When I mean “I’m Not That Girl”, I am only referring to when Elphaba sings it. This song is very parallel to “On My Own”, which is why I decided to analyze it today.
Just like “On My Own”, “I’m Not That Girl” is an unrequited love song. “On My Own” is about Eponine’s unrequited love for Marius and “I’m Not That Girl” is about Elphaba’s unrequited love for Fiyero. As a matter of fact, “I’m Not That Girl” was my first exposure to unrequited love. I knew it was a song about a girl who loves a boy who doesn’t love her back, but I didn’t know it was called unrequited love. Well, in middle school and high school, I interpreted the song as sad. I didn’t see it beyond sad and couldn’t see anything else about it. That was how much I understood the song and eventually I found the heartbreak in that song.
Even in 2013 when I saw the show for the third time, this song stayed sad. I was aware of the emotion of heartbreak by then, but still couldn’t find heartbreak in “I’m Not That Girl”. I don’t remember when it was but I soon made the connection to “On My Own”. When I realized it was about the same thing as “On My Own”, I picked up on the fact that the song is heartbreaking. But it wasn’t until I memorized the lyrics where I realized the song has a lot of insight built into it.
In my opinion, “I’m Not That Girl” is not quite as heartbreaking as “On My Own”. The melody of “I’m Not That Girl” even sells that opinion. The melody stays very consistent throughout. The song still has some innocence built into it with the right amount of vulnerability, fragility, and insight. The melody doesn’t sell as much strength and power as “On My Own”. I feel like my understanding of sad in musicals really shows its journey through “I’m Not That Girl”. I feel like “I’m Not That Girl” is moderately heartbreaking. The song once started out as being sad and eventually became heartbreaking over time.
I don’t exactly know how to analyze this song. By understanding that “I’m Not That Girl” is heartbreaking, but not quite as heartbreaking as “On My Own” shows that even heartbreak is layered. Elphaba’s unrequited love for Fiyero is not as important as Eponine’s unrequited love for Marius.
I love the scene leading up to “I’m Not That Girl”. Elphaba and Fiyero are in the woods about to free a lion cub. Previously a new professor was about to an experiment on the lion cub and out of anger, Elphaba cast a spell on the class and it didn’t affect Fiyero. Well they run into the woods and through their conversation, Elphaba realized she loves Fiyero, but her best friend, Glinda, loves him as well. In that entire scene, I feel like Fiyero has a crush on Elphaba, but didn’t’ realize it. Because Elphaba realized she loves Fiyero literally just moments before she sings that unrequited love song, the song doesn’t even have room to be fully heartbreaking.
Just like “On My Own”, there are lyrics that are quite similar. One such place is where Elphaba sings “every so soften we long to steal to the land that what might have been” and that is a place of fantasy, but right after that she sings “but doesn’t soften the ache we feel when reality sets back in”, Elphaba realizes that her best friend loves Fiyero. That is just like the instances in “On My Own” when Eponine realizes that the reality is that is only in fantasy that she can be with Marius.
Just like “On My Own”, I feel like “I’m Not That Girl” goes beyond the unrequited love. There is a lyric in there that goes “I wasn’t born for the rose or pearl” and I interpreted the lyric as Elphaba doesn’t think she’s good enough for Fiyero because she’s green. For me, it is a bit ironic feeling heartbroken in “I’m Not That Girl” due to the fact that she will eventually get Fiyero in the end, but I have to feel heartbroken because Elphaba doesn’t know it yet.
So overall, I find “I’m Not That Girl” less heartbreaking than “On My Own”. I feel there is more innocence in “I’m Not That Girl” and has even less strength and power. My understanding of “I’m Not That Girl” was strengthened thanks to the help of another song from another musical. That shows that musicals rely on each other. I feel like “On My Own” helped me understand “I’m Not That Girl” because “On My Own” is a more intense and strong form of unrequited love. I feel like it is easier for me to analyze “On My Own” than “I’m Not That Girl”. A big reason for that is that Eponine’s story revolves around unrequited love while Elphaba’s story revolves around her friendship with Glinda.