Beyond Grammar: Sting’ s “She’ s Too Good for Me”


        Sting (born Gordon Sumner) is, like Paul McCartney, a highly-regarded and successful song-writer with hits like “Message In a Bottle”, “Every Breath You Take” (with the Police) as well as having written songs for films such as Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove.

        “She’s Too Good for Me” (from his 1993 album, Ten Summoner’s Tales) is an excellent example of a song that uses language and music together in a creative and expressive way. For example, it is understood that the language we use among friends (informal) and the language we use with teachers and coworkers (formal) is different. Consider the following lyrics from the first verse:

She don't like to hear me sing
She don't want no diamond ring
She don't want to drive my car
She won't let me go that far
She don't like the way I look
She don't like the things I cook
She don't like the way I play
She don't like the things I say

But oh the games we play
She's too good for me

        Most English students will notice the incorrect verb tense “don’t” right away. This is for two reasons: 1) The word “don’t” fits better musically than “doesn’t”; and 2) the imperfect grammar implies the imperfection of the man singing the song. Even his grammar is not good enough for her! But then consider the following lyrics from the bridge:

Would she prefer it if I washed myself more often than I do?
Would she prefer it if I took her to an opera or two?
I could distort myself to be the perfect man –
She might prefer me as I am.

        Here, not only is the grammar more formal and correct, but even the music is different – it’s classical in style, which is regarded as high-class and educated, compared to the verse music which is derived from blues music, which originated in the rural American South particularly among black musicians who were generally poor with less access to education.

        When good lyrics are combined with good music, the whole really can be greater than the sum of its parts. Sting is a song-writer worth looking into!

Pic source: David Shankbone @Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0,

She’s Too Good for Me (with lyrics):

Message In a Bottle (with lyrics):