Let’s admit it, falling in love (or wanting to fall in love) is no simple task, especially when you’re not in a place where you are ready to receive it. Serena Isioma’s I Don’t Wanna Go (feat. MAVI) explores this limbo between desire and fear and exemplifies the inner battle one faces when deciding to (or not to) open oneself up to love.
I Don’t Wanna Go opens with Serena in conversation with an unnamed character, let’s call them X. While X’s identity cannot be easily discerned, we know that Serena is fascinated by, and perhaps even envious of, X’s ability to live in the moment and “feel something”. The lines “Aura so bright glistening” and “I can tell that the you move in that crowd you feel something // I wish I could feel something” serve to reinforce this idea. Whether that “thing” is love, life or a love for life is unclear, but we know that X is experiencing life to its full capacity, a way that Serena wishes they could.
However, this attraction, as we quickly discover, is birthed from a place of pain and insecurity – like so many passionate and emotion filled relationships are (at least at first). Realizing that this connection may be superficial and destined to hurt them both, rather than watching things crash and burn, Serena begins to pull back. “It’s not enough to numb the pain with you // I don’t wanna go all the way”.
Before they even have the opportunity to really get deep, the insecurity and fear, which we have all felt at one point or another, the fear that we are not capable of reciprocating the type of love the people we care for deserve, sets in. “I don’t even know your name // But i already know you’ll get hurt”. The first of many paradoxes in this song, the singer, despite knowing very little about X, has come to the conclusion that their love is destined for disaster and so she breaks things off before they get to that point.
At this point the tone of the song shifts. The pace of the song picks up and pitch spikes. The conversation is no longer between Serena and X, but between the two sides of Serena which pull in different directions.
From their lyrics and the rhythm, you can feel the pain and frustration Serena feels and she battles the indecision of not wanting to separate but also not wanting to enter a relationship with someone who she clearly feels strongly about. “I don’t wanna go // Just leave me alone”.
This phrase echoed and chanted throughout the duration of the song is why it has resonated so strongly with me and perhaps so many of you. Serena’s inability to make that choice has left them in this limbo, stranded in the space between here and there, not sure to move forward and dive in head first.
Jump to the second verse, and we see that things have moved forward. The relationship has grown, and Serena has begun to “feel something”. But this something is transient and ephemeral, only to “feel okay for a day // for a minute”. The underlying pain is still present, this love, which was cursed from the start, although very real, serves to mitigate the pain they both feel, but only temporarily. The way she sings about this relationship is almost as though it were a drug which both Serena and X are using to “feel” or get high, allowing them to momentarily escape the pain they both feel.
As we return to the chorus, the lyrics “I don’t wanna go // Just leave me alone” take on an entirely new meaning as we now see this as a relationship not between two people, but between a user and their vice. Serena knows that the relationship has soured but can’t find the courage to leave or the strength to stay and “feel” the pain she feels inside.
And so, we find ourselves at the end of the song, stuck in limbo, in the in-between, in the echo chamber of our mind.
If you like this song, check out the rest of Serena Isioma’s album “The Leo Sun Sets”. Serena is a rising star and you don’t wanna miss a thing!