    I don’t think there is so much of the frat boy lyrics on this album,neigh the obvious exception of “F10-A-D.”

    I like the song you chose for its introspection, though the one that can get stuck in my head for days is “Phone in the Pool.”

  2. Clay says:

    I’m not crazy about ‘Yes Man,’ which is about a guy whose girlfriend dumps him because he gets fat, or throwaway lines like “y’all knows what I means” in ‘Phone in a Pool’ or the whispered “so fuck you” at the end of ‘Not a Fan.’ Sometimes his immaturity gets the better of him, even this late in his career.

  3. Dana says:

    the “y’all knows…” line doesn’t bother me or strike me as frat boy humor, but I understand what you are saying on the other songs.

  4. Maddie says:

    I enjoy the frat boy tendencies of Ben Folds because I like to view a lot of them as ironic. I’m probably wrong, but that’s okay. I can enjoy all his songs more that way 🙂

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