“I Don’t Want to Be Alone”
Glass Houses — 1980
Resignation is not something that comes up very often in pop songs. People triumph, people are defeated, but rarely do they just give up and go with the path of least resistance. Especially not in love songs, where fate and romance are always supposed to win the day.
Billy Joel didn’t get the memo. “I Don’t Want to Be Alone” is about a reunited couple, like many love songs are, but these two aren’t brought back together by the knowledge that their love is meant to be. No, it’s simple loneliness and desperation. The woman is tired of being alone, and she decides to settle for her ex, because even though he’s clumsy and nervous and kind of a dweeb, he’s familiar. He’s easy. And even though he’s suspicious of exactly how well this will turn out in the end, he goes along with it. Because, really, who wants to be alone?
There’s a great moment in Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything… where Ione Skye returns to John Cusack in a moment of crisis, and he gives her a look and says, “Do you need someone? Or do you need me?” Before she can answer, he shakes his head and says, “Forget it — I don’t care.” Billy Joel is describing the same sort of conversation, but his protagonist does care, very much — he just concludes he’d rather not know the answer.