Lyric Analysis - Men At Work 'Who Can It Be Now?'

Men At Work
‘Who Can It Be Now?’

Who can it be knocking at my door?
Go 'way, don't come 'round here no more.

Right away I identify strongly with this this song.  Nobody likes random and unexpected knocking on their door at what I’m assuming is nighttime.  Except maybe people whose business is conducted at night?  But clearly this isn’t a business situation because the Men are clearly not At Work and not happy about some unknown person banging on their door.

Can't you see that it's late at night?
I'm very tired, and I'm not feeling right.

It’s late at night, man.  Use the phone.  Better yet, just go away full stop and try again in the morning.  I’ve got a headache and I’m not in the mood for whatever you’re selling.

All I wish is to be alone;
Stay away, don't you invade my home.

Wait, is this is a home invasion scenario?  This raises a lot more questions than it answers.  If it’s an invasion, why is the invader knocking?  Isn’t an invasion best done stealthily?  If it isn’t an invasion, it’s clearly unwelcome enough to feel like an invasion.  Is it paranoid or justified feeling?  Either way, the best thing for everyone involved is to stop knocking at the door.

Best off if you hang outside,
Don't come in - I'll only run and hide.

Do not come in.  Life lessons, people: if you are not invited to enter a home, do not enter the home.  This is a truism for vampires and should be for all mortals as well.  

Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?

The repetition denotes a pronounced confusion.  Who’s at the door?  Who is it?  Who can it be?  NO FOR REAL WHO IS AT THE GODDAMN DOOR??

Who can it be knocking at my door?

At some point I’d think the person knocking would announce their identity.  “Dude, it’s Jim!  It’s just me, Jim, with the pizza?  C’mon, man, let me in.  You called me, remember?”  The silence isn’t helping anyone.

Make no sound, tip-toe across the floor.
If he hears, he'll knock all day,

Now it sounds like an overly-polite Death.  The Grim Reaper can’t be dissuaded, you know.  If he knows you’re home – and let’s be honest: he knows – then he’ll just keep on knocking.  All day, all night, knock knock knock.  Taxes too.  Death and Taxes, so persistent.  But they won’t just barge in.  Manners.  

I'll be trapped, and here I'll have to stay.

Which, ironically, is like a form of self-imposed death.  So many layers…

I've done no harm, I keep to myself;
There's nothing wrong with my state of mental health.

He knows there’s someone at the door.  He knows it’s not the cops because he hasn’t done anything wrong.  He’s not crazy.  He’s not paranoid.  There’s somebody at the door and it’s completely unwarranted.

I like it here with my childhood friend;

And yet this sentence sort of belies the one directly prior, doesn’t it?  What childhood friend?  Is he holed up with somebody else?  Is this a hostage situation?  Or is this friend an imaginary one?  Men At Work who are not at work are complicated in their downtimes.  They have difficulty navigating everyday life.  That’s my takeaway here.  Simple life – ie. life not onstage or making a music video – is challenging.  Knocks on the door!  Childhood friends!  Not feeling right!  It’s all a bit much.  

Here they come, those feelings again!
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?

Idea: ask.  

Is it the man come to take me away?
Why do they follow me?

This is 100% a ‘fuck The Man’ lyric.  This isn’t about the Men (Not) At Work’s mental state at all.  This is a ‘fuck The Man who follows my every move and dogs my steps and darkens my doorway and tries to hold me down’ kind of thing.  Screw the establishment!  

It's not the future that I can see,
It's just my fantasy

To get deep, the future you “can see” is actually a fantasy since by definition nobody can see the future.  So whatever you’re envisioning is just your version of what you want or expect.  Which, since it’s invented, is fantasy.  It’s all just his fantasy.  

Whether the fantasy involves somebody endlessly knocking on the door or not is hard to discern.  The door knocking could be separate, that could be reality that’s getting in the way of his fantasy time.  Or that could be part of his vague undefined future fantasy.  Who can say?  It’s all so mystical!

Oh...Who can it be now?
Oh...Who can it...Who can it...
Yeah yeah yeah

WHO CAN IT BE NOW?  OMIGOD THE SUSPENSE IS KILLING ME!!  And I’m doomed to never know…

 

- Corinne Simpson