(estimated read time: 4 minutes)
What does “Don’t Wanna Know” by Maroon 5 ft. Kendrick Lamar mean?
First off, if this isn’t jungle-beat EDM, I don’t know what it is. I certainly don’t want to point fingers, but Maroon 5 is drinking the kool-aid at some level or another, right down to the funny, scrunchy voice modulation in the first few seconds. I know that sounds critical, but it’s a good sound, and they do it well, so I like the music. But what of the lyrics? Let’s take a closer look…
After the scrunchy voice modulation sings, “Oh, hey,” a few times, Adam Levine begins singing about what seems to be a relationship that went south. He doesn’t “wanna know . . . / Who’s taking you home . . . / And loving you so . . . / The way I used to love you, no.” Maroon 5’s songs are commonly about sex, and this one is only different because it’s not Adam Levine who’s having the sex. Here, he’s feeling bad because his old flame is going out with someone else, and he wants to know as little possible about how things are going with her.
Here, Levine sings, “Wasted . And the more I drink, the more I think about you.” He’s quickly painting a picture of him alone or at a bar thinking about her as he hunches over a bottle of beer or some other drink. He “can’t take it” because “every place I go reminds me of you.” He can’t get away from her.
The pre-chorus of “Don’t Wanna Know” is about Levine wondering if she “think[s] of me” and “what we used to be.” He wants to know if it is “better now that I’m not around.” And he continues, “My friends are actin’ strange, they don’t bring up your name.” They feel awkward about it around him and don’t want to trigger his emotions.
But the question he comes back to is one either of concern for her or one that comes from a need for self-validation. He asks, “Are you happy now?” He may be wondering if he was the problem here or he may be trying to prove to her that she actually was happier with him.
The second verse of “Don’t Wanna Know” is Levine refusing to accept the truth of what’s happened. He sings, “And every time I go out, yeah / I hear it from this one; I hear it from that one / That you got someone new.” He knows that she’s moving on, but he’s in denial–he doesn’t “believe it,” preferring to imagine “you’re still in my bed.” In a moment of self-doubt, he sings, “Maybe I’m just a fool,” and perhaps wonders if he should just let her go.
Kendrick Lamar takes over in the third verse of “Don’t Wanna Know,” and he makes it very clearly about sex. He raps, “No more, please stop / No more hashtag boo’d up screenshots.” According to Urban Dictionary, “boo’d up” means to be in a relationship with someone. He wants her to stop sharing so much about her relationship, and based on the next line, he seems to think the sharing’s directed at him: “No more tryin’ make me jealous on your birthday.”
In response to her efforts, he claims to be a better man than her current love when he sings, “You know just how I made you better on your birthday,” which is an implied reference to birthday sex.
Kendrick interrogates her when he asks, “Do he do you like this? Do he woo you like this?” all sexual references. His reference touching her “poona” in the next line is a reference to her vagina.
But, after a change of heart and his personal decision that he’s the only one who knows how to please her enough, he raps, “Matter fact, never mind. We’ll let the past be / Maybe his right now, but your body’s still me.” He seems confident that she’ll come back to him because of how much she wants to be “wooed” by him.
Deeper Thoughts on “Don’t Wanna Know” by Maroon 5 ft. Kendrick Lamar
There’s not too much to say about “Don’t Wanna know” other than to maybe suggest that the type of sexual power Lamar’s narrator seems to think he has over the woman sounds unhealthy and manipulative. If the only thing he’s confident enough to be able to brag about being able to give her is physical stimulation, I’m not really surprised she left.
I don’t want to be pious or uppity in analyzing this song–I really do like the sound of it–but the lyrics are largely empty and formulaic and too dirty to be innocent fun.
Thanks for reading! I’m a college English instructor, university writing center director, and online entrepreneur (college for under $15k, anyone?) who cares deeply about TRUTH and MEANING. I’m married to the gloriously beautiful Wife April and love to swing dance and juggle.