Bob Dylan Countdown #123: “She Belongs To Me”Posted: February 14, 2012
The narrator of “She Belongs To Me” expresses great admiration for the girl he describes here, but it’s ironic admiration, at best. After all, what he’s admiring is the way that she is in complete control of whatever relationship she cultivates. She doesn’t belong to him, or anybody, for that matter.
Songs like these are a tricky business because they can easily cross the line into nastiness if the songwriter isn’t careful. Yet, if you notice, Dylan never blames the girl for her actions. He’s actually far harder on the “you” he’s addressing, who is probably a stand-in for every guy this girl will meet in the future.
“She” is never witnessed in the song committing any misdeeds or lowering her lofty bearing. “You,” on the other hand, ends up grovelling on the floor in a desperate attempt to see what’s she’s up to. “She’s a hypnotist collector,” which, I guess, is a good thing. “You,” by contrast, “are a walking antique.”
The narrator never puts himself into the song, but it’s easy to make the leap that he knows this bewitching girl so well because he has learned the hard way all of the lessons he now imparts. He can afford to be gracious now, since his chances with her have already fizzled. He also knows that the new guys will likely make the same mistakes no matter what he says.
Dylan sings the song genially, and the musical backing seconds this good-natured tone, with lightly chiming electric guitars from John Hammond Jr. and Bruce Langhorne flitting about the acoustic strumming. It’s an excellent character study in miniature, Dylan fleshing this girl out primarily by showing her impact on all the poor saps who cross her path.